Category Archives: Interviewing

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Amsys Interview Part II

Awhile back I did an interview with Amsys for their blog. If you’d like to see Part two of that interview (which outlines what weed does to computers amongst other things), check it out at http://www.amsys.co.uk/2013/blog/charles-edge-interview-part-2/#.UVw1Hb_JBlI.

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Interview with Amsys

I’ve followed Amsys for awhile, with their training materials and the such. Now, they’ve published an interview with me. If you want to know what I think of skinny jeans, griffins and most importantly where you should (or should not) keep your weed, check out the interview here: http://www.amsys.co.uk/2013/blog/charles-edge-interview-part-1

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Interviewing

Interviewing 99 for SysAdmins

Back at the University of Georgia, we had the 101 classes, which were introductions to a topic. We also had the 99 classes, which usually meant you weren’t supposed to get into school, but squeaked by, but that you actually needed to do this to stay there. I have no business telling others how to conduct themselves during a job interview, given that it’s been a long time since I interviewed anywhere myself. But I’m going to anyway, since I interview plenty of people as a part of my job. I’m just going to teach the 99 class though, since I have no business teaching anything higher…

My post from yesterday involved tips on resumes. But what happens when you get the interview and you go in for the first time to meet your potential employer? I have a few tips, just some basic rules I like. Others are sure to have their likes and dislikes, but whatever on that, I’m the one teaching Interviewing 99 for SysAdmins, so I get to express my own opinions:

  1. Shower. I might not shower, but you should. If you’re not sure whether you should shower, the answer is always yes.
  2. Dress for the part. Don’t show up in a tuxedo. Don’t show up in shorts. There’s a happy medium. Know your audience and dress just a tad up from them. But, even if they wear less, don’t wear shorts. Wear pants. Or a skirt. If you’re a guy and you wear a skirt, I don’t care – just don’t wear shorts. Don’t wear a shirt that shows me your armpits. Doesn’t matter what sex you are, I don’t need to see shoulders or unshaven pits. Or shaven pits… Also, don’t show me that tramp stamp that’s still a little red around the edges. Seriously, I don’t care; just don’t show me more than is appropriate in an interview. It’s an etiquette thing… You can never dress too nice. Unless you show up in a tuxedo. Then I assume you’re an ironic hipster and I think you should move to Portland. Unless I’m hiring in Portland. Then I think maybe you can show up in a tuxedo. But not shorts. If you show up in a tuxedo with shorts, then there is a high probability that things will be thrown at you…
  3. Be about 5 minutes early. If you’re more early than that I feel guilty (see, I told you guys who thought I was pure evil that I was in fact, human). If you’re more than 5 minutes late then I assume you’ll be late to work every single day of your employment, which annoys me mostly because if I’m usually late then I can only assume you’re always late since I’m not there to see you.
  4. If you are going to be late, call. I am pretty sure that everyone has a cell phone. If you don’t have a cell phone then I am going to be worried that you won’t carry one at work either (and in some professions you really need to carry one). If you do have a cell phone and you don’t call then I’ll assume you haven’t figured out how to get Siri to call. If I figure you can’t figure out how to use Siri then I’m going to figure on being very concerned about you in more ways than just being late.
  5. If you don’t call and you’re more than half an hour late, make up a really awesome excuse and bring proof. Broken bones are awesome (hopefully I won’t get a nastygram from an HR attorney about that last sentence). If you pull a Ben Roethlisberger and snap your nose back into its socket and run back in the game, I honestly don’t care if you pulled a fight club downstairs to get your nose in that shape, I’m sold.
  6. Bring a copy of your resume. On paper… I know, it’s a digital world. I know, you’re interviewing to be a systems administrator, not a paper maker or a typist. I’m not going to ask for it. But someone will (I know plenty of people who always ask during an interview, just to make sure).
  7. You don’t live in a fraternity house any more. Or at least I hope not. Don’t tell me about the bar you were drinking at last night, that finally kicked you out at 10am when the interview is at 10:30. Also, don’t tell me about how you threw up in the bathroom at the bar. Both of these are bad ideas. If I saw you throw up in the bathroom at the bar, still, don’t mention it. If you saw me throw up at the bar, definitely don’t mention it. This should go without saying, but don’t mention that you bought an 8 ball off someone in the bar either. Nor that you smoked a big fatty on the way to the interview to come down off the 8 ball, which you somehow managed to demolish in just under a couple of hours. Any time discussing drinking is off the table, discussion of illegal substances is as well – even if it’s basically legal in California anyway…
  8. Stay on point. I ask you questions, you ask me questions, we keep it professional and that’s that. A few minutes of pleasantries up front are fine, but if you can keep things on track in an interview then I’ll assume you can do so on the job as well.
  9. Don’t lie to me. If I figure it out, I’ll wrap things up and say goodbye and that’s that. If I don’t figure it out and I hire you and then I figure it out, I will despise you for it. And I have been known to carry grudges.
  10. I ask technical questions. It is fine not to know something, but if you don’t, let me know how you would figure it out. Actually, let’s refine that a bit. It’s better to say, “I’m not sure how to do that in RHEL but I can tell you how I’d do it in Mac OS X and I am guessing I could Google for the differences between the two.” When you ask a politician a question and they answer a completely different question, it bugs people. But it doesn’t have to. If you asked Mitt Romney some religious question and he said “that doesn’t matter. But since I’m not going to talk about something that doesn’t matter, let me tell you what does” then people might like him better. Actually, they probably wouldn’t. But that’s another post…
  11. Be yourself. If you’re nervous, I don’t assume you’ll always be nervous. If you’re a little weird, I will probably actually like you more. If you don’t answer every question perfectly I’ll know you don’t dream of electric sheep. I enjoy interviewing and I almost always get people to warm up by the end.
  12. Turn off your phone. Or at least the ringer. Airplane mode is probably best. Unless it’s a phone interview. Then Airplane mode might not be the best idea. This goes doubly if you have any John Tesh ringtones!
