job screening question

Eric J Esslinger eesslinger at
Fri Jul 6 19:25:07 UTC 2012

I've dealt with:
1, (yes, no comp, tablet, game console, or other device, other than non-internet capable HDTV. They had also just purchased our fastest service package. They got irate said were switching to our competitor, who were cheaper anyway. Good news for them, we don't do minimum service contracts. Bad news for them, the competitor does. ) 2, 3, 6, 7, 8 also 'user has no power but computer is on UPS or generator and network gear is not'.
More than once in most cases.

Lots and lots of laptops with wireless card switch flipped to off accidently.

And while I've never had a user call because they are unable to access a website because they are dead, I have had a non-user call/email about receiving NDR emails regarding email boxes belonging to one of our users we removed after notification that the owner was deceased.
That's happened a few times. My call on dealing with that was something along the lines of 'That email address has either been changed or the account associated with it disconnected, and we are not at liberty to discuss the issue further due to customer privacy policies' which is exactly what I say when the other possibilities are true.

Actually I had something similar to 'the user is dead'. Guy calls in to complain his internet is down. We dig through our system, no record he's a customer. After lots of hemming and hawing, admits he leeches unsecured wireless connection off next door neighbor. Next door neighbor's next of kin just had cable/internet turned off as she passed away, left power on while the move stuff out of house, so wireless signal was still present.

For a while I had 3 businesses in the same building that shared the same internet connection; However only one was listed on the account/paid the bill. Problem A) slow internet (metrics showing that their inbound or outbound is pegged, also the company paying bought the cheapest package available) Problem B) Cross business compromising of information, printing stuff in other offices (two of them were even direct competitors, effectivly) sharing drives across bussinesses, a virus outbreak that kept respreading through the network because one office didn't seem to care they had a worm, and C) company that owned/paid for connection had a tendancy to ignore late notices, because of billing schedule stuff the cutoff's would happen on Thursday, the person at that company with the authority to write checks only worked Mon-Wed
From: Owen DeLong [owen at]
Sent: Friday, July 06, 2012 1:53 PM
To: Keith Medcalf
Cc: nanog at
Subject: Re: job screening question

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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