[AusNOG] Recruitment was SMH: "No room at the internet"

Narelle narellec at gmail.com
Wed May 19 19:40:53 EST 2010

On Wed, May 19, 2010 at 12:46 PM, Andrew Cox <andrew at accessplus.com.au> wrote:
> These are basically some of my new recruit interview questions:
> Have you ever built your own computer?
> What computer related hobbies are you involved in outside of work/study?
> What sort of internet connection do you have? (most nerds with a crap
> connection will want to explain the reason why :-D)

These are good questions, but you need to follow up with more precise
questions that yield concrete answers to make sure the candidate isn't
telling porkies.

Eg, if Fred/Jane answers "Yes, I built my own computer a few years
back" you need to follow up with "Great! What sort of architecture did
you use?" and the winning candidate starts to describe buses, chips,
clocking, memory size... up to the choice of OS and lets you know that
s/he actually did the work through *concrete* examples of what s/he

The big gotcha in this is in not feeding the answer to the candidate
through your probing: I've seen so many people do it in interviews and
it drives me nuts. It's where you offer the answer in the question by
saying "for example..." or closed questions, eg did you use <explicit
package/OS ver> ?

Having been caught out a beauty [1] a few years back, I am now super
strict on behavioural based interviews, ie where I get the candidate
to give me concrete examples of what to do and how to do it. The trick
is to balance the probing questions with soothing noises so that Fred
or Jane doesn't get too nervous or defensive, or indeed to get too
cocky in sparring with you, but that can be instructive!

> If you answered with <generic nerdy stuff> you get an extra 100 points.
> The ones who are interested in all facets of IT seem to end up the ones
> who'll (occasionally) come in late, but always stay later.

Yeah - the passion is a necessary one on my list, too.

> On 19/05/2010 11:25 AM, Matthew Moyle-Croft wrote:
> "Did you take things apart as a kid?"
> "When did you first start to program?"
> "When did your family first start asking you for tech advice?"

Growing up with an electrician father had me being fed under houses as
a kid with lengths of cable: "just feed it up here where the torch is"
he'd say... I thought this was normal... until I tried to feed my own
kids under ours. Of course they looked at me as if I was nuts. Sigh.
[2], [3]

> These are the key questions.   If someone doesn't remember how to change
> duplex then that's just a fact they can learn, but the passion to learn and
> the interest and continual curiosity is what I look for.

Once again, you have to start with open ended questions, then probe a
bit to tease out the specifics. "Did you take things apart as a kid?"
and the others are a bit closed for me, as there are obvious answers
you want. I suggest more general ones about hobbies, which might get
you to these more specific questions on the second pass...



[1] The candidate claimed to have been a linux enthusiast with a
server under his bed at home, and to have done multiple oracle
upgrades... but ultimately couldn't even edit a file at a unix prompt
without explicit instruction "vi filename"... I had taken certain
things for granted as it was an internal hire from a tier 3
engineering group and didn't ask which exact commands he typed...
never again...

[2] Aaah - this calls for Dilbert:

[3] A1 - yes, from age 3. I'd be handed dolls, would take them apart,
reassemble them, and ask for a harder one.
A2 - age 9. Gave it up as an adult ;-P
A3 - see A1


narellec at gmail.com

More information about the AusNOG mailing list