  13. Mind the gatekeeper. The person who schedules, coordinates, lets you in the door, shows you to the office, brings water or whatever they do in whatever organization, these are the gatekeepers. Chances are, they’re not just scheduling interviews but an integral part of the workflow of the interviewer. Keep that in mind when you are about to snark at them and think twice about doing so. It’s like if I’m Matthew Stafford and I throw a 40 yard TD. In the press conference I’m gonna’ say it’s all about the line. Or Johnson, or whatever. They are more important than I am. Not that I’m anything like Stafford. Well, we did both go to Georgia. But other than that, nothing like him… But really, the gatekeeper is critical and if there’s someone that doesn’t work well with them, they’re likely not going to be on the team (e.g. Albert Haynesworth w/ the Patriots). Seriously, this is one of the few deal breakers for me. If you show up drunk and high, with John Tesh blaring on your iPhone, about 2 hours late and you’re wearing shorts with a special cutout in the back so we can see the entire tramp stamp you’re rocking you have a higher chance of getting hired than if you piss off the people that coordinate the interview. I’m not saying to bring them chocolates, but be nice to them.
  14. Have fun with it. Don’t go overboard, but smile. People like it when you smile. Unless you look evil when you smile (then do it anyways). If people usually get frightened when you smile, still do it. I used to want to punch my band teacher when he said smile when we were out marching in 100+ degree weather during a hot, humid Georgia day. But it makes everyone around you feel better, which is nice during a job interview.
  15. Don’t talk about religion or politics. This could be included under number 8, but it’s not. Remember that we live in a country split almost down the middle on these topics. If you talk about them during an interview you’re going to be screwing up about half the time. Funny enough, I don’t really care either way. I disagree with practically everyone on most topics when it comes to these two, but am always interested in hearing their position. Just not during a job interview…
  16. Do tell me why you want the job. This is a rarely asked question, but a very powerful one. Why do you want the job? If the interviewer doesn’t ask it then while it isn’t staying on point, answer it at some point during the interview. Assuming of course that you want the job. Just to throw this out there, the correct answer is not “I want money.”
  17. Do tell the interviewer what differentiates you from other candidates. Unless you know them. Don’t tell me that one of them was getting high on the drive in for the interview (if you do I will assume you were with them). Instead, what about you makes you the right fit for the gig. Again, even if you aren’t asked, this is great to put at the end of an answer to one of the interview questions. If it happens to be another question down the line then you’ve teed up the things you forgot to mention already (and hindsight is always 20-20).
  18. Don’t discuss sexual orientation, age, race or anything else that could remotely be considered discriminatory. I really don’t care about any of it. Actually, I might care if you discuss it. But I don’t care otherwise. You may think everyone cares a little, but I really don’t. I only care about your sysadmin orientation.
  19. Do ask questions. If you don’t look nervous and you have no questions to ask then I might think you don’t care. If you’re apathetic during an interview I can only imagine what an engaged employee you would be. The interviewer needs to find out if you’re going to be good at the job, but you need to find out if you’re going to like the job. If you don’t like what you are doing then chances are that you won’t be great at it. Try and keep the questions relevant. About the job. Not about whether I like my jagermeister warm or chilled…
  20. Do compliment yourself, don’t compliment me. An interview is about me learning about you and you learning about me. Tell me what makes you great. If you tell me you like my shirt (which has never happened during an interview, btw) then I will spend at least a minute in my head thinking “did this person say that so I would like them or is this shirt awesome? I mean, it is new, but my wife wasn’t too hot on it and I think it does make me look a little…” I know, I’m slow. But point is that staying on point is about eliminating those distractions. You need to learn if you’d like the job, for sure; but the interviewer needs to learn if they like you. I’m not saying to throw all humility to the wind though… Also feel free to mention what motivates you.
  21. And one from @rtrouton – bring documentation and/or code samples. I love this one. I had a guy bring a 3 ring binder one time with about 300 pages of stuff. It was a bit much, but impressive in its own right. I’m also happy with a page with some code samples. One of the few semi-social things that I think is valid to share is a github account. Great addition, Rich!
I am just one of many, many people that interview techs. I have the things I like, they have the things they like. I’d take what I say with a grain of salt (most do). There are tons of interviewing tips everywhere you look. You are you, be yourself. But at the same time, think about the lowest common denominator of what you hear about interviewing as those who interview may have a button that you don’t want to accidentally push. Take everything you hear, throw it in a blender and pull out something that works for you, in your industry, with your goals in mind. I’ve had great luck interviewing people. I am thoroughly impressed by many of the people I interview and I really wish I could hire almost all of them. When you apply for a job, feel free to stay in touch with the hiring manager. If they are like me and wish they could have hired someone then they may have you back in again!
Interviewing

