I work for a large company (those unaware can ask privately which). As a large company is wont to do, we have a standard, boiler-plate set of interview questions that can, sort-of, accurately get a picture of the person you’re about to interview. I read into résumés, possibly more than I should. I was given the opportunity to craft some interview questions for a possible candidate. Now, this is knowing his alleged background, so, these questions are sometimes thought provoking, and occasionally zingers, intended solely to call out someone on something that I do not believe about someone’s technical ability. Here we go!

Technical Fact-Check

Have you used Windows 7 or 8?

This, I suppose, requires a bit of explanation. When you are searching for a job, and you want to make sure that your potential employer knows your skills, for heaven’s sake, update your résumé. Don’t include every operating system you’ve ever used. Knowledge of Windows 95 is not necessary in 2013. I’d argue it hasn’t been relevant for 10 years.

Additionally, if you ARE going to include Windows 95, make sure you also update the front end. Don’t leave out Windows 7, and if you’ve used Windows 8, include that too. Be ready to answer questions about that, though. If you’re a home user, and you don’t actually know anything about Windows 95, then you have some knowledge of how it works.

My resume includes a list of skills and application strengths. The things I include on my résumé are things that I could speak, at some length, about, or things that if I was plopped in front of a computer, I could demonstrate. If you’re unable to navigate and make something happen on an IBM OS/2 machine, do not put it on your résumé. Actually, no. Don’t put OS/2 on your résumé.

Tell me about your experience with Citrix.

Citrix is a fickle mistress. I love it, and hate it. There is nothing, to my knowledge, that is in greater use worldwide, that is so horribly fragile. If you’re not ready to set up a Citrix farm in a lab for me, don’t put it on your résumé. If you don’t know anything beyond the desktop client, your knowledge can be gained in 15 minutes of concentrated training. Résumé fluff.

On a network, can you tell me what a “Honey-pot” is?

Somewhere, sometime, someone started this rumor that Cisco certification equals instant job security and riches upon riches. If you can’t answer a very, very basic network security question (which actually isn’t all that hard to just logic out. You can figure this out with a little thought), you’re misrepresenting your knowledge, in my humble opinion. Everyone thinks they can get a CCNA cert and be a security engineer. It just doesn’t happen that way.

What is your preferred command line shell in a Unix environment?

This is a big of a trick question. I am a card-carrying Unix nerd, and if you can’t name one (And yeah, I’d accept BASH, but my follow up will be if you know what that acronym stands for), you shouldn’t have put that on your résumé.

Other Questions

Have you ever developed anything?

This question could be used to describe a software product, documentation, or even family photos. One of those open-ended questions that help you understand a person’s mindset.

What do you do in your free time?

I usually load this question with a “Be honest, this question cannot hurt you”. I just want to see what this person is into, personally. If a person is very into cycling or running, you can tell what sort of person they are. The same is true for a lot of other hobbies. At very least, you might learn about something interesting.

What’s your dream job?

Just for fun. My personal dream is to open a donut shop. Creativity and make people happy.

If you could design a service organization, how would you structure that organization, and where would you fit into it?

I like this question, because I want to get into someone’s head, and figure out how they would route a problem. Another way to ask this question would be “How do you solve an unknown computer problem.” I have a very distinctive way that I think a service organization should be run: that the service desk is actually top-dog, and the others recognize them as such. I consider myself a traffic director, moving information to the appropriate parties.

Are you overqualified for this job?

We’re in a strange economic climate, where, if you have the appropriate skills, it isn’t that tough to get a decent job in IT. Its interesting to see if the person is thinking that they’re a slam-dunk for this job. You always have something to learn. In my mind, the answer to this question isn’t “Yes” or “No,” but somewhere towards a vague “Well, I’m not underqualified…”

How would your best friends describe you?

Another “How you view yourself” question. Interesting answers could reveal how you are outside of work.

If you got hired, loved everything about this job, and were paid the salary you asked for, what kind of offer from another company would you entertain?

Dig into this one. We’re getting towards the end, and you want them to be uncomfortable with this. I want to know what’s going to make you jump ship. Are you a shameless mercenary? Everyone has their price, and pledging fealty to a company you’re merely interviewing with is folly as well.

Let’s say we’re sitting here, one year from today, celebrating what a great year we’ve had. What part did you play in that?

I want to have someone as a teammate, but I want someone who I can trust with leadership. The answer to this question is very telling. “I completed a bunch of tickets and didn’t get screamed at.” That’s not a leader. Not everyone is a leader, and that’s OK as well, but you can read between the lines of this answer and find out a lot about a person’s level of motivation, and their personal drive.