[nSLUG] Interview questions

Rich budman85 at eastlink.ca
Mon Oct 22 20:31:11 ADT 2007

Bill Davidson wrote:
> Hi:
> I have always hated job interviews, but now I find myself in the
> unfamiliar position of having to conduct one.  I have been asked to
> handle the technical parts of a couple of interviews for Unix/Linux
> sysadmin positions.
> What are you favourite interview questions?  What best distinguish a
> competent or experienced dullard from someone with a strong and deep
> understanding of unix?  Is there some technical question you were once
> asked in a interview (or elsewhere) that made you stop and think?  What
> question could you be asked (or would you ask of another), the answer to
> which would summarize all the best qulities of a really good sysadmin?
> Or at the very least, what can I ask so that I don't look like an idiot?

Ian said it best. :)   

I had to tech many over the years and I find although the cmd line 
questions do help,
they often only show a persons skills under pressure.   During the 
interview, I always
try to joke a bit, to make them feel at ease.  Get them talking.  Once 
you get over that hurdle,
most will open up and share their experiences. 

Try to stay away from hype words... I always hate that in interviews. 
Mainly because I once had a boss that I swore had a buzzword of the day 
It wouldn't have been bad if he actually knew what he was spewing.

The best question I was ever asked, was by my present employer. 

    Looking at your skills, I see you've worked on many projects.
    Tell me about things you've accomplished over the years.
    It was the only question I was asked, which kind of worried me.  I 
got the job the next day.
    What I realized was people generally like to talk about themselves. 
So let it happen. :)

As for the worst question.. well there are two:
    A) My wife, who was a HR manager years ago, told me you can always 
tell who the asshole in the group is.
    They ask the question "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?".   Her 
response to an interviewer that
    asked it... "Being your boss".    The owner nearly spit out his 
coffee.  She was hired soon after, and
    became a dept. manager in less than 5 years.  :)  

    B)  I was applying for a Solaris/Linux position when I was asked, 
"Your qualifications look very impressive,
    we would like to conduct a technical interview with our in house 
expert.  First question, do you know what
    registry key you would change to disable this *behavior* in NT?   I 
replied, not off hand, but if you let me use the registry
    editor, I'm sure I can find it.  Well, you must know it from memory. 
I said, I thought the ad was for a Solaris/Linux
    admin?   Well, we only have a few of those machine, and besides we 
are mostly a Windows NT Shop!  I left the
    interview, told the recruiter, "I thought it was Solaris?  All they 
asked were obscure Windows questions, not
    one Solaris/Linux question. "   A few weeks later I was hired by my 
current employer. After about a year, the company
    that interviewed me wanted to make me an offer if I was still 
interested.  They apologized for the interview, and realized
    their so-called expert was actually sabotaging their plans for a 
Linux migration.  Oh well... so sad.

Just remember they are more nervous than you.
My wife gave me some great tips for interviewing, which really work.
Break the ice and make them feel comfortable - get them to talk.
It will always weed out the word-wizards and those with actual skills. :)

Have fun,

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