Photos on Resumes (aka 20 Resume Writing Tips)

Living in Los Angeles for over a decade, I’ve seen a lot of head shots. And driving around in practically every city in the country I’ve seen the ugly mug of more real estate agents than I can count on many a bench, bus and billboard. I’ve seen artists put samples of their work on business cards, black and white pictures of animals on books and even the picture of technical authors on the inside jacket of books (for the record my picture has never been in one of my books, although Apress has tried to get me to give them one a few times now).

If you’re applying for a position as a Systems Administrator, one place I don’t need to see a picture of you is on your resume. It’s not that the people who actually put their pictures on their resumes aren’t nice looking. Every resume that I’ve received that had a photo on it have been guys and they’ve all been regular looking, even good looking guys. Up to about 3 or 4 months ago I had received thousands of resumes for over a decade without a single photo on one of them. I’ve had scenes from movies some of the video guys worked on pasted into the top of their resume and I’ve had various little snippets of artwork pasted to the header. It is a trend that recently started and for some reason looking at a photograph on a resume actually bugs me a little.

Maybe it’s because it seems so real estate sales-like to do so Not that there’s anything wrong with people who sell real estate plastering their face everywhere, it seems like it’s just kinda’ part of their gig. Although for the record none of the guys that put their photograph on a resume had a mustache, which I tend to attribute to selling real estate for some reason. Maybe I don’t like photos in resumes because it reminds me of all the band photos on the Hall of Douchebags… But the last thing I need is to see you staring back at me in a trite pose, with your slightly spiky hair, your well pressed shirt, your khaki pants  (why are your pants even in the picture?!?!) and a smile that says “I won’t be doing any real work here, as I won’t have time because I’ll be explaining how important social media is while I only tweet quotes from songs I like – you know, the ones by Yanni and John Tesh – but my klout score is 100″.

Who cares why I don’t like it, but it made me think of writing a few tips about resumes, having reviewed thousands over the years:

  1. Don’t put a picture of yourself on the resume (you probably figured out I’d say that by now).
  2. Don’t send me infected files. If you write your resume in Word, virus scan it before you send it to me (I actually feel the need to say this as I’ve gotten at least 50 over the years that were riddled with stupid Macro-viruses).
  3. Don’t list technology that you saw once (or maybe you didn’t see but you think maybe you saw or at least think maybe you discussed in a meeting). Instead, list the stuff you actually know something about because I will more than likely ask you a technical question about any technology you put on your resume. And the more arcane that hardware or piece of technology is, or the more uncommon it is, the more I just want to ask about it because it intrigues me.
  4. Don’t just give me a big list of technologies that goes on for about a page. I realize it may increase your chances of busting your resume through the old search criteria machine, but it gives me a very strong suspicion that you have never used any of the technology on your resume more than once.
  5. Don’t use some font I’ve never heard of in a Word document. Also use a conservative font, not the Treasure Island font. The fact I remember the fonts name and not yours is a problem.
  6. Spell check your resume. I write books, so I’m a bit funny about spelling errors, especially when they’re underlined with lame squiggly marks in the document you sent me, indicating that they were likely blatant on your machine had you cared enough to actually look.
  7. Don’t include a link that involves any media with sound that auto-plays when you open the page as an example of work you are proud of. I’ve always wondered who built sites like that, and telling me doesn’t help your cause…
  8. Be succinct. I don’t need a 30 page play-by-play of every time you called a support desk to have them fix a problem for you instead of doing it yourself. The ability to communicate succinctly (whether in the written form, on a call or in person) is one of the more underrated job skills to look for when hiring, no matter what the blathering in this post indicates.
  9. So far I told you not to expand on the truth, but don’t outright lie either – we, and many other companies, do background checks.
  10. Don’t list every Microsoft or Apple test you’ve ever taken – the fact that you got an MCITP or an ACSA tells me pretty much what tests you took.
  11. Feel free to include a sanitized email address. Yes, I am intrigued by the fact that Google would actually give you that as an email address, but their lack of bad judgement is nothing compared to yours for putting it on a resume.
  12. Be relevant. If you spent 5 years teaching English in China, I don’t really need to know that. Actually, scratch that; some people may care. I don’t but some people who have way more free time than I do (which is likely occupied by listening to Yanni on computer speakers rather than using their headphones while they’re at work). If you are skilled with a tuba, feel free to include it, if a flute, don’t. Never include the flute (thanks @bynkii for that)!
  13. Don’t claim to have worked for someone that you didn’t work for who I personally know.
  14. Don’t tell me where and when you went to high school. Especially if you’re over 40…
  15. Do list relevant job experience succinctly and relevant post-high school education.
  16. Do include a cover sheet. Until I got married I never read them, but my wife corrected my mistake and I’ve found the whole cover letter thing to be a great addition to my resume review experience.
  17. Feel free to throw a little personality in that cover letter, but not too much. Especially if your personality sucks, then I know that ahead of time and don’t bother to call you back.
  18. Don’t list the wrong website as where you found the job listing (e.g. “I loved your posting on Dice” when I posted the job to Monster).
  19. I’m sure there are thousands of other things that have come up, but I’m sick of reliving some of the tedious moments of resume review.
  20. Don’t put a Google map of your physical location in your resume. Remember, if I have your address, I easily know where to send ninjas to get retribution for you clearly trying to crash my machine by sending me an infected Word document with John Tesh music embedded in there.
  21. I lied, there are actually 21 (I can lie, you can’t). Don’t tell me your sex (I can probably guess that part), age (why do you think I don’t want to know what year you graduated high school), sexual orientation, race or anything else I’m not legally supposed to ask about during the interview process. I have never ever ever given a crap about any of it. I only want to know if you’re awesome at computer stuff, not who ya’ shag.

