Monday, May 12, 2008


I'm venting... don't take any of this too seriously.

I've been doing the inestimably exciting job of helping my client find a replacement for me when I leave this summer. They apparently want to hire someone in-house, so I've been doing the technical interviews.

Right at the moment, I program Java, administer Oracle, and handle Unix administration. I'm a decent Java programmer, a competent Oracle DBA, and an expert Unix administrator. The main role they want to fill is Unix administration. This job, more than any other I've ever worked, hits the edge cases. We've seen a lot of "gotcha" situations. I frequently see, for example, df and du report different free space on a filesystem. So when I interview these guys who are wanting to replace me, I ask them about the real-life problems we face daily.

Now word is going around that I'm not a very good interviewer, that I'm more interested in showing off what I know than I am in finding out what the candidate knows.


It's probably true I'm not a good interviewer: I might well be the worst interviewer anyone's ever had to work with. But let's consider some anecdotal evidence:

  • One candidate couldn't figure out how to start a service on RedHat EL from the command line ("I've always used the gui.")

  • Another insisted that if df reports a full disk, but ls disagrees, df is wrong.

  • One guy insisted you can only have two plexes on a RAID 1 set.

  • So far, no one interviewing to administer Oracle servers can tell me what a tablespace is.

So while I may be the worst interviewer in history (and I probably am), it's no stretch to suggest the candidates they've been throwing at me aren't qualified to administer Linux Oracle servers for uptime-sensitive applications where down-time is measured in tens of thousands of dollars per hour.


Shan said...

Yeah, that happens. I was on the panel for a series of hirings into my team, when I worked in the gov. It's pretty hard to get what you want in a person WITHOUT "showing off what you know". The more specific the job, the more complex the interview.

I normally hate this kind of observation, because it seems small-minded, but I really feel it's apt to say "sounds like sour grapes".

clumsy ox said...

Interestingly, it's people within the organization criticizing the interviewing. And as I rush to say to the candidates: I'm not the decision-maker. I just have the best idea of anyone what the job requires. I find out what they know, and give a precis of their strengths (if any) and weaknesses to the powers-that-be. Sadly, the process has become so politicized as to be fundamentally futile.

I'm just trying to keep it real.

Stace' said...

At LEAST you aren't doing the interviewing for the government!

Chuck said...

How dare a guy insist you can only have two plexes on a RAID 1 set! Who does he think he is, the Oracle of Delhi?