Mastering Python Pickle for Job Interviews: Top Questions and Answers

This article will go over some of the most common Python interview questions and how to answer them. This will help you prepare for and do well in your next Python interview.

These questions and answers will help you learn more about Python, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced developer. You can use them to show potential employers how knowledgeable you are.

Python Pickle is a crucial module for serializing and deserializing Python object structures. During technical interviews, expect at least a few questions probing your understanding of pickling and unpickling. This in-depth guide covers the 25 most common Python pickle interview questions, from the basics to best practices and security. Read on to ace your next coding interview!

Let’s start with a quick primer on what Python Pickle does. In simple terms, it converts Python objects into a stream of bytes that can be saved to a file or sent over the network. This process is called pickling or serialization. Later, the byte stream can be deserialized or unpickled back into Python objects.

Pickle allows persisting complex Python data types like lists, dictionaries, classes into a format that retains the object structure. The key advantage is efficient storage and transfer of data while preserving hierarchies.

However, pickled data from untrusted sources can pose security risks. The unpickling process may execute arbitrary code if the data was manipulated maliciously.

Now that we know what Python Pickle entails, let’s look at some common interview questions and answers.

1. Explain the working of serialization and deserialization using the Python Pickle module

Pickling or serialization converts a Python object hierarchy into a byte stream for storage/transfer using pickle.dump(). The pickle.dump() method takes the object to serialize and file/buffer to save it.

Deserialization or unpickling loads this byte stream back into Python objects with pickle.load(). It takes the file with serialized bytes and reconstructs the original object structure.

Only objects like lists, dicts, etc. are pickled – the class definitions must be available during unpickling.

2. What types of Python objects can be pickled and unpickled?

Most built-in Python objects can be pickled and unpickled. These include:

  • Basic types like integers, floats, strings, booleans
  • Collections like lists, tuples, dictionaries, sets
  • Custom classes and instances
  • Functions defined at the module level

Exceptions are objects with connections to OS resources like open files, sockets, mutexes etc. The __getstate__() and __setstate__() methods can customize pickling behavior.

3. What are the major security risks associated with Python pickling and unpickling?

Pickle allows arbitrary code execution when unpickling untrusted data. Possible attacks include:

  • Remote Code Execution (RCE): Manipulated payloads can execute commands on the server when unpickled.
  • Denial of Service (DoS): Malformed payloads may crash the application.
  • Sensitive data leakage: Unauthorized access if pickled objects contain sensitive data.

To mitigate risks:

  • Validate source and integrity before unpickling.
  • Use pickle only internally, not for data exchange.
  • Restrict unpickling to specific classes.
  • Upgrade to the latest Python version for fixes.

4. How can pickled Python objects be shared across different machines and versions of Python?

For portability across systems, use the highest pickle protocol available. Protocol 4 works for Python >= 3.4 and handles large data efficiently.

The class definitions required during unpickling should be available on all machines in the same relative import path. Use absolute class imports if the code layout differs.

Compatible Python versions must be used as the pickle format varies across versions.

5. Explain the usage of pickle.dump() and pickle.load() for serialization and deserialization

pickle.dump() serializes and saves an object to a file:


import pickledata = { 'foo': 'bar' }with open('data.pickle', 'wb') as file:   pickle.dump(data, file) 

This pickles the data dict and writes the bytes to data.pickle.

pickle.load() retrieves an object from a pickled file:


with open ('data.pickle', 'rb') as file:   data = pickle.load(file)print(data)# {'foo': 'bar'}

The file with pickled bytes is loaded and reconstructed into a Python object.

6. How can JSON be used as a safer alternative to Python pickling?

JSON is a safer option for serialization in some cases as it does not involve executing code. The parsing is direct – no risks of code injection.

JSON is also human-readable unlike the binary pickle format. It has better interoperability with other languages like JavaScript.

Downsides are that JSON only supports basic data types, not Python objects. Complex structures may have to be encoded before conversion.

7. What are some of the major disadvantages or dangers associated with Python pickling?

Some key disadvantages of pickling are:

  • Security vulnerabilities: Ability to execute arbitrary code, DoS attacks etc.
  • Python version dependency: Pickle protocols vary across versions breaking compatibility.
  • Not human-readable: Binary format is not editable or interpretable.
  • Performance overhead: Increased CPU and memory usage for large data.
  • No language interoperability: Pickle is Python specific.

8. You need to serialize some classes for storage. Why might JSON be a better option than pickle here?

For serializing classes, JSON is safer than pickle as deserialization does not execute code. The JSON parser directly constructs data, avoiding injection risks.

Another reason is that JSON maintains better interoperability across programming languages. The output can be parsed by JavaScript, Java, C++ etc.

Finally, JSON produces human-readable text data that can be inspected or modified easily. Pickle uses a dense binary format instead.

9. What are some scenarios where using Python Pickle would be appropriate over other serialization formats like JSON?

Pickle works well when:

  • Complex Python objects need to be serialized with structure intact.
  • Sharing data between Python applications, not across languages.
  • Disk storage is preferred over human readability.
  • Maximal performance is critical, and security is not a concern.
  • Compatibility with Python 2.x versions required.

The ability to serialize Python-specific objects makes pickle ideal for inter-process communication.

