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  • #2192004

    What do you ask in an interview?


    by jc2it ·

    Ok this question is for everyone.

    I have always fell into my jobs in the past, usually because of networking. So I have never paid much attention to the interview process.

    We are looking for an “IT HELP DESK TECHNICIAN” at my place of business. This would basically be someone that I could train to do most of my time consuming helpdesk support tasks. We are not looking for a lot of experience, in fact those that submitted resumes that had more than about four years of experience were immediately rejected (as overqualified and requiring to much compensation for this job).

    Since I have never interviewed anyone in particular, I would like to go to the experts. Meaning You!

    If you have interviewed prospective employees in the past. What do you look for? What do you ask them?

    If you have been interviewed for a job like this recently. What questions did you answer that you felt made a differance? What did you think was stupid? If you were conducting the interview would you have do something differently?

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    • #3263692

      Some questions

      by jc2it ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      Due to the overwhelming response to this discussion I have come up with a few questions of my own. I developed these in conjunction with some information I found on the net, and at Tech Republic. Any other ideas would be apreciated.

      • #3264018

        Do they know when they don’t know?

        by goeres ·

        In reply to Some questions

        Problems in the real world are not like those in school wherein one gets exactly the right amount of information to solve a problem–no more, no less. It is important to know when one has enough information with which to solve a problem.

        I ask several questions where the answer is “I don’t know” because I want to know what they tell me in those cases–I can fix ignorance; there is no patch for stupidity. For example: I narrowed the field of applicants down to two; one shining example that seemed too good to be true, and a no-frills resume that could have been a lot more self-promoting.
        In the first interview, I realized that the supertroop was starting to answer before I had finished the question–too polished for my comfort level. So I asked, “What can you tell me about the impact of LRF on the desktop?” The response was to the effect that it had been awhile but he could be my “go-to guy on LRF”.

        The second guy paused after every question to collect his thoughts and answered the questions directly. I asked him about the impact of LRF and he said, “I don’t know. What do you mean by LRF?” I said, “The Little Rubber Feet on the computer–forget it, it’s just a bad joke.” His “I don’t know” answer told me that he would ask me if he didn’t know. Because we were building a first-of-its-kind application, I needed to know that if when they said it could be done by the deadline, I would not get an excuse when the deadline neared.

        • #3265990

          Careful about questions like these..

          by dr dij ·

          In reply to Do they know when they don’t know?

          In this case, LRF means something in our IT environment. It is the appreviation we use for the packing slips, the executable portion of an order.

          This of course has nothing to do with desktops, but if you’d said ‘what would you say is impact of LRF’s on IT systems?’ we would have an answer, that it impacted AWDM, our OMS system and lets us ship our invty SKUs from multiple whses 🙂

          In this case tho, I probably would have asked you to clarify the acronym also.

          We too have had our problems with scary know-it-alls who don’t. One particular guy would use the excuse “I’m ‘Old School'” whenever he didn’t know something. In particular, he had to change IP table with vi and seriously screwed it up. Appears he thought, without asking that it was like notepad as an editor.

          An ‘Old School’ person would know the minimal set of commands at least to edit a couple lines and save a file. Quite a few other incidents showed up his lack of knowledge and he was out the door pretty quick!

      • #3087239

        Behavioral based Interviewing

        by ddemania ·

        In reply to Some questions

        The few interviews I’ve performed in the past few years, I’ve approached them using a method called ‘behavioral based interviewing’….

        Instead of asking questions like:
        Tell me your strengthes and weaknesses
        Walk me through you resume
        Or tell me about your expertise in XYZ.

        You should ask questions about specific examples of when they succeeded, failed, and why…
        Tell me a time you led a team to success and how you celebrated?
        Tell me of a time you and your team failed to meet expectations? Why and what did you do to correct?

        If the candidate does not give a real-life example, repharase the question and ask for a specific example.

        I’ve found that real past performance as described by the person is the best measurement of future performance.

        Good luck on filling your position.

    • #3263664

      You might want to go back …

      by too old for it ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      … and look at your rejected stack. I have 18+ years in the IT trade, and right now I’d take a lower paying job in my hometown, just so I wouldn’t have to drive 50 miles round trip everyday.

      • #3264128

        Some general questions you might ask

        by owenb ·

        In reply to You might want to go back …

        ? Warm Up Questions

        o What made you apply for this position?

        o Tell us about yourself?

        ? Main Questions

         Education
        o Tell me a little about what your Training/Degree involved?

        o Tell me about any other qualifications?

        o What special aspects of your education or training have prepared you for this job?

         Job Specific
        o What are your expectations of the job?

        o How much supervision have you typically received in your previous job?

        o What areas would you say needing improvements?

        o Do you prefer working alone or in groups?

         Career Goals
        o How does this job fit in with your overall career goals?

        ? Information to explain to the interviewee

        o What the Job Entails

        o Our Expectations of Employee

        o Training you will receive

        o Benefits, Holiday entitlement etc

        • #3264112

          Reply To: What do you ask in an interview?

          by maxchowhk ·

          In reply to Some general questions you might ask

          It is very depends on what position you are looking for. For a help desk position, i will do the following:
          1. I will do some introduction and warm up questions first
          2. Bring him around the help desk and let him answer one of the user’s enquiry

      • #3264050

        Age Discrimination is Unprofessional

        by dneyman ·

        In reply to You might want to go back …

        I agree with “Too Old For IT”. I have also been in the industry for 16+ years with an additional 5+ years in the military using high tech IT-related systems and have been an IT Division Manager.

