Job interview advice

Marhault

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Gonna be a wall of text so buckle up.

Ok, so those of you that know me, know I work at a prison. I'm a lowly correctional officer. I've been doing this for 15 years with the federal government and 4 years prior to that with the state. I've been trying for years to move up and out to other higher level jobs but to no avail. Anyone who's ever had to deal with the government hiring process will know that the job selection process is a running joke. I've been on the "best qualified" list for several jobs over the years but always just been beat out. I won't get too negative about who was selected, lets just say I didn't have the qualifications they were looking for.

Fast forward, I've been taking online classes for some time to try and improve my promotion potential for the most part within my field but outside of custody. Mainly within Unit Management (Counselor, Case Manager and ultimately Unit Manager) I just put in for my first unit management position and was narrowly beat out by another staff member who had more seniority and very similar qualifications (no beef there).

Now, I've always had better qualifications in jobs that aren't in my chosen field. I have a lot of experience working in machine shops, I did that prior to working for the state, I also have a lot of experience in computers. My knowledge is more centered around computer hardware but I have a good working knowledge of many computer applications, software, and home networking. I'm that poor sap that gets called by friends and family for help setting up their computers and home networks, and I also build PC's as a side job and have since I was 16.

So a job opened up at our institution for an "Information Technology Specialist (Computer Specialist)". I had to take a chance and applied. I came back on the best qualified list but another staff member who already had grade 11 got the job (lateral transfer). 2 months later his department manager retired, he put in for the manager job and got it, so his job opened up again. I put in again and came back on the best qualified list again, except this time they're doing something different than what they normally do and they're doing interviews. They don't typically do interviews for internal jobs (rare enough that my spidey senses are tingling). Usually when these interviews happen its because management has someone they've essentially selected for the job but because of the hiring process they have to have valid reasons to eliminate those that they don't want to promote who may have more qualifications. This is what I'm worried about that I'm one of those people in the way of the person they truly want to promote. To do this they'll feed the interview questions to the person they want well before the interview, and let everyone else fend for themselves in hopes that they flop. I don't want to flop.

What I'm asking is anyone who can give me some ideas of questions or things to expect I would greatly appreciate it. Knowledge of the government hiring process would be a huge plus but obviously isn't needed. My worry is they'll throw questions at me about large scale networking that I may not have much or any experience with. I have a feeling there will be technical questions as well as experience questions. Experience I'm not worried about as much as highly technical troubleshooting questions.

For a little background, this job is not complex. Most of the IT work done for the BOP is done at a regional and national level. At the institutional level you primarily install and change work stations and peripherals. Minor network troubleshooting. Most issues are software work involving logins and program issues, minor customer service work. I doubt they're gonna ask me how to install a printer though even though things like that are about 98% of what you do. So I need to know what to prepare for. Technical insight would be amazing. I know there's a lot of experienced smart people on this forum and thought I'd throw this out there and see if anyone was willing to help a guy out in his career. If not I completely understand. If you don't want to post in this thread feel free to shoot me a PM and I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Thanks!
 

JMC9389

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Without knowing anything else about the interview process or politics going on, it sounds like you're being taken for a ride here. They're looking for any excuse to NOT hire you for some reason. Best of luck with your interview, but try to be ready for just about anything.
 

Marhault

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Without knowing anything else about the interview process or politics going on, it sounds like you're being taken for a ride here. They're looking for any excuse to NOT hire you for some reason. Best of luck with your interview, but try to be ready for just about anything.
That's entirely possible (and my gut feeling). However I'm not going to roll over that easy. They may not pick me no matter how well I do in the interview but I want to make them have to think about it, or be creative in their reasoning for eliminating me.

After working for the government for 19+ years you do start to get jaded about the whole promotion process, but I'm trying to be optimistic.

Just in case anyone is curious, I don't want to toot my own horn but I've been rewarded often for my work in corrections. I've had a lot of awards in my career and a within grade promotion as well. I could detail them here but I doubt the majority of people outside government employment would understand. I have averaged over 1 award a year though over my career. My yearly review is an "Outstanding" rating as well. So as far as my current career in custody I've done well for myself. So nothing to hold against me there.
 

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Im a recruiter that works with hiring managers on a daily basis.

Do you have a job description?

I would review that and the main responsibilities (usuallly about 3-5 things are called out). Think about 1-2 examples for each of those. I'd also be prepared for questions like how do you demonstrate outside the box thinking or process improvement questions.
 

Marhault

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Im a recruiter that works with hiring managers on a daily basis.

Do you have a job description?

I would review that and the main responsibilities (usuallly about 3-5 things are called out). Think about 1-2 examples for each of those. I'd also be prepared for questions like how do you outside the box thinking type questions or process improvement questions.
This is the job announcement. I don't know if this link will work or not.

https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/563651000/
 

FiveThous

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This is the job announcement. I don't know if this link will work or not.

https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/563651000/
It worked for me.

I would recommend checking out and reviewing the Job Requirements on that page. It looks like there are some examples of things that might be asked of you. I would say review those and maybe write some examples down that tie into those themes.

Take notes of what youre hearing from the interview(ers). You can also follow up if something seems off or if you weren't sure what their answers meant in that setting.

As far as questions you can ask, I think if you're looking for nitty gritty details (expectations outside of those main tasks) this is the right venue.

I hope this helps! Feel free to DM if you have any other questions, I'll try to help however I can.

Sidenote: I hate LocusNotes.
 

