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It’s Not Just A Programming Problem.

Over at CodingHorror, Jeff riffs on problems hiring for development positions, when many interviewees aren’t able to answer the most basic of code questions.

Well, I’m sure this is a common story in any skills-or-knowledge-driven industry where there’s a minimum bar. For example, we have similar issues when hiring infrastructure support people. We typically advertise for senior staff with 5+ years experience.

The resumes we see are often filled with excitement-inducing hyperbole: “25 years experience on Windows NT-based systems!”“Wrote the book on TCP/IP!”; “I like computers!”

In my experience, it’s statistically likely that if someone lists strong-to-godlike TCP/IP skills, chances are they won’t be able to describe a 3-way handshake.

One of my colleagues developed a pretty good canary question for people wanting to support Windows and claiming years of AD experience: “What tool do you use to manage Users and Computers in Active Directory?” He estimates 75% of interviewees fall at that hurdle.

In my last job, when it was more topical, we’d open by asking NT Domain candidates to name a couple of NetBIOS node types (yes, I was employed there a long time ago now), and for bonus points, how they were different. Anyone getting that question right was basically technically OK’d and breezed through the other questions; they just needed to impress us more than the other (two from thirty) people that got it right.

As a quick suggestion to prospective employees at any firm where I’m an inteviewer: a good portion of the interview is likely to involve going through your resume (this isn’t a marketing job, you know!), so if you’ve put something in there, please do expect to be asked questions about it!

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