        Ruling out people with more experience than you feel you need is not a good practice and is usually only an issue today based on the hiring IT manager’s or supervisor’s fear that someone may know more than them. Due to the past changes in the IT demand due to the previous recession resulting in a massive loss of IT jobs, there are several experienced IT professionals that would be more than willing to take a job at less pay. The high paying days of IT are over.

        I also advise you to remember that it will take you longer to bring a person with less than 4 years experience up to a satisfactory level than it would someone with more years. It may cost you more in the long run to train a newby and continue to maintain their training than it would take to hire someone who can walk into the job with only company specific training.

        Good Luck!

        • #3263951

          I agree, but not with your reason

          by zaferus ·

          In reply to Age Discrimination is Unprofessional

          I think he’s more worried that after the time and effort of bringing in someone if they have lots of experience they may be applying for this job while they are looking for a better one. Typically someone overqualified for a position doesn’t last too long.

          That being said, there are people with tons of IT experience who are looking for this type of position for a variety of reasons.

          Most people who have 4+ years experience know exactly what help desk is – would it hurt to phone interview them and ask their reasons for applying for the position? The person you seek may be the resume you just threw away!

        • #3263945

          Honesty, Integrity, Courage

          by gjones ·

          In reply to Age Discrimination is Unprofessional

          Look for someone who is honest (will tell you if they don’t know something…I like the LFR example). Someone who has integrity will keep you and themselves out of hot water and will not do something wrong just because ‘important’ outside of your department intimidated them. Courage is of the same line, but includes self-confidence. A self-confident person will tell you if they simply don’t know, but will also take the initiative to research and find a solution. They will also be able to disagree with you in a professional manner. Look for someone who will fit in with the team. A top-notch candidate may also be abrasive and disruptive to the rest of the team. That will lose you more in the long run. I choose the above far and above skills.


        • #3266014

          I hope not.

          by too old for it ·

          In reply to Age Discrimination is Unprofessional

          “The high paying days of IT are over.”

          I hope not. I saw all thos whiz-bang hot-shots get all the great jobs during the dot-com era, and had hoped corporate America would get around to wanting people with real-world experience.

          I’d go most anywhere for a 6-figure salary, a big fat sign-on bonus, the keys to the company Porsche and a foos-ball table in the break room as long as they were hring us guys with grey temples.

        • #3266001

          High Paying Days of IT

          by jj014747 ·

          In reply to I hope not.

          I’m increasingly frustrated by hiring managers who look at the
          alphabet soup on a person’s resume rather than their real-world

          As a customer service professional in IT, the brunt of these
          hiring decisions impacts my effectiveness. When I or my staff
          have to argue daily with sys admins with runny noses that,
          contrary to what Microsoft says, something bad wrong is INDEED
          happening on client machines, then someone just made a really
          bad business decision.

          Give me a person in his or her 50s with some experience outside
          of MCSE certification testing any day of the week.

          I tell you now: corporate america is painting itself into a corner.

        • #3106428

          me too.

          by balloonchaser ·

          In reply to I hope not.

          I feel the same way…But honestly, I would probably do the same for a high 5 figure salary and relocation. They can keep the porsche. I have been unemployed for several years. I just wish a company would believe in what I can do instead of thinking I forgot everything since I havent worked in awhile.

      • #3264014


        by james speed ·

        In reply to You might want to go back …

        Sometimes companies overlook individuals that would be a GOD SEND. Hiring “Overqualified” people doesnt always mean super high pay.

      • #3264013


        by james speed ·

        In reply to You might want to go back …

        Sometimes companies overlook individuals that would be a GOD SEND. Hiring “Overqualified” people doesnt always mean super high pay.

    • #3264121

      Competency Based interviewing

      by haggis_the_dog ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      The technique I use when inteviewing helpdesk technicians for my department is known as “competency based interviewing”. The goal of this technique is to ask questions that encourage the interviewee to “tell stories” from their experience that demonstrate what they have done in their previous roles. Key phrase to look for is “I did xyz” rather than “We did xyz”.

      I have a team of 5 helpdesk consultants supporting 300 employees directly (30% remote workers) and a further 3000 within the EMEA region. During the 6 years I’ve been here, I’ve only had one person leave, and two transfer to back-office teams. In my opinion, the technique works!

      I recommend staying away from leading questions or standard questions that have a “right” answer. These are really easy quesitons to prepare for and dont really tell you anything about the qualities and character of the candidate. One thing I have learned during my time managing teams is that it is a lot easier to teach someone about a technology than it is to train them for the right attitude or outlook.

      Lots of good (and free) information on Competency Based interviewing can be found doing a quick search on Google for the term.

      Wish you luck!

      • #3265913

        In Addition to “Competency based interviewing”

        by bigabe ·

        In reply to Competency Based interviewing

        I agree with haggis. I used this form of questioning in addition to troubleshooting questioning, where not one answer is correct, but its how you get to the problem.

        My favorite question was troubleshooting Non System Disk Error at boot up. Although it could be many things, the most obvious is a disk in a drive. But you go to a follow-up question, ?OK, I checked and there is no disk, what next?? Do they go straight to replacing the hard drive? Or do they sys the c drive? Or do they check the IDE cables? Although all could be the problem, what steps will they walk a user through?

