Interview questions

I have done a few interviews from both sides of the table, I’m not very good at either but thought I would have a go at answering my favourite questions.

Describe an IT disaster and what you did to turn it around?

The question is all about the turn it around bit. I’ve had lots of answers that emphasise the problem rather than what the candidate did to turn things around.

My answer would be: on a Saturday I was rearranging the server room and when I came to turn on our main file server and pdc it wouldn’t boot. My plans for the weekend went out the window it was all about getting this server back up. I tried the usual unplug everything and reconnect still nothing. I rang a friend to get a second opinion and between the two of us we formulated a plan of action. I then rang my director to tell her that I was having problems and what I was going to try. (keeping people informed is an essential skill)

So the server in question was getting power but nothing was happening during boot. The motherboard had died. What I needed to do was connect the raid card to another server so I could copy the data from it to our Nas drive (luckily I had an upgrade plan and this failure had just accelerated it)

A few hours later the data was copying and I could breathe again. I told my director that I had fixed things but there would be minor issues on Monday.

Describe your strengths and weaknesses?

It wouldn’t be an interview without a strengths and weaknesses question. As an interviewer I want at least one weakness and I want it to actually be a weakness.

My strengths are my problem solving skills, I can look at a problem and investigate what is going on and find a solution. If its a technology I haven’t used before I can read up about it and find out how it works and then use it to solve the issue.

My weakness is my interpersonal skills, I am much better at analysing a computer issue than figuring out why one member of my staff is not performing. This is an area that is improving over the last few years I have taken on more responsibility over people and I am learning more about getting the best out of them.

Technical Questions

I have never included technical questions in one of my interviews until recently and I think it is a good way to gauge ability. I often come out of an interview unsure how well that person would perform under the stresses of my job. If I have something down on paper it is a good start.

But the personality that comes through during the interview must also be considered as most knowledge can be taught.

A good technical question I have used in the past is write a paragraph explaining DHCP. This question illustrates what their knowledge is like for an essential technology, but it also indicates what their writing style is like. Could the passage they have written be given to a Director or Client?

Good IT people need both technical knowledge and the ability to communicate at all levels, I still struggle to know if someone is good or not and even sometimes if I am any good.


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