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ISO standards - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
ISO standards
If you were trying to recruit an Information Systems Officer, as per [Word] this job spec, what questions would you want to ask them in a technical interview?

Just, you know, wondering, out of curiosity, like.

Current Mood: nervous...

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bopeepsheep From: bopeepsheep Date: October 1st, 2006 04:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
No idea, but I'd ask them if they were free before or after the interview for coffee, I expect. :)
j4 From: j4 Date: October 2nd, 2006 11:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Aw! I'm afraid I'm not sure I'm going to be able to actually... I won't be able to get there early enough to meet beforehand, the interview's just before lunch, I'm meeting brrm after it, and then I'm going to want to get back to Cambridge for the evening...

I'm sorry -- though obv if I end up in Oxford I'd be able to come and visit more often anyway... :)
caramel_betty From: caramel_betty Date: October 1st, 2006 05:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
The thoughts below mostly assume that you're expected to start in the job without technical training, but mostly just "Okay, this is your task and here are our house-styles/standards" sort of training. And I'm leaving out things like "Can they write?", "Can they manage people?" and "What's their project/time management experience like?"

The common thing that a few people I know have had in such interviews is that they seem to like asking fairly basic CSS questions to see if you're bluffing entirely or not - the difference between a block and a div, the difference between a class and an ID, that sort of thing.

Looking at that list of essentials, I'd be tempted to ask for details of a large roll-out you've done whilst listening for details such as: preparation/the system being used; how it was checked/tested; how/when it was rolled out (corporate policy for such changes where I am tends towards "early in the day, early in the week"); change management; and how you would have backed out if everything died.

If you claimed any knowledge of relational databases/SQL, I'd ask a few questions around that to see if you know the difference between a relational database and a computerized card-file, and poke about a bit to see if this is basically just "Well, my content management system keeps everything in MySQL so I know about databases really!" Similar sorts of questioning for Perl, Java, or XML/XSLT claims, if possible. If possible, seeing some examples of code (produced on the spot, or brought with) would be nice. Not that it needs to conform exactly with my own personal Nazi-ish preferences, but things like using comments and indentation reasonably would be good.

If they seemed a bit light on that side of technicalities, but I still thought they might be useful, I'd be interested to find out a bit more about the scope of documentation they'd created before. Is their extensive use of Microsoft Office applications restricted to a few 5-10 page essays, a poster in Publisher and pretty slides in PowerPoint?

Oh, one thing my manager has instituted for the role I'm in is a marketing test. Can they provide useful feedback on the look and feel, things which feel out of place, things which are wrong etc. on things like external websites or brochures. Not exactly technical, but seems to give her some useful information.
j4 From: j4 Date: October 1st, 2006 08:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gosh, that's a really comprehensive answer -- thank you! None of that lot would fill me with dread if I was asked it right now (which is reassuring in itself!) but I will make sure I've thought about sensible answers...

extensive use of Microsoft Office applications

I realise with horror that I've been using Word for twenty years. Made me the man I am today. 8-)

The marketing test sounds interesting, & a jolly good idea. If it's not 'confidential' I'd be interested to see the sort of thing you do for that. Not so much for this interview, as for general interest (and because one day I might be recruiting people myself!).
caramel_betty From: caramel_betty Date: October 1st, 2006 09:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
The marketing test is nothing special. It's usually just a print-out of a recent-ish copy of the corporate websites' front pages. Our group (documentation) has to balance the concerns of marketing on one hand (who want whizzy shiny things), designers on the other hand (and we've had a spate of really good print designers, who think very little about online considerations), and end-users/us on this other, magical third hand. So we're trying to fight the case of usability, accessibility, optimizing pages as best we can for Google, decent navigation etc., whilst there's a definite corporate brand being stamped on it by marketing/the designers.

Essentially, this means that there's scope for suggestions and improvements. Some of them would probably piss someone else off because of something the interview candidate doesn't know about (e.g. we have graphical menus we really, really want to get rid of, but marketing won't let us), but that's fine. It shows the candidate is thinking, and you can use that sort of conflict to drive the debate if you get a good flow here.

Mostly, my manager just wants someone here to say something that isn't completely bonkers. If they say "Oh, but that's all lovely" - either because they think it is, or because they think they should be a yes man and not criticize things, or because they just won't speak up for their own ideas - it's a mark against them. It's not a completely critical mark if they sail through everything else, but I gather that my manager likes people to do well here, even though it's essentially a five-ten minute browse of some print-outs (while a written test from the interview is marked, or whatever), and a ten minute chat.
j4 From: j4 Date: October 2nd, 2006 01:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! Sounds like a good way of seeing how people think about 'improving' a site. Though I'd want to make the point that I don't see any need to dive in and start "redesigning" just for the sake of it, to make my mark, shake things up, etc. ... okay, maybe that makes me too much of a yes-man, but really it's more if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it.

So we're trying to fight the case of usability, accessibility, optimizing pages as best we can for Google, decent navigation etc., whilst there's a definite corporate brand being stamped on it by marketing/the designers.

Sounds familiar... "And it needs to be more webby." :-/
caramel_betty From: caramel_betty Date: October 2nd, 2006 02:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sounds familiar... "And it needs to be more webby." :-/

My favourite incident like that recently was with a US designer. (One bit of the company is largely based in the US for sales/marketing/events purposes, because 95% the customers are in North or South America.)

Really very nice design came through, which would have been fabulous if we'd been printing it out on shiny card and sending to people as an invite-cum-agenda. But it didn't work well for the intended purpose of email flyer. Between a couple of us, we managed to massage the text and pictures into a half-way decent HTML+CSS email, which looked okay in the end.