        Basically, questions like these will give you a good idea how they are going to troubleshoot a user’s issue, smartly, or by wasting time and money.

        Always have a list of questions prepared. You never want to sit there thinking what do you ask next.

    • #3264093


      by rubensds ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      Hi jc2it

      Besides general appearance, politeness and pesentation, the candidate must be able to prove his/her achievements. In other words, if he/she worked on a successful project, what were the factors that contributed to the project being a success? Budget, resource planning, customer satisfaction and how were these measured? Do not look for the technical stuff but methodology and approach.

      One of my favorites is to ask where the candidate sees himself/herself in 2-3 years time. The answer may give you some indication of what type of person you are dealing with in relaton to the job.

      Lastly, I feel it is vital that the candidate has a good understanding of the position he/she is applying for and the company/organisation they ‘potenially’ will be employed by.

      Hope this helps

      • #3264089


        by the wookiee ·

        In reply to Proof

        I always ask about outside activities, hobbies. This way you can see if the person has a life and how this may affect there working life.

    • #3264079

      dont be stupid

      by gr6120 ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      Hire the first person you think might be smarter than you so you dont have to train them

    • #3264077

      Ask about real-life experience…

      by godlessheathen ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      Many people have years and years of real-life experience. For example, they may have begun taking computers apart before they graduated high school and then, through necessity, took jobs doing whatever they had to do to make a living. In the background, they could have went to night school to get their degree [sometimes just a piece of paper telling the world they went to school for something they already KNEW how to do through experience].

      Though they might not have had an “IT” job title, it doesn’t mean they don’t know A LOT about how to troubleshoot, upgrade, or repair PCs.

      Angell French

    • #3264065

      Just did this yesterday…

      by mckinnej ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      or last night, depending on how you look at it. :)The level of technical skill needed depends on the type of Service Desk, but generally it isn’t very high. As a starting point, let’s say you’re looking for a Level 1 Service Desk person who pretty much just records the calls and follows the troubleshooting scripts.

      Obviously, there is no need to ask a bunch of technical questions for those positions. These are your front line troops who will have first contact with your customers, so that is where you should focus. You need to ask questions that will generate discussion so that you can evaluate their people skills. Give them some difficult situations and see how they respond. If you’re not good at reading body language and other non-verbal signals, make sure someone who is sits on the interview panel. Of course, if you have a specific tool that you use, then you may want to throw some questions in about it to get an idea of how much training they will need, but this should be secondary to their soft skills. There is no worse situation in a Service Desk than having an already upset customer run into a unhelpful and/or rude Service Desk person. Those encounters go nuclear very quickly and the fallout has about the same halflife. The more smooth talking folks you can get answering the phones the better.

      Now if you’re looking for Level 2 people, then plan on longer interviews because you’re sill going to be asking the soft skills questiongs and you’ll ratchet up the technical questions a notch or two.

      Just as a point of reference, our pay scale for Service Desk runs from $30K to just over $40K. The folks at the top of the scale have 5-10 years of experience, at least.

    • #3264037

      Test problem solving skills

      by daniel.muzrall ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      Since you’re interviewing for a help desk position (assuming level 1 support), the person you hire is going to need to be able to solve problems, not just run through decision trees. Take a common problem (like a user cannot access any network resources, e-mail, or the internet) and ask how the candidate would tackle it. Even if they don’t have the best technical answers, if they have a problem solving method/process that is going to be a good indicator of how they’ll handle the job. They can always learn the technical details later.

      • #3264028

        Name that gadget! (sort of)

        by theamazingsteve ·

        In reply to Test problem solving skills

        One of my first interviewing experiences was for a term student (co-op) position to program a video SBus card on a Sun workstation. It was an ugly 3 slot wide beast with (not so common at the time) S-video connectors. We had it and the API manual handy to see if interviewees were frightened of the beast or the code manual.

        The successful candidate picked it up the card with keen interest, figured out the ports, pondered the role of individual chips and eagerly pawed through the manual with phrases like “Oh! I see what there trying to do here…” and even “what the heck are those parameters for??

        The point is that we could tell the lights were on at the top floor.

        In subsequent administrator interviews I have had an old computing artefact on hand. The more curious would ask about it, otherwise I would ask if they knew what it was. A beautiful wooden box with brass hinges and switches, a leather handle and a DB-25 connector. Inside had two mesh covered circles with large rubber rings.

        The point was not to see if they could identify an old acoustic coupling modem (as that is hardly a marketable skill), but to judge the ability to look at something unfamiliar and reason it out. Did they ask intelligent questions? Did they recognize that it would likely be attached to using the DB25 port?

        One HR person gave me grief for using this as an interviewing tool, but I contend that it is an excellent problem-solving exercise.

      • #3084052

        Great idea

        by phil ·

        In reply to Test problem solving skills

        In the old days of NT3.51 we used to get new hires to install a CD drive into a PC. We gave them a screwdriver, CD Drive and a floppy. We did not hire the ones that just did it but the ones who read the README1ST.TXT on the floppy disk first and asked questions like :-“what drive letter should i use?” i.e. People who stopped and checked before rushing in.

      • #2490611


        by yemi1980 ·

        In reply to Test problem solving skills

        Can you give me more Helpdesk interview questions because i have a interview for friday..

