Friday, February 11, 2011

the final interview

On Friday I had three interviews, all sysadmins. The first two were pretty easy, nice guys who just wanted to see that I had some basic sysadmin knowledge: how to use command-line tools, basic understanding of where to look to solve problems.

The third guy was Jim. Jim walked in with a fairly standard Unsmiling Sysadmin Face and a small Moleskine notebook much like mine.

"Hi, I'm Jim. This is my scary notebook. I'm going to ask you lots of stupid, pointless questions you probably won't know the answers to, and then I'll write scary things in my scary notebook. I've had people walk out or start crying in my interviews. The good news is that even if you say all the wrong things and I hate you, no one around here listens to me."

He started out with abstract questions.
"If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?
"Honestly? Invest it. I have everything I need."
"Okay, say you had to spend it within a week, it would all go away."
" a house, give the rest to charity."
"That's it? No insane trip to Vegas? Amsterdam?"
"I do want to see Amsterdam. But I make enough money to have a pretty awesome trip to Amsterdam. And I don't even know where to start with spending that much money, the most expensive hotels are still just $6000 per night."
"Nope, you can find them for $50,000 per night."
"Well, I know myself well enough to know that the enjoyment I'll get from a $6000 hotel room versus a $50,000 hotel room isn't enough to justify it. I'd rather just give the money to people who need it more than me."
"You sure? They'll deliver anything, right to your room. You can say 'I want a Bentley delivered' and it'll happen."
"Do you have any vices?"
"Hmm. Whole Foods has these grain-sweetened chocolate-covered raisins--"
"That's not a vice!"
"Sure it is."
"No, I mean like drinking? Gambling? Snorting coke off of hookers? Those are vices."
"[writes] Chocolate...raisins..."
Then it was on to more concrete topics.
"What are volts, watts, and amps?"
"The electrical grid in the U.S. and most other countries, is it direct current or alternating current?"
"Why is alternating current used for long-distance transmission instead of direct current?"
"About how big is 22-gauge wire?"
"1-gauge wire?"
"How much current could you put through a 22-gauge wire?"
I pretty much haven't thought about these things since my college physics class, but whatever, it's his interview.
"Okay, next section..."
"Just a second, if I could. Why is that important to you?"
"Working with data centers, electricity is important."
"Okay. Did they tell you I'm not a sysadmin?"
"They mentioned that, yes."
"Okay, cool. Carry on."
Then we're into networking. This is a weak area for me.
"How does traceroute work?"
"What's the DF bit in an IP packet?"
"What is ICMP used for?"
On and on. I wish I'd taken better notes on what he asked, because it was great. Finally we got to the end.
"What's the most important technological development of the past three centuries?"
"Public sanitation."
"I mean, I guess it could be the germ theory of disease, though that's not necessary for sanitation, that doctor made a map of London showing cholera outbreaks focused on public wellheads. I think Pasteur was in the 1700s and the map guy was early 1800s? All you really need is to see that water-borne disease exists. So, yeah, the biggest thing is the idea that streets should not be flooded with human feces."
Jim is very good at not smiling even when he wants to, but at that comment he almost laughed.
"Any questions for me?"
"Do you like working here?"
"It's awesome."
"The people are awesome. And I come in at 5 and no one cares." [They made him get up early to come to the interview at 1 PM.]
"How do you envision this role? What do you think I should be doing in this job?"
"Deal with engineers and tell them they're doing stupid things."
"Anything else?"
"Write things to make my life easier."
I like Jim a lot. He wasn't joking: the recruiter confirmed that people have walked out or cried in his interviews, which I can understand, because he sits there and doesn't smile, and asks an endless stream of questions to which you have to answer "I don't know."
"How do you think you did?"
"I think I did all right."
"You think so?"
"Yeah, I made you smile a few times, even though you didn't want to."
The feedback I got was that he thought I was very intelligent, and he was "impressed with your knowledge of science." Possibly the best short Jim quote:
"HR made me stop using the word 'douchebag' in interviews."
I am really excited about this job.

1 comment:

  1. hahahahaha. awesome. these people may even be able to handle you, unfiltered.