job screening question

Matt Chung itsmemattchung at
Fri Jul 6 14:19:48 UTC 2012

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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