    • #3264027

      Ask if they have a computer at home and…

      by fafafooey ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      what they do with it. IMHO, if you want to keep up to date with technology, it can’t just be done in a 8 to 5 job. I like to see that the person is genuinely interested in computers and learning and keeping up to date.

    • #3264009

      And now the hard part!

      by pcbrown ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      I have found that the interview portion (although it is not easy) is not the hardest part of the Interviewing process. In my opinion the hardest part is distinguishing the first from the last. Someone?s impression of themselves may sway your decision and you may let the best candidate out the door without even knowing it. Therefore I use an evaluation sheet with a weighted points system (More on that in a minute) that helps me decide who is the best candidate for the position. This gives me an objective look at how each candidate did in the interview. At the end of this sheet I put my comments, like he dressed appropriately for the interview, or he was very technical, or easy to speak with.
      On the evaluation sheet, I decide what qualities I am looking for in a candidate. I am a very team oriented Manager and feel that the new employee needs to be able to fit in with the team. Therefore I rate things like attitude, communications, and personality before the technical (with the right person, you can teach the technical).
      Here is a sample:
      Description Weight Raw (1-100) Weighted
      Attitude for customer service 10 X 90 = 900
      Verbal Communications 9 X 75 = 675
      Personality 8 X 90 = 720
      Technical Expertise OS 8 X 70 = 560
      Technical Expertise PC 7 X 80 = 560
      Cope with conflict and stress 6 X 80 = 480
      Team work 6 X 90 = 540
      Technical Expertise Network 5 X 70 = 350
      Appearance 4 X 80 = 320
      Self Evaluation 3 X 90 = 270
      Totals 815 5375
      As you can see I rate the highest quality to lowest qualities. One candidate can have a higher Raw score but not be the best candidate for the job.
      Also you should also check with your HR department. THERE ARE SOME QUESTIONS YOU CAN NOT ASK.
      Best of luck!
      One other thing, if the candidate is promising, make one other person interview the same person using the same grading scale and see how they fair with that person. If the numbers are within 100 points of each other then you both seen the same person.

    • #3263998

      Usually, regardless of the job title, we want some of the same traits

      by joan_durso ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      We try to ascertain whether the person has a good work ethic, is a team player and is willing to learn. We try to gear our questions and our reference checks toward this. For entry level jobs, we sometimes hire interns from the local two year college. After observing them as interns, we determine who we want as permanent employees and encourage them to apply for our jobs.

    • #3263980

      Different Q’s for different positions

      by justlj ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      There would be different questions for different positions, and I won’t go there, but offer my two pennies worth on your current situation…
      I would think that one of the skills would be the soft skills of communication, i.e. not just reading from the standard script, but listening to the reply. Therefore, I would engage the candidate in conversation – find out what they are passionate about and allow their ‘real self’ to come through and offer up some questions about that where you are confused/unknowledgeable. A) This will help you find out if they are natural listerners and helpers; b) This will help you find out how they deal with people who aren’t as ‘smart’ as they are.

      The second thing is the simple statement/question “I’ve interviewed tweanty good people for this position – why should I choose you?”. Notice I didn’t ask how they would help the orgization or whatever, just the Why You? This allows you to find out if they’ve listened to what you’ve described as YOUR needs for the position and not just some canned answer they have been practicing about how they can help the organization and the bottom line, etc. that they read in the interview books.

      Good luck!

    • #3263949

      start out thinking of who your hire will work with

      by timplatt532 ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      The first think I think of when hiring for a help desk is who is going to be turning to them for help. This includes a wide range of people, many if not most of whom have limited knowledge of computers. They are, probably, all under tight deadlines and a lot of pressure to get things fixed. Together this means their questions and their descriptions of the problem they are having are going to be less than precise, and occasionally off the mark completely. On top of that, they are going to be upset, frustrated, under stress because they have that big meeting coming up in 20 minutes they need to prepare for, etc.

      Technical skills are important but people skills are vital and a willingness to patiently work with that client caller to find out what the real problem is, is the most important of all.

      I look for people with good written and verbal communications skills who are likely to be patient and calm when dealing with people who are anything but. Beyond that, I appreciate looking for the simplest explanation/problem resolution and moving on from there.

      An earlier comment mentioned loss of all network connectivity for a help desk caller. My experience is that most of the time this happens it is because someone accidentally tugged out a wire (think cleaning crew, etc.) and plugging it back in again fixes things. Look for someone who will identify the loose/unplugged wire, simple solution to test first, instead of starting out with a complex fix that can cause more damage than you want to think of. That can help you limit the need for (self inflicted) help desk escalation too. I admit this is a sensitive example for me, as it reminds me of a time someone fried the superblock of a UNIX computer in our system, with critically important data on it because they did not spot that loose wire before going for the most sophisticated, arcane approach they could think of to fix things.

    • #3266016

      It’s weird, I know

      by jj014747 ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?


      When I hire for Help Desk or customer service positions, I don’t
      ask technical questions (I leave that to others). I do a little role
      play. This sounds funky and it’s not super comfortable but it is
      really effective.

      I’m not only looking for technique but I’m looking for talent.
      How does one recognize talent in a customer service person?
      Part of it is their ability to place themselves in a position where
      they may not know the answer, will need to understand the
      customer’s motivation and circumstance and use creative and
      innovative ways of helping the customer.