10. You need to serialize a large amount of numerical data. Would you prefer Pickle or JSON? Why?

For large numerical data, JSON is preferable over pickle. The JSON output will be larger in size but numerical data compresses well. Compressed JSON performance may exceed pickle, avoiding pickle’s memory overhead.

Furthermore, JSON parsing will be safer and faster compared to unpickling large binary data. There is no risk of code injection attacks with safer JSON.

11. How can Python pickling be used for inter-process communication between applications?

Pickling enables easy sharing of Python data between processes. The steps are:

  1. Parent process serializes the data object using pickle.dumps().
  2. The pickled bytes are written to a pipe or queue.
  3. Child process reads the bytes and deserializes with pickle.loads().
  4. Object available to child process.

This approach is fast, straightforward, and preserves complex data structures between processes.

12. You need to store Python objects to disk and retrieve them later. Should you use JSON or pickle? Explain.

For persistent storage and retrieval of Python objects, pickle would be more suitable than JSON.

Pickle can serialize almost any Python object to bytes and reconstruct it exactly later. JSON only handles basic types like lists and dictionaries. Complex objects would lose structure.

Pickle also has better performance for large data volumes. The binary format takes less space than text-based JSON.

However, JSON may be a safer choice if data integrity is critical and risks of unpickling cannot be avoided.

13. What are some best practices to safely use pickle for serializing and deserializing Python objects?

Some tips for secure pickling include:

  • Only unpickle data from trusted sources
  • Cryptographically sign objects before pickling
  • Restrict unpickling to a whitelist of classes
  • Validate data integrity before unpickling
  • Use the highest protocol version for compactness
  • Catch exceptions robustly during unpickling
  • Disable pickling/unpickling if not required

Safe usage requires distrusting any pickled data from external sources.

14. You need to store model parameters before shutting down a Python ML application and reload them when restarting. Should you use JSON or Pickle?

Pickle would be a good choice here for saving and reloading the model parameters. Pickle can serialize complex numeric data like weight arrays efficiently in a space-saving binary format. The model can be restored in the exact same state.

JSON may incur too much overhead converting arrays to text-based JSON strings. Numeric precision could also be lost.

For simple models, JSON may work but pickle is better suited for large parameters or complex classes.

15. How can pickle be used for duplicating Python objects?

Python objects can be duplicated or cloned using pickle as follows:

  1. Serialize the object to bytes using pickle.dumps()
  2. Make a copy of the generated pickle bytes
  3. Load duplicated pickle bytes to create a new object

Practice with coding challenges

To build your coding skills, practice coding challenges on sites like LeetCode, HackerRank, and CodeWars. These sites have different levels of coding challenges that will help you get better at coding and feel better about your confidence.

Object-oriented programming (OOP) is a fundamental concept in Python. Study OOP concepts such as classes, objects, inheritance, and polymorphism, and practice implementing OOP principles in your code.

Be prepared to talk about soft skills

Employers want people with strong “soft skills” like communication, teamwork, and problem-solving, as well as technical skills. Be prepared to discuss how you used these skills in your previous work experience or projects.

Python Interview Questions #2 – what is pickling and unpickling in python?


What is Python pickle used for?

Pickle in Python is primarily used in serializing and deserializing a Python object structure. In other words, it’s the process of converting a Python object into a byte stream to store it in a file/database, maintain program state across sessions, or transport data over the network.

What is faster, pickle or JSON?

The choice between Pickle, JSON, and Parquet largely depends on the specific requirements of your project. Pickle is ideal for quick, Python-specific tasks, JSON excels in data interchange and readability, and Parquet is unmatched in handling large datasets efficiently in specific data access patterns.

What is the highest protocol in pickle?

Pickling in the Binary For improved efficiency, it is recommended to use a binary protocol instead. This is basically achieved by specifying a third, optional “protocol level” argument while dumping, e.g., pickle. dump(grades, f, -1). “-1” means the highest available binary protocol.

What is the difference between pickle dump and dumps?

The Pickle dump() and dumps() functions are used to serialize an object. The only difference between them is that dump() writes the data to a file, while dumps() represents it as a byte object. Similarly, load() reads pickled objects from a file, whereas loads() deserializes them from a bytes-like object.

How do I use pickle in Python?

Import the Pickle Module To use Pickle, you first need to import the module into your Python script: 2.2. Pickling (Serializing) Python Objects Pickling is the process of converting a Python object into a byte stream that can be stored on disk or transmitted over a network.

What are the top 50 Python interview questions?

We have prepared a list of the Top 50 Python Interview Questions along with their answers to ace in interviews. 1. What is Python? List some popular applications of Python in the world of technology. 2. What are the benefits of using Python language as a tool in the present scenario? 3. Is Python a compiled language or an interpreted language? 4.

How to prepare for a Python interview?

In this article, we have explored 20 Python interview questions and answers that you can use to prepare for your next job interview. Landing a role as a Python developer can be tough but also really rewarding. If you’re not confident just yet, I recommend that you try to boost your Python skills with GoSkills development courses.

What is pickling in Python?

Pickling: Pickling is the name of the serialization process in Python. Any object in Python can be serialized into a byte stream and dumped as a file in the memory. The process of pickling is compact but pickle objects can be compressed further.

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