If we expect the person to design,code,execute with you , why don't we check those aspects instead of pure-academic questions on integrity of a tree-search for high-performance solutions delivered in a 10-minute conversation.
Also may be am wrong & am the one with a green toe and rest of work-places do want only academicians with linked-list experience.
It irritates me because it's not even remotely "academic". Category theory is academic, this is mundane things. It probably is the bare minimum one has to know if they hope to work on anything interesting.
Interviews shouldn't be checking bare minimum, when we spend a 10minute time talking to each other , i would rather prefer to spend it on something rather less mundane.To check for bare-minimum we could screen via their previous assignments.But again it depends on what level we are looking for.like the above comment , if we are looking for fresh grads it better be focused on basics.
The binary tree question has a short definition, requires only knowledge that any candidate will have, and is easy for any logical thinker.
If I am administering a practical test for a junior programmer position, as in, a fresh graduate, the binary tree test is a great one.
I put them in front of an IDE, sit with them, and ask them to write a unbalanced binary tree container with insert, find and delete functions.
Watching a candidate do this tests basic implementation skill, API design, debugging and testing methodology. By the end of it, I have a pretty good idea if they will make a good hire.