      Role playing is difficult for many people. For candidates who are
      exceedingly uncomfortable, I take that into consideration but it
      is a measure of whether they’re a good fit for the position.

      I sit with my back to the candidate and encourage them to look
      at a wall or something other than me (as though they were on
      the phone and could not see the customer). I give them a brief
      set up. And then we go.

      I’ve used:

      1) I’m a blind person in Manhattan. You’re a traveler’s aide
      person. You’re going to have to help me find my way to the
      Metropolitan Museum of Art.

      2) I’m new to the area and I’m trying to find a good Chinese

      Either of these, after the setup, starts out with variations on the

      Me: “Hi, my names is Susie and I need to . Can you

      Typically the candidate will start out by asking pretty expected
      questions. Depending on my mood or my impressions of the
      candidate I may throw them a life preserver or I may step up the
      level of difficulty.

      Certain benefits from this: If I’m doing a team interview, the
      others around the table get a chance to sit back and “Not” think
      about what the right answer is.

      Also, the candidate has to know that they may not have the right
      answer. I don’t care as long as I, as a faux-customer, feels
      they’re being helpful.

      It shows me how creative they can be when it comes to finding
      or discussing resources for solving the problem.

      Good luck. I hate interviewing.

    • #3266015

      Best Place for questions is

      by mmm123 ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      Go to and login as if you were a candidate looking for a job. Then go to their career advice (I think) section and run an interview simulation for an entry level or technical role. It will give you a good idea of what to ask and what types of answers you are looking for as well. I would even make a grid and scoring mechanism so you can rank your candidates on a 1 to 5 scale (1 lowest 5 highest) the candidates you rank the highest overall scores are those you want back for second interviews and or make an offer too… this site can also help you define general roles and responsiblities

    • #3266006

      20 questions anyone?

      by tbblakey ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      One question that I like to ask when hiring Help Desk techs is similar to the game many of us played with kids – 20 questions. There are several reasons for this, which I will explain after I briefly go over the game……

      I set up the scenario that I am at a grocery store buying one item. Using 10 yes or no questions or less, find out the exact item I am buying.

      I will usually write down something like batteries, light bulbs, or shampoo. Something that you can get at any grocery store, but not a food item that you normally associate with the grocery store.

      The reasons – 1. It shows me how they react to somthing they weren’t quite expecting (you know, the typical “describe a difficult situation you have dealt with and how you overcame it….blah, blah, blah) Having worked on the Help Desk to start my IT career, the unexpected pretty much describes every day. 2. It shows me their deduction skills by the type of questions they ask. Good deduction is crucial to good troubleshooting. I would probably not hire someone who started asking me specifics like is it eggs, or milk, etc. Rather I would hope they start off very broad and narrow down, like is it a food item, is it intended for human consumption, etc. Someone who asks too specifically to start will generally latch on to the first clue presented and run with it rather that trying to get a handle on the whole picture and then narrow down. 3. The game will usually lighten the atmosphere a bit. Most interviewees are pretty nervous, and I try to get them to loosen up so I can see their real personality. Most will have fun with the game and they loose some of the stress and tightness. 4. I want to see if they will ask me questions later on why I might have played the game. Someone who actively participates in the interview by both answering and asking questions, is someone who will probably best support my users effectively from a customer service and technical standpoint.

      I know I rambled a bit, but hope that this helps. I know this does not replace the traditional technical or experience questions, but I think it is a simple way to give you a better picture of the qualifications of the candidate.

    • #3265991

      complexity of questions matters

      by rosecoutre ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      This may be controversial or unorthodox, but my experience says the content of the questions asked is irrelevant — as long as the complexity of the questions require the interviewee to think. The interviewee’s answers will reveal aptitude (high or low) for understanding and formulating complex concepts. That is the main quality you want to see. Secondly, you want some experience or education relevant to the job responsibilities, but this is only a secondary consideration. Don’t hire anyone with tons of experience who can’t formulate complex concepts! That will be disastrous for your company, and you will have to fire the person or live with the dead-weight of an unproductive, highly experienced, employee. In my 20 years of hiring and firing, I have found this principle to be true 100% of the time, even though the interviewer’s judgment is partly subjective. That is, in all cases where *my impression* was that this interviewee is intelligent (regardless of experience), that person proved to be highly productive, low-error-rate, fast learner, and bright with suggestions to improve processes. Every time I went against my *impression* of the interviewee’s intelligence, and hired based on the employee being highly experienced with a resume that was a “perfect fit” for the position, I got an unproductive employee who had ego issues (because of so many years’ experience) and resentment when confronted with low productivity. I don’t mind egos, unless they’re mixed with low productivity. As an employer, when you have seen *no exceptions to the rule* that valuing an impression of intelligence (over experience) brings success, and valuing experience (over intelligence) brings failure, it is foolhardy to hire based on any other criterion. (of course using common sense to hire people more or less within the given field) Ironically, therefore, the most impractical thing you can do is hire solely on practical experience. This may upset some highly experienced people, but only those who are not intelligent enough to see the point. A small company’s survival depends first upon the aptitude and abilities of its employees, while experience can be gained in the long-term. But hiring without scrutinizing aptitude, just blindly hiring people with good resumes, will *always* sabotage your company, and it will fail. Also, avoid bloated HR-speak — an intelligent interviewee will immediately see you are incompetent. Do *not* define the role too precisely, except to tell the interviewee that they must be able to adjust and adapt to ever-changing expectations and situations. Generally speaking, ask the interviewee “scenario questions” that require perceptivity in grasping the subtleties of your question, as well as require on-the-fly formulation and articulation of a complex answer. I would adapt this same principle of interviewing and use it for any job, from entry-level sw-test asst. to lead developer to CIO. Good Luck!