They’re certainly not all bad. I’ve had great luck over the past few months reviewing resumes. It just so happens that while there are more good ones these days, there is an equal number of really bad ones. There are some really sharp folks out there on the job market and I wish we could hire them all. But since we can’t, it would be a good idea to start with the above bullets (as succinctly written as the average resume I might add) if you’re sending me your resume.

Oh wait, I just thought of another:

23. Preferential treatment given to all who submit their resumes in Markdown, or as one massive regular expression. I guess I could have written this one a bit differently: know your audience.

As a friend from Twitter and someone I respect (@peelman) brought up, if you ask 100 people how to make a resume, you’ll get 99 answers. There’s a lot of people in different job functions who have different rules who apply to them. As such, take what I mention here as being kind hearted and a composite of how I review thousands of resumes, not an overall outlook on how to build a resume for every type of job on the planet. Also different geographies and sizes of companies mean different types of people reviewing resumes… All great food for thought! :)

Interviewing

Interview Tips – October 2008

Following up.  Following up after an interview is a great idea.  It keeps you freshly in the mind of the interviewer, shows you are interested and indicates that you are proactive.  One follow up is great.  More is questionable to me, but might be OK to do others according to the industry. For example, in sales, tenacity can be of great value. But for most other positions, more than two is going to possibly draw the ire of the interviewer.

Interviewing

Interview Tips – September 2008

The economy has seen better days in the United States.  It’s only going to get worse.  This makes the job market a bit skewed towards employers.  But don’t let this keep you from making sure that you are a good match for a job.  Don’t let the job market make poor decisions insofar as what job you are going to accept.  Remember that the creme always rises to the top.  If you’re good at what you do then the economy will not likely effect your job search much in the least.

Interviewing

Interview Tips: August 2008

Politics.  Just don’t talk about politics, religion or other things that simply don’t matter during an interview.  It can’t help, but it can hurt to discuss things that are hot topics!

Interviewing

Interview Tips: July 2008

Time Management.  Whether they ask during the interview or not, all employers will look kindly on the interviewer who has good time management skills.  Feel free to point out instances where you were able to manage your time effectively to bring success to a given situation.  You can even work this into the answer for various other unrelated questions, although make sure to still answer the questions you were asking about.

Interviewing

Interview Tips: June 2008

Be mindful of your appearance.  Clip those nails, comb that hair and don’t wear the jeans with the rips that you cut off at the bottom.  Look clean; sure, there are a variety of jobs where appearance doesn’t matter, but you know what?  It can’t hurt to look your best, but it could hurt not to.

Interviewing

Interview Tips: May 2008

When an interviewer asks you technical questions then you can assume that you are going to be in a fairly technical role.  Remember when you’re looking for jobs that if you are at a point in your career where you want to be management that if the line of questioning is very technical that the role might not be a good fit.  Feel free to ask questions about the role and what percentage of your time should be spent doing what if this is a concern.  Average costs to hire a new employee are estimated to be anywhere from $7,600 to $25,400.  There is no reason to waste the hiring companies resources if the job is not a great fit.  But be up front about it, which is key to leaving the door open for future opportunities.