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Getting more information to better answer technical questions in interview

Interviews General Queries

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( 5 months ago )


I had a phone interview for an IT position. It would be at the head office for a large chain of retail stores. Though I’ve had IT interviews before, some of the questions were so generic I had trouble answering.

For example

1) Describe at least 3 practical differences between Windows and OS X.

What is meant by “practical”? I guess I should’ve asked. Since people normally use the apps on the computer, and not the operating system itself, I did find it bit of a strange question. I talked about how Windows tends to need more maintenance for security and OS X tends to be used for more artistic endeavors with programs such as Creative Cloud.

2) What would you do if the network is down.

I started by saying I would try to determine the failure point by using a tool such as ping. He said this wouldn’t work for them, and I didn’t understand why. If the network can’t use ping, then that’s something I would need to know.

In general I wish they had told me a bit more about the setup they have and the tools and programs they use. I can’t answer “how would you fix a down network” if I know nothing about the network in the first place. How could I have answered the questions? What would a better answer have been? Could I have said something to get the interviewer to talk more about the kind of work, since it’s equally as important to me to know if I know the tools they use.

I know I probably should’ve asked more question, but the interviewer seemed to be rushed and speaking in a way that he didn’t want me to ask questions. Which I consider a red flag but don’t see the harm in doing another interview if I’m invited back.



( 5 months ago )


Depends on who is asking.

If you are being interviewed by an HR person who has a fixed set of questions and is writing down your answers, ugh, that is a bad situation. I'm guessing you would need to provide answers that contain the buzzwords they are looking for.

If you are being interviewed by a technical person, you need to engage him or her in a conversation that demonstrates that your thought process makes sense, that you are competent and effective, and that he can relate to you. It almost doesn't matter whether you get the answer right. Sometimes they will ask you a B.S. question just to see how you react.

"What are the practical differences between..." is an opportunity to demonstrate that you not only know about something but you have used it, hands on, and are aware of the quirks that only daily use will reveal. A practical difference between Windows and OS X, of course, is that one commonly runs on PCs while the other is common on Macs and iPhones. You could then get into the practical differences between writing software for those platforms (e.g. iPhone apps must be certified and associated with a provisioning profile, Windows apps tend to be .NET assemblies and require strong key signing before public distribution). Or you could just express how much you love OS X more, and banter with your future colleague about why you feel that way. Try to have fun with it; it ought to be a pleasure to show off and nerd out on something that you have chosen as your career and hobby.

"What would you do if...." The best answer for this sort of question is to tell a story of when it actually DID happen (in a prior job). If someone told me the network is down, the first thing I would do is ask him, "How do you know it is down?" then verify their findings. You could then talk about things like outage severity/escalation/ticketing, isolating the problem, various diagnostic tools you have used, etc. Then regale him with a story about that one time you were working in the NOC (Network Operations Center) and your friend brought pizza because you were up all night. Try to show them not just that you have the domain knowledge but that you are part of the subculture that is associated with the position you are interviewing for.

what's your interest