    • #3265986

      Do they Want the Job?

      by ttrimb1e ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      I have interviewed and hired many people in the IT area. Many of the interviews I have been through are a lot of wasted talk and questions, which only tell if you are a salesman not a technical person. Select the 3 best candidates by looking for the basic skills in their resume. Judge if they are a personality match. Then, my personal technique for the meat of the interview is to explain the job in as much detail as possible; ask any questions which come up about their resume and then basically determine if they really want this job. Judge them by the basic conversation not a bunch of prewritten questions. I hope you are successful in your hiring effort.
      Finally, answer EVERYONE who takes the time to submit a resume. Prewritten e-mail form letter is fine. TT

      • #2581713

        If they want the job, they will research the business.

        by mhillenbrand ·

        In reply to Do they Want the Job?

        If the candidate was truly interested in the job, he/she would do a little research before coming to the interview. You would be amazed how many candidates I have interviewed over the years that never even bothered to find out what our company does. I always ask what they know about the business and how they think they can contribute. More often than not, they look at me dumbfounded.

        My advice – ask them if they know about your business. If they didn’t bother to learn about it before the interview, then do not hire them.

    • #3265979

      My perspective

      by jamesrl ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      I interview alot. I have a diverse team and have interviewed for tech writers, programmers, tech gurus and help desk staff.

      I would not reject those over experienced resumes. You may chose to do a telephone screening – call them – tell them about the rate of pay (a range) the type of work, the challenges (briefly) and ask them if they are still interested. If they are, interview them – make a point of asking why with all their experience they want this job. You might get some suprising and interesting answers.

      Technical skills can be taught to people with a basic technical apptitude. What I want to know in an interview is do they have the other skills needed for the job.

      One of my management mentors taught me long ago that there are three things you focus on for a new hire – Can they do it?, Will they do it? Will they fit in?

      Hopefully the resume will let you know if they can do the job, and you wont interview someone who from the resume looks like they can’t do it.

      Will they do it speaks to motivation. The question would be – tell me about a time when you went beyond your job description – what was the circumstance, what did you do, what was the result.

      Will they fit in speaks to whether they would fit into the team and the corporate environment. If you have personel clashs and conflicts, ask them about a time when they experienced something similar. Gauge them on their approach to conflicts. You can ask questions regarding adaptability.

      Hope that helps.


      • #3265955

        Focus good, but resumes are useless for answers

        by the chad ·

        In reply to My perspective

        >Can they do it?, Will they do it? [Do] they fit in?

        You are dead on the money. When we hire someone, we want to make sure the answer to all three of those are “YES.” Unfortunately, contrary to most people’s cherished beliefs, a resume will answer NONE of those questions.

        1) Will they do it?
        – Proof: Give them a moderately difficult (but real-world) project that they can do on their own, with a short deadline. If they complete it on time and to your satisfaction, then they are most likely motivated individuals. If they don’t, what makes you think they’ll be able to complete projects when they work for you? The lazy people will never make it past this step (this is why you do this one first).

        2) Can they do it?
        – Proof: Make them do it. If you need someone to drive a bus, make them drive a bus and see if they can do it. If they are going to be a tech, make them fix a few PCs and answer some typical user questions. The ones who are BSing their way through will expose themselves quickly.

        3) Do they fit in?
        – Proof: For the precious few that pass #1 and #2, take them out with the team for lunch. The team will like it (morale booster), and you and they will be able to interact with the potential in a non-office setting. When you finish, ask your team what they thought and then go with your gut.


        There is no question or questions from the Big Book of Interview Questions that will answer any of the three; in fact, asking _ANY_ of those questions wastes your and the interviewee’s time, and is insulting for that very reason.

        – “What is your greatest strength/weakness?”
        – “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
        – “Tell me about a previous project”
        – “If you were an animal, which one would you be?”
        – “How many manholes are there in New York City?”
        – etc.

        NONE of those BBOI questions provides the answer the original three questions (can they, will they, do they). They are just hot air that tells the candidate that you don’t know what you are doing and you’re hoping for a ‘bolt from the blue’ to help you out.

        • #3265740

          Bad resumes versus good ones

          by jamesrl ·

          In reply to Focus good, but resumes are useless for answers

          When there are lots of applicatants, its easy to use resumes to screen.

          The bad resumes say, I was a VB programmer.

          The good resumes say, as a VB programmer I implemented a creative new application that saved the company money and improved productivity. Sure they could lie, but you can probe for that.

          In a tight labor market, you have to interview harder.

          Tell me a bout aprevious project where….you had to fight tough deadlines, or work through conflict with another project member or work with the customer to better understand vague requirements…..that can tell you a lot about how they approach a problem – its not about the result in this case, its about how you approach a challenge.

          Where do u see yourself in 5 years – depends on the role. If you want to hire someone who can develop into a larger role – probe to see if they have ambition. But a better question is – how do you see your career progressing. If they haven’t thought about it, think twice. You need to know if they will be happy in the role they are interviewing for and/or could be developed into something more.