One of the many concerns my manager took back in a three-way conference call with marketing+designer was a mention about how much information was being put in graphics. (For example, each day had its date done in a pretty little logo showing a sort of hand-drawn-ish box for that date, and the dates either side, with the middle one highlighted in a different colour.)

My manager pointed out that company policy is to not embed images in outgoing mails, but to leave links in. We find that embedded content like that hits too many spam filters. However, we are aware that many people won't download the images because many recent clients don't do it by default (privacy concerns when spammers do it, etc.)

"Oh," says the designer, "mine does that."

I believe at this point, I borrowed *headthump* from you.
imc From: imc Date: October 2nd, 2006 12:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Not that it needs to conform exactly with my own personal Nazi-ish preferences, but things like using comments and indentation reasonably would be good.

Heh. Last time I had a (somewhat informal) interview, the interviewer said something of the form "Well normally I would ask how well you think you can program, but I've seen your IOCCC entries so I think we can assume you're reasonably competent."
nja From: nja Date: October 1st, 2006 05:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
browsing the web for items of interest for linkage

It may look like I'm downloading porn, but I'm just browsing the web for items of interest for linkage! Look, it's in the job spec!

It looks to me as if the job spec is actually:

1. Maintain our web site.
2. Do it properly (i.e. don't stick the old website into Word, do "save as HTML", wrap the resulting gunk in a PHP wrapper and then hand it back to someone else to update in the future because you're leaving1).
3. Produce some documentation (i.e. don't do a half-arsed job, then skedaddle leaving someone else to work out what you've done, how you've done it, and in the name of Beelzebub why did you do it that way?2).
4. Do some other stuff which frankly you'd have to be a complete muppet not to be able to manage.

1 Bitter? Moi?
2 Bitter? Moi?

Given that your application (sorry, a hypothetical application) will go through all the selection criteria in detail, I suspect a technical interview will basically be to see if the applicant has lied through their teeth (I interviewed applicants for a part-time CO post a while ago, there was one applicant who most of the panel thought was incredibly impressive and should be offered the job - the chap from the computer centre and I pointed out that everything he had said was plausible if you knew nothing about computers, but utter bullshit nonetheless).

I have to say that if I were you, I'd apply for it because I think you've got what they are looking for.
j4 From: j4 Date: October 1st, 2006 07:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have to say that if I were you, I'd apply for it because I think you've got what they are looking for.

Ta. :-) I've got an interview on Thursday, hence the question about what they might be likely to ask...

What you're saying about what they're expecting sounds plausible -- and fortunately I didn't lie on my application, so hopefully I should be okay! (Touch wood)
nja From: nja Date: October 1st, 2006 08:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Not lying is a really good idea, and you'd be amazed how many people applying for computer jobs forget that. They think they'll be able to dazzle with buzzwords to cover their ignorance. "I'm willing and able to learn stuff I don't know" is more impressive than "when I said I could program in Perl, I meant I installed it on my PC yesterday".

Good luck. I always feel ambiguous about saying that because it's not down to luck, is it? If there's any justice you ought to get the job. That's better.
j4 From: j4 Date: October 1st, 2006 08:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
it's not down to luck

Nah, it's largely down to luck, because I have no idea what the other candidates are like. There are gazillions of people who could do the job better than me; 'luck' is whether or not they're applying for it. 8-)
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j4 From: j4 Date: October 2nd, 2006 08:23 am (UTC) (Link)
8(?) of those 38 days are Bank Holidays. About 5 will be compulsory holiday at Christmas (i.e. they close the university between Christmas and New Year and possibly a day before Christmas or a day after New Year). Subtract those and you're left with the fairly standard (for this sort of job, anyway) 25 days.
From: kaet Date: October 1st, 2006 08:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
What would you say are important criteria in choosing a content management system, I guess would be one I'd ask. Mainly to see how people choose software.
j4 From: j4 Date: October 2nd, 2006 01:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmmmm. I'd say the most important thing to work out before choosing content management software was determining what sort of content management system you want. Because the software won't create a good workflow. </pet_rant> But yes, good question, thank you! :-)
From: kaet Date: October 2nd, 2006 02:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

Because the software won't create a good workflow.


In some situations I think that nothing short of major augmentive brain surgery can create it, :).

I meant to say: good luck!
j4 From: j4 Date: October 2nd, 2006 02:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
major augmentive brain surgery

Hah. Yes. Though even if the individuals involved are sane and clueful, there's usually still the problem of untangling 800 years' worth of accreted craziness.
hairyears From: hairyears Date: October 1st, 2006 08:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
If it's your job, patience with idiots.

j4 From: j4 Date: October 2nd, 2006 01:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nah, it's a job where I might get to deal with different idiots... :->
jvvw From: jvvw Date: October 2nd, 2006 11:45 am (UTC) (Link)
I interviewed people for a job with fairly similar technical requirements (though more programming). We gave them a written test where they were asked to review some code and some HTML to review for accessibility, and also some short questions about SQL/databases, XML/XSLT.

In the interview we made them give a presentation about how they would improve HTML/CSS (which was more relevant for the type of job) and I asked them about their experience. I also asked them a little bit about the tools that they used and why, and how they checked their HTML etc. was standards compliant.

But there are tons of different things you could ask - I've been given multiple choice tests at interviews for instance, mostly designed to check that you're not bluffing about your experience and also been asked to do things like write SQL queries.
jvvw From: jvvw Date: October 2nd, 2006 11:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Sorry, I missed out 'last week' from that first sentence.
j4 From: j4 Date: October 2nd, 2006 01:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Good suggestions, thank you!
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