interviewing someone for an IT position

This week I am conducting interviews for an IT manager position. Other than the normal “Tell me about yourself” and “what are your strengths/weaknesses” etc. I am looking to hear you guys’ most thought provoking/insightful interview questions. What is the most interesting question you have ever asked/been asked? My personal all time favorite: I was asked to walk the interviewer how to tie their shoes. That was awesome.

One good question I was asked was, “If someone who’d never been here before was going to visit [a certain local attraction], what would he need to know?” The people interviewing me told me they asked that question to find out how a person thought and how well organized he was. It seemed like a good question to me.

When I was part of a team interviewing people for the IT department of a bulk mailer, one question I’d ask was what they’d do if they had an address for a city which clearly wasn’t in the US, but had no country specified. It happened to us reasonably often.

I suppose, for a managerial spot, that the trendy questions of the moment are not completely ridiculous.

Nevertheless, for a managerial spot, I’d like to know how they would deal with employees who are extraordinary - both below-average performers and above-average performers. Y’know, something that would give an insight into actual managerial skills.

Maybe that’s just me.

“We have some rather creative people that do things in unconventional ways. How well do you deal with having subordinates who work this way?”

The key here being to pick out the people who let their people get the job done versus the people who micromanage their people and demand that everything be done their way.

You hire a new person and s/he immediately runs afoul of someone long entrenched in the department who thinks the new person is stepping on their toes or is trying to tell the long-timer how to do their job. How would you deal with that?"

Been in this situation myself, ended up doing an internal transfer to another unit before the allowed-by-rules transfer time because the manager had TWO such people and I came in with more experience than both put together.

I would hope you’d look for the person who DOES NOT say “I’d tell the new person to shut up and try to fit in”.

“How do you, and how well do you deal with petty squabbles between people in your unit?”

Looking at genuine people skills here. “I hate that”, or “I’d leave that up to HR” or “I’d tell them both to shut up” (or similar) tells you that they don’t have the skills to deal with personnel conflicts and they’re not interested in doing so.

“How many hours a week do you think your people should be working?”

Any hourly figure is questionable, depending on how it’s stated. Good Managers should answer that it’s more important that the work be done than that people are at the office 70 hours a week.

(I am a victim of 17 years in IT, can you tell?)

In my opinion, the question that sorts the men from the boys is:

Describe your IT strategy.

If they answer in terms of aligning the IT priorities with those of the business, and use specific examples of how they’re going to use technology to save money, improve business or achieve goals, then they’re your man.

If they focus on particular technologies, and “cool stuff”, and fixate on particular technologies and standards with no reference to the goals of the business, then they don’t get it.

These are good questions; I would ask them to give a specific instance that they’ve actually experienced. When doing that, most people will give sincere answers, although a few people will make stuff up to give you what you want to hear.

I don’t really go in for the highly creative, Microsoft-type questions (How much water passes by a single point in the Mississippi River every day?). I want to find out 1. If the candidate can back up what is on the resume, 2. Can they communicate clearly without trying to bullshit me, 3. Are they smart, 4. Can they get things done.

BTW “Tell me about yourself” and “what are your strengths/weaknesses” are not the “normal” questions. They are too easy to ask and the answers will probably not be valuable. The strengths and weaknesses question is just an invitation for someone to bullshit you.

It’s good to mix open-ended and closed questions. If the manger will be accountable for cost and schedule ask them how they plan and then track against the plan. Pick something that their resume claims they are very knowledable about and see if they can explain it at your level (from your OP I would guess you are not the hiring manager but maybe HR?). See how well they can explain something technical to someone who is non-technical, and see if they really know as much as they claim.

Ask about how they make tradeoffs–what if they are not given the time/budget to build the ideal solution.

Ask them how they will hire their own staff–where will they find people, and what qualities will they be looking for? How will *they *interview people?

I’ve been in IT for 28 years and a hiring manager for 20.

I was going to make an offer for a tech lead position. My boss interviewed him and vetoed the decision. I asked why, and he said the candidate doesn’t think in an organized way and he caves under pressure. After I pressed him about this, he finally told me he asked “the ping pong ball question.” Huh? :confused: He asked him how many ping pong balls he would need to fill a 10’ x 10’ x 10’ room, and then watched how he went about figuring it out. I saw his point but thought it was not enough to override all the positives about the guy.

I am a member of the IT dept who is newer and I don’t have much experience interviewing people. The manager will be my peer, on the same level as me. I have been asked to be part of the hiring process with HR. I expect that they will ask these bullshit questions (I agree with you, I hate asking those questions!). You guys have given me alot of good ideas. I am really looking for insight into their personality.