          Manholes/animals etc = these are off tangent questions – if you ask them soemthing bizarre how will they react. I admit I never use them and I hate them. But some people think they have meaning, again not for the answer itself but in how the candidate reacts. Do they stop and think (good sign) do they blather on, do they get tongue tied?

          By the way I have never read a book or even taken a course on interviewing, yet my peers ask me to interview their candidates. I did read someone’s notes from a behavioural interviewing course, but I think I get the concept so I have never taken the course.


    • #3265944

      Good Start

      by ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      A good Desktop Support person has the ability to multi-task and pick up right where they left off. I like to simulate this by asking a “scenario” question (maybe a simple troubleshooting task) and then interupt their thought process by taking them into another scenario. I will then wait to see if they pick where they left off on the first question. It really shows their thought process and troubleshooting skills. If they can’t handle it, then desktop support is not for them.

    • #3265942

      Do you smoke?

      by pmallows ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      Can you ask that? Also, can you ask how many work days did you miss in the last 12 months ?(for any reason except vacation). Just my 2 cents based on many years in the business hiring young guns.

      • #3265871

        Probably not…

        by mckinnej ·

        In reply to Do you smoke?

        You’re definitely into gray area. I think a lawyer could easily tie that to asking about health and other personal information that is forbidden territory. I believe all you could do in this regard is state that the company policy is no smoking on company property. Beyond that we have no authority or right.

    • #3265935

      Here are some resources on TechRepublic you might find useful

      by peter spande ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      10 extra questions to help you make the best help desk hire

      13 useless interview questions? and what you should ask instead

      And there are some good “what not to ask” items here
      and here
      Good luck!

      • #3265786

        generic “tough” interview questions from books are stupid

        by vaspersthegrate ·

        In reply to Here are some resources on TechRepublic you might find useful

        To ask an applicant those dumb questions culled from the cul de sacs of books on interviewing: stupid.

        Why can’t employers use their brains and imaginations and ask specific questions focused on actual events in the job?

        “How would you handle a DDoS attack?”

        rather than: “do you prefer solo or team work?”

        Every smart applicant will say, “I’m good at both and like a mix of independent work, plus some group projects”…which is what almost every job has!

        Ha ha ha.

        Thanks for these TechRepublic resources, friend.

    • #3265830

      Basic Technical questions and Communication Skills

      by sujit1215 ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      I think you should ask the basic technical questions like what is DHCP,DNS,TCP/IT,Networking protocols,Active directory etc.Also most important for a IT Helpdesk person is to have good communication skills and be cool headed to handle irate or angry user’s. You could give him a scenario and ask him how he would react to it.Also he should a very good team member, becoz Helpdesk requires high level co-ordination between the team to handle diff kinds of issues/escalations etc.
      Hope my reply has helped a bit for your selection.

    • #3265789

      ask what they’d do in a given situation

      by vaspersthegrate ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      I think the best questions are those that strip the applicant to the bone ethically and professionally.

      Thus, ask what they’d do to solve a specific, typical or potential problem, a real event your enterprise has experienced or expects.

      Here is how you will find out not just what training and education he or she has, but *far* more importantly: how fast they think when on the sword tip, how they can implement their know-how.

      Implementation is the key, not training or education. Without implementation intelligence, based on case studies or actual experience, the expertise means little.

      Ask *many* of these tech situation questions, not just “what would you do if you saw another employee stealing or sexually harrassing someone?”

      Throw away the template interviews and create your own customized, company-specific, focused questionnaire.

    • #3265771

      RE: What do you ask in an interview?

      by vigilante_3391 ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      I never like any interview; the normal question and answers session fullstop
      I used broad level presentation-style interviewing process such as assessment of competencies of their behaviours/values (30%), technical (50% for technical position) and business competencies/presentation (20%).
      To do that, I need to design a casestudy for the interviewees to go to different rooms separately and lay down their proposal of case studies given earlier in 45 mins.
      Benefit of presentation style interview that we not only assess their technical competencies (for technical position) but also observe their behaviour/values as well as their business mindset in their presentation with style. We can ask as many questions as you like about their business proposal out of the case studies so you dont have to scrath your head to look for technical questions. You can really see their potentials and who has got more competencies in what area. You don’t want to employ criminals (behaviour/values) for the interview though the technical is 100% competent?
      It works..
      Happy interview…

    • #3265752

      Qualifications / Certifications

      by addicted2speed ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      Watch out for people who are fresh out of one of those certification courses and think they know everything. Also, watch out for people who have never taken a class, but still think they know everything.

      Like any good Kung-Fu Master in a kung-fu movie said, “The first step to enlightenment is to admit that you know nothing”.

      To me (as has been echoed numerous times in this thread) the most dangerous person is the person who knows less than he thinks he does.

      Because this is a pretty basic position, I would hire a person who knows less, but knows exactly where the limitations of their knowledge-are (and is honest about it). At least I can work with that person and increase their knowledge.

      Pull some examples from your tech support database. The weirder the better. Give her/him exactly the same information that your existing technicians had access to. Purposely leave out some crucial information, maybe the way your network is configured (such as static IPs or DHCP)

      Ask her/him what he would do: not necessarily providing exact solution, but more the mental problem-solving process. Remember, in a Help-Desk position, you’re after problem-solving skills, and not just technical skills.

      If they ask some intelligent questions, like “What kind of method is used for IP Address assignment?”, then they’ve scored some crucial points.

