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General Chat Thread, Am I expecting too much? in General; We interviewed for a junior technician (scale 2) position yesterday. I set what I thought was a simple series of ...
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    broc's Avatar
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    Am I expecting too much?

    We interviewed for a junior technician (scale 2) position yesterday. I set what I thought was a simple series of practical exercises to test the candidates skills.

    The first test was to deal with a PC running XP which had a blank screen showing. This had been 'prepared' by winding down the contrast on the monitor & setting the graphics card refresh rate to a frequency the monitor could not handle. Booting the PC would reveal the XP startup screen followed by the blank screen. The fix resolution would have required booting into safe mode, reverting to VGA and setting up the card correctly. The candidates were told there was no physical damage or defect on the PC.

    To my surprise only one out of the 5 we interviewed was able to deal with this, despite their various claims of previous IT experience.

    Even this candidate subsequently failed to identify the MAC address of the PC he was using, or tell me when the security event log had been set up.

    This left me wondering if I had set too high an expectation; on the other hand I feel we have a right to test people who claim to have 'wide & varied' experience of working with PCs, servers and networking. Sadly, their experience & knowledge did not live up to their claims on their application forms.

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    webman's Avatar
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    Re: Am I expecting too much?

    I think you are quite right to set the type of test you did, considering they claim "wide and varied" knowledge. I've only just gone on to scale 2 (been in the job 3 years) and from your description, could have passed those tests well before I started work.

    The candidates must seem to think they know more than they do because they can set up their Belkin broadband modem at home.

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    Geoff's Avatar
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    Re: Am I expecting too much?

    Because of the wages in schools, people who are likely to be able to do your test are employable comercially for far better money. Most people who apply for jobs in school do so as a 'step up' to this situation to gain experience.

    If you want a techy with better knowledge, advertise at grade 4+

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    SimpleSi's Avatar
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    Re: Am I expecting too much?

    Unfortunately "closed questions" (like your practical test) can easily make a candidate seem to have little knowledge.

    Its much better (but much harder for the interviewing panel) to ask open questions about their experience's and abilities.

    Example

    Tell us about the last 3 problems you've fixed

    and

    Could you tell us about a challenging problem that you've sucessfully dealt with.

    And as Geoff says, pay peanuts - you get monkeys.

    regards
    Simon
    "Dragging his knuckles across the floor ..."

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    Re: Am I expecting too much?

    I only set simple practical tests relavant to the grade, I would have a reasonable expectation of them being completed but I would also look at how they would handle it if the answer was not obvious to them. Do they confess that they don't know but would point to a resource where they could find the answer, or do they try and bluff it and con you into thinking it's something else, or do they take every screw out of the thing before admitting defeat.

    The practical tests are only a small part of the interview process, the format I use is usually a tour of the school, making a mental note of who asks what questions, get an idea of their personality etc. This is followed by the practical test or interview. The interview being the main aspect as it's here I can determine how good his knowledge is and combine that with various scenarios etc.

    We found this system extremely effective at weeding out the weaker candidates. Sometimes a candidate that falls over on the practical tests without bluffing etc can shine in the other aspects of the interview process. Technical knowledge is only part of the job, people management and how they react under certain circumstances are just as important.


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    Re: Am I expecting too much?

    I am probably just stating the obvious here and I don't know how often it applies, but during the interview process and testing, I am always so nervous that I cannot concentrate.

    While the tasks above are simple, would they be that simple when you know someone is watching you and whether you get the job or not depends on whether you can fix it or not? I know it sounds silly, but I have screwed up the easiest of tasks before due to nerves.

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    alan-d's Avatar
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    Re: Am I expecting too much?

    Quote Originally Posted by _Bat_
    I am probably just stating the obvious here and I don't know how often it applies, but during the interview process and testing, I am always so nervous that I cannot concentrate.

    While the tasks above are simple, would they be that simple when you know someone is watching you and whether you get the job or not depends on whether you can fix it or not? I know it sounds silly, but I have screwed up the easiest of tasks before due to nerves.
    Yep - it's easily done which is why we don't rely on that one aspect alone.

    I forgot to mention that the initial walk about is useful for the candidates too. I remember on one interview I'd sussed out that the guy running the IT in the college was only interested in finding a gopher to run an aging system, not an IT Manager to develop the system further. Needless to say I lost interest at that point.

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    Re: Am I expecting too much?

