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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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start out thinking of who your hire will work with

by timplatt532 In reply to What do you ask in an int ...

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.

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It's weird, I know

by jj014747 In reply to What do you ask in an int ...


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 <whatever>. 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.

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Best Place for questions is

by MMM123 In reply to What do you ask in an int ...

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

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20 questions anyone?

by tbblakey In reply to What do you ask in an int ...

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.

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complexity of questions matters

by rosecoutre In reply to What do you ask in an int ...

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!

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Do they Want the Job?

by ttrimb1e In reply to What do you ask in an int ...

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

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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.

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My perspective

by JamesRL In reply to What do you ask in an int ...

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.


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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.

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Bad resumes versus good ones

by JamesRL In reply to Focus good, but resumes a ...

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 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.


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