K.S. Bhaskar on 11 Feb 2009 06:56:01 -0800

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Re: [PLUG] OT (but not really): Tough Interview questions

On Wed, Feb 11, 2009 at 7:26 AM, Toby DiPasquale <toby@cbcg.net> wrote:
> On Wed, Feb 11, 2009 at 12:37 AM, Mag Gam <magawake@gmail.com> wrote:
>> Since the economy has crippled, I am certain Tech people have been
>> feeling the crunch since most of us are considered costs rather than
>> an assets. For those who have been looking for positions, I am curious
>> what are some tough technical questions you were stumped at and for
>> what position.
>> For instance, I had a client as me over the telephone:
>> What is ELF and how does it differ from other formats?  -- Unix related position
> Executable and Linking Format. Designed for the "next-gen" UNIX
> executables which allow shared libraries and dynamically loading code
> (a.out format did not allow for that). Other formats of this nature
> are PE (Windows), DWARF (embedded stuff, iPhone) or Mach-O "fat" (Mac
> OS X) binary formats.
> Having said all that, this is a spectacularly dumb question to ask.

[KSB] Why is it a dumb question?  [More below.]

>> What is kept in a journal of a journalized file system? -- Unix related position
> Dumb. This question has tons of levels and most people can't even tell
> you the first. Guess what, though? They all use and administer
> computers just fine without knowing it.

[KSB] The fact that a question has many levels is actually good.  In
an interview (I am an interviewer more than I am an interviewee), I
like to drill down to see how much a candidate really knows.  One of
my favorite questions is "What is a legitimate use of recursion?"  A
good interview question is one that allows the candidate to ask
questions back, and to be the basis of a discussion that allows the
interviewer and candidate to get deeper and deeper into a discussion
until one of them hits bottom or the interviewer decides s/he has
learned enough to make a decision.

A good interview should allow the interviewer to decide whether the
candidate is worth investing more time pursuing and should be relevant
to the job so that the candidate can decide whether the opportunity is
worth investing further time pursuing.

To that end, good questions are not those with cut and dried answers,
but open ended questions where the answers involve making intelligent
choices and have opportunities for discussion about issues.  If I were
interviewing someone for a sysadmin position, I would probably ask
about backup strategies or securing systems.

-- Bhaskar
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