    I wouldn't expect someone on scale 2 to be able to turn on a computer or identify the base unit, never mind change refresh rates, but then I'm cynical.

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    Re: Am I expecting too much?

    Quote Originally Posted by alan-d
    I only set simple practical tests relavant to the grade, I would have a reasonable expectation of them being completed but I would also look at how they would handle it if the answer was not obvious to them. Do they confess that they don't know but would point to a resource where they could find the answer, or do they try and bluff it and con you into thinking it's something else, or do they take every screw out of the thing before admitting defeat.

    The practical tests are only a small part of the interview process, the format I use is usually a tour of the school, making a mental note of who asks what questions, get an idea of their personality etc. This is followed by the practical test or interview. The interview being the main aspect as it's here I can determine how good his knowledge is and combine that with various scenarios etc.

    We found this system extremely effective at weeding out the weaker candidates. Sometimes a candidate that falls over on the practical tests without bluffing etc can shine in the other aspects of the interview process. Technical knowledge is only part of the job, people management and how they react under certain circumstances are just as important.

    The tests were only a small part of the interview process, which followed a similar program to alan-d describes, and we did appoint a successful candidate on the strength of his performance in other areas.

    I am still left wondering; If someone claims to have A+ and N+ certification, and have worked with Server 2003, be familiar with AD etc should they be able to deal with the sort of simple problems I set?

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    Re: Am I expecting too much?

    The certifcates only prove they can pass the certifications exam.

    There's no substitute for practical experience, something you simply can't expect from applicants given the pay scale your offering.

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    Re: Am I expecting too much?

    I am always amazed at the amount of people who are MCSE, MCP, CCNA who are on the jobs market with little or no practical knowlege, and the assumption that what they have learnt is the be-all and end-all of IT support.
    IT Support is 40% knowlege, 40% practical ability and 20% making it look like magic.

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    Re: Am I expecting too much?

    I agree with Geoff. What people can do is often more important than what they know, for knowledge is only useful if it is applied

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    Re: Am I expecting too much?

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff
    The certifcates only prove they can pass the certifications exam.

    There's no substitute for practical experience, something you simply can't expect from applicants given the pay scale your offering.
    Quite honestly I did not expect the candidates to have much experience at this level, which is why I set the tests at what I thought was a pretty basic level, & within the capabilities of most home PC 'enthusiasts' trying to get into ICT support for the first time.

    When faced with candidates some of whom claim on their CV to have worked in schools, have extensive knowledge of building & repairing PCs, have worked with AD & networks etc etc what would be a good way of finding out if they were as capable as they claimed, bearing in mind that we were expected to ask each candidate the same set of questions during interview?

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    Re: Am I expecting too much?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dos_Box
    I am always amazed at the amount of people who are MCSE, MCP, CCNA who are on the jobs market with little or no practical knowlege, and the assumption that what they have learnt is the be-all and end-all of IT support.
    IT Support is 40% knowlege, 40% practical ability and 20% making it look like magic.
    Shhh ... you're giving away secrets ... anyone could be reading this. Surely we should have learnt the lesson from the IT Crowd ... now *everyone* knows that majority of problems are fixed by restarting the computer and we no longer look like miracle workers.

    I go for experience in problem solving over everything else. A proven record that if they don't know the answer they have ideas about where they would look for it and how they would approach the solution to improve their knowledge.

    Testing problem solving is sometimes difficult and closed question scenarios can give an insight in the thought process of candidates ... I tend to set a written test, a practical test (similar to above), an informal conversation with me as we tour round the school (dropping into conversation important points about the school and how all 35 million support staff work) and conversations with students (some of the harshest critics). This is followed up by a formal interview with a bias towards those that understand the *service* side of things rather than being out and out nerds (not geeks ... geeks *have* social skills!).

    Then again ... our basic level staff will always be the placement student we get from a local Uni ... and they have all turned out to be quick learners.

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    Re: Am I expecting too much?

    We usually have sixth form students give an initial guided tour to candidates, then they report back on what they thought about them.

    (yes, we only use the sensible 6th form - head boy/girl or similar).

    Practical and written tests start off easy (essentially, if you're walking in the door you should know this) and gradually move over to evil. Candidates should be able to answer the easy and moderately difficult questions to be considered. Having a good go at (or answering correctly) the evil questions is one of the things that'll get you chosen over the other candidates, all other things being equal.

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