      When s/he’s done, tell them how the problem was really resolved (if different), and ask them to describe which method was better.

      The answers that you get will vary, and the “mine is better” or “yours is better” answer is not what you should pay-attention-to. This question will always fluster the interviewee, and that is the whole point: In their mind, they’re worried about disappointing you, failing the interview, or seeming too cocky if they say “Mine is better than yours”. The point is to evaluate how they can articulate themselves and think clearly under pressure and uncertainty, because these are the same kinds of pressures they will encounter if they cannot quickly resolve a situation in the field, or don’t understand what’s going on in a particular issue.

      Being articulate is very important, and making sure that the technician can accurately describe things to you (since you’re no-longer on the front-lines) becomes crucial.

    • #3106725

      Avoid Snap Decisions

      by chipshopman ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      You’ve had a lot of feedback about question types, etc, and it’s all hugely useful. However, as a new interviewer, you need to be aware of something incredibly important: you’ll have made a judgement on the interviewee within the first minute of meeting them; their clothes, handshake style, what they look like, their tone of voice, etc, will all have immediately influenced your opinion of them before the interview has even started. If you’re aware of this, you can use it to your advantage. During the interview assess the candidate against your initial impression and see how it changes. Don’t let it be your final arbiter though – people deserve to be judged on the whole interview, not the first 30seconds or so. I’ve had initially dreadful candidates turn in to stars as they settle in, calm nerves and realise that I’m not the ogre interviewer from hell.

      We’ve recently recruited Helpdesk Specialists for my company and we concentrated on a) evidence of excellent customer care b) evidence of excellent communication skills and c) technical skills – that was our order of skills requirement. I also made it clear that we were looking for candidates who were prepared to stick around – my Helpdesk is not for new ITers, it’s a highly experienced, technical, customer focussed helpdesk that’s at the heart of my team so it’s 110% important to get the right person. To help me achieve this I give everyone a written test that combines both technical skills and customer care skills (I can give examples of written test questions if requested). It enables me to easily benchmark against other candidates and gives me a very good understanding of how they might fit in to the team (weak/strong skill set). If you want you could also use psychometric tests, but that may be overkill for a Helpdesk position.

      Remember as well, that an unsuccessful candidate may get in touch and request feedback and certainly in the UK are able to request all written notes from the meeting. So, make sure your decisions are based on sound evidence and ensure any written notes can back up that decision. If you’re worried about what questions you’re going to ask, write them down and ask the same questions to all candidates, that makes it a fair process. Make sure all your questions are open questions by starting them with: Who, What, Why, When, Where or How. Avoid questions that can be answered “Yes” or “No”.

      One final thing: I usually interview alongside HR which enables me to listen to questions rather than always be trying to think up the next question and it also enables us to make a decision immediately after the interview.

      Good Luck!

      • #2482718

        Re: Avoid Snap Decisions

        by cheekimonkey ·

        In reply to Avoid Snap Decisions

        Im a new Service Desk Team Leader and have been asked to do the next lot of interviews.

        Your setup seems very similar to ours, would you be able to send me a copy of the written test questions that you use. After the last interviews I did, I really need something to help me get the right balance between technical and soft skills.

    • #2490608

      I’m asking the question

      by maxwell edison ·

      In reply to What do you ask in an interview?

      What can you bring to our company that none of the other candidates can bring?

      If you’re on the “hiring” end, asking this one question will reveal so many things that it almost renders all the others moot.

      If you’re on the “being hired” end, answering this question, whether it’s asked directly or not, will make you the benchmark to which others are compared.

      • #2490600

        Arg, I hate this loaded question

        by jmgarvin ·

        In reply to I’m asking the question

        This question stinks for a number of reasons.

        1) You have to assume the other candidates are just as qualified as you are or they wouldn’t have gotten to the interview stage. Therefore, it becomes a question of things like soft skills and the intangables. By defining specific traits that follow this, you can seem non-technical and less qualified.

        2) The question is loaded. If you answer that you are an enthusiastic go getter, that implies the other candidates are not.

        3) The answer HIGHLY depends on how you, the manager, view the question. If you are asking for technical merits, and you get a non-technical answer, the candidate seems less qualified. The vice versa is also true.

        When I get answered a question like this I typical answer with:
        I’ve got the experience and the knowledge to take on any task.

        • #2490596

          How to answer

          by maxwell edison ·

          In reply to Arg, I hate this loaded question

          You bet it’s a loaded question, so it’s best to give a loaded answer. And the “other candidates” have nothing to do with it. It’s not possible to accurately assume anything, so you might as well assume the best about them and see it as an opportunity to take the interview wherever you’d like. (Look for the “opportunity” in anything!) It puts the ball squarely in your court — right where you want it. I was asked a similar question once, and I answered something like this (paraphrased, of course):

          Most people in my position are equally qualified as it relates to the technology. There are a lot of talented and qualified people out there, and I’d love to work with most of them. However, I believe that I understand how our technology can be best tied into our business model to serve the needs of our customers, while finding a good balance between implementing the leading edge technology and keeping the company profitable. (By the way, I listed a couple of those customers by name, and I did address them as “ours”.)

          It’s like the best pitcher facing the best batter. Give me a fast ball right down the middle of the plate, and give me an opportunity to knock one outta’ the park.

          That was about fifteen years ago, and it was probably the last interview question I was ever asked.

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