job screening question

Owen DeLong owen at
Fri Jul 6 18:53:28 UTC 2012

On Jul 6, 2012, at 11:41 AM, Keith Medcalf wrote:

> My response would be "insufficient information provided for meaningful diagnosis".
> The following could be issues:
> ... the user does not have a computer
> ... the computer is not turned on
> ... the keyboard is not plugged in
> ... the user is a quadraplegic and cannot use the mouse or keyboard
> ... the user is blind and cannot find the computer
> ... the user has a computer but is not connected to a network
> ... the monitor is not turned on
> ... the brightness is turned down too far on the monitor
> ... the user is dead

I would argue that the fact the user filed a ticket/contacted the helpdesk/whatever to raise the issue indicates that the user probably isn't dead.

The rest are semi-legitimate somewhat amusing answers, but you missed many possibilities. When providing such a list of answers, always include an etc. at the end so as to indicate your understanding that the list is not complete. ;-)

> How does the user know that it cannot access the web site?

When did users become things?

Probably a candidate that made this mistake should be dismissed from consideration on that basis alone.


>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Matt Chung [mailto:itsmemattchung at]
>> Sent: Friday, 06 July, 2012 08:20
>> To: joseph.snyder at
>> Cc: nanog at
>> Subject: Re: job screening question
>> A former manager of mine once told me you can gauge a persons understanding
>> by the questions they ask and I personally agree with this statement. Most
>> of us will be able to make a reasonable assessment of the person by
>> listening to the content of their questions. I'm not looking for an
>> immediate resolution, but trying to understand the thought process of the
>> individual. I feel realistic scenarios provide some insight on the
>> individual's analytical skills.
>> "A client cannot access the website "". What do you do to
>> troubleshoot this issue?"
>> Depending on the candidate, I've seen a variety of answers:
>> 1) "Can you ping the device?"
>> 2) "Can you access the gateway?"
>> 3) "What does the running config look like on the router"
>> 4) "Is there a firewall in between"
>> I believe these questions may be asked in the right context provided there
>> is enough information to isolate the issue to the network however the
>> statement is devoid of anything useful that would make the network suspect.
>> I would like to hear some questions such as:
>> "are other websites accessible? Or is the only website the client is
>> experiencing issues with?"
>> "was the website working previously? when did it start happening?"
>> "what does the client see on their screen ? are they getting an error?"
>> These questions reflect the persons ability to accurately understand the
>> problem before deep diving into the technical details. From there, you can
>> get more technical. "Client is receiving an HTTP 404 error." Great, rule
>> out network since this is an application layer response...
>> just my .02.
>> On Fri, Jul 6, 2012 at 8:28 AM, <joseph.snyder at> wrote:
>>> I agree. Let the person talk do a few probing questions based off what
>>> they say. If you yourself have any value you should be able to tell if they
>>> have a chance.
>>> Also I would prefer someone who says I don't know for sure but maybe
>>> something along these lines, and then wants to know the right answer.
>>> Passion is also important, if you are willing to hire someone who is in it
>>> for just a paycheck, save yourself the headache and get a contractor.
>>> --
>>> Sent from my Android phone with K-9 Mail. Please excuse my brevity.
>>> Matthew Palmer <mpalmer at> wrote:
>>> On Thu, Jul 05, 2012 at 11:04:05PM -0400, Robert E. Seastrom wrote:
>>>> Diogo Montagner <diogo.montagner at> writes:
>>>>> For screening questions (for 1st level filtering), IMO, the questions
>>>>> has to be straight to the point, for example:
>>>>> 1) What is the LSA number for an external route in OSPF?
>>>>> This can have two answer: 5 or 7. So, I will accept if the candidate
>>>>> answer 5, 7 or 5 and 7. Later on (the next level of the interview), a
>>>>> techinical interviewer will chech if the candidate understand the
>>>>> differences of LSA 5 and 7.
>>>> Frankly, this feels a bit like asking what the 9th byte in an IP
>>>> header is used for (it's TTL, but who's, uh, counting?) -- "That's why
>>>> God gave us packet analyzers" should be counted as an acceptable
>>>> answer. If not, you'll find yourself skipping over plenty of
>>>> extremely well qualified candidates in favor of those who have crammed
>>>> recently for some sort of exam in hopes of compensating for their
>>>> short CV.
>>> Ugh, I know someone (thankfully no longer a current colleague) who ardently
>>> *defends* his use of questions like "what does the -M option to ps do?" on
>>> the basis that "any senior person who knows what they're doing should know
>>> all the options to ps!". No, you useless tit, anyone who knows what they're
>>> doing should know how to read a bloody manpage.
>>> Trivia tests get you hiring people who know trivia. Knowing trivia has it's
>>> productivity benefits, but if you can't apply it, it's useless.
>>> - Matt
>>> --
>>> Politics and religion are just like software and hardware. They all suck,
>>> the documentation is provably incorrect, and all the vendors tell lies.
>>>                -- Andrew Dalgleish, in the Monastery
>> --
>> -Matt Chung

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