Moxie Mike

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I am operating on the assumption that everything you assume is going on is actually going on in terms of office politics.

So while I know nothing about the specific bureaucracy you're involved with, it sure as shit sounds like you're at a significant disadvantage. Do you know the hiring manager? Is it the guy who beat you out last time? What do you know about the 'favorite'? Is he/she buddies with (or related to) someone in a position of influence?

In my experience with office politics, the interview process/how you perform will not be the #1 thing that lands you this job. You need them to like you and see you as an asset they can use to get what they ultimately want - which in all likelihood is to continue laddering up.

I suspect that you've been passed over for promotions because the higher ups either don't know you or don't like you. That's not to say they dislike you - just that they 'like' other people.

You've been there long enough that I assume you've seen this pattern first hand. Less (or equally) qualified individuals are given preference for a variety of reasons - but the biggest one is because hiring managers are motivated by what will make them look good to their superiors. So they bring people up behind them to fill their old roles as they climb the ranks.

If you haven't done so, I suggest you read The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. Or read it again. Here's a solid analysis and very worth reading through.

Specifically, your career path needs a tail-wind. You haven't been able to advance on the merits of your work ethic or qualifications alone. There has to be an underlying reason for this.

I would specifically pay attention to laws 1 (Never Outshine the Master), 46 (Never Appear too Perfect), 11 (Learn to Keep People Dependent on You) and my all time favorite: Law 4: Always Say Less than Necessary.

As to the interview, you need to know your shit of course but I suspect this is going to be less about technical knowledge and more about how the hiring decision presents the best chance to reflect well on the decision maker. So make it more about a conversation instead of trying to give the best possible answer to whatever you think they're going to throw at you.

Think of it from the manager's perspective: He/she can hire their familiar buddy who they know/trust and might even know some damaging shit about. Or they can hire the guy they don't know (you) and risk looking bad if you don't work out. Who would you hire in that spot all things being equal?

So your best bet is to get to know anyone and everyone who might be relevant and figure out how you can position yourself as an asset to them to help them achieve their goals. It's not who you are or even who you know that's important - it's who knows you. And name dropping is highly underrated. Do you know anyone a rung or two up the ladder from the hiring manager?

When is the interview? Keep us posted and GL :)
 

Marhault

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It worked for me.

I would recommend checking out and reviewing the Job Requirements on that page. It looks like there are some examples of things that might be asked of you. I would say review those and maybe write some examples down that tie into those themes.

Take notes of what youre hearing from the interview(ers). You can also follow up if something seems off or if you weren't sure what their answers meant in that setting.

As far as questions you can ask, I think if you're looking for nitty gritty details (expectations outside of those main tasks) this is the right venue.

I hope this helps! Feel free to DM if you have any other questions, I'll try to help however I can.

Sidenote: I hate LocusNotes.
Thanks for the info. I have till May 7th till my interview so I'll cram off that job listing. I appreciate the advice. If I have any other questions or if you think of anything else specific I'd welcome it. I'm also just out of the game as far as interviews, haven't done an actual job interview in 15+ years and the one I did then was for the same job I was doing prior so I knew it inside and out. This one I don't know what to expect. I want to over prepare so that I go in there with as many weapons as I can. I won't have much insight into the actual interview process till I'm actually in there, that's how infrequently they do it. The last one that happened that I can remember was about a year and a half ago for a Powerhouse/Pipe fitter job, before that probably 4-5 years in between.
 

Marhault

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I am operating on the assumption that everything you assume is going on is actually going on in terms of office politics.

So while I know nothing about the specific bureaucracy you're involved with, it sure as shit sounds like you're at a significant disadvantage. Do you know the hiring manager? Is it the guy who beat you out last time? What do you know about the 'favorite'? Is he/she buddies with (or related to) someone in a position of influence?

In my experience with office politics, the interview process/how you perform will not be the #1 thing that lands you this job. You need them to like you and see you as an asset they can use to get what they ultimately want - which in all likelihood is to continue laddering up.

I suspect that you've been passed over for promotions because the higher ups either don't know you or don't like you. That's not to say they dislike you - just that they 'like' other people.

You've been there long enough that I assume you've seen this pattern first hand. Less (or equally) qualified individuals are given preference for a variety of reasons - but the biggest one is because hiring managers are motivated by what will make them look good to their superiors. So they bring people up behind them to fill their old roles as they climb the ranks.

If you haven't done so, I suggest you read The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. Or read it again. Here's a solid analysis and very worth reading through.

Specifically, your career path needs a tail-wind. You haven't been able to advance on the merits of your work ethic or qualifications alone. There has to be an underlying reason for this.

I would specifically pay attention to laws 1 (Never Outshine the Master), 46 (Never Appear too Perfect), 11 (Learn to Keep People Dependent on You) and my all time favorite: Law 4: Always Say Less than Necessary.

As to the interview, you need to know your shit of course but I suspect this is going to be less about technical knowledge and more about how the hiring decision presents the best chance to reflect well on the decision maker. So make it more about a conversation instead of trying to give the best possible answer to whatever you think they're going to throw at you.

Think of it from the manager's perspective: He/she can hire their familiar buddy who they know/trust and might even know some damaging shit about. Or they can hire the guy they don't know (you) and risk looking bad if you don't work out. Who would you hire in that spot all things being equal?

So your best bet is to get to know anyone and everyone who might be relevant and figure out how you can position yourself as an asset to them to help them achieve their goals. It's not who you are or even who you know that's important - it's who knows you. And name dropping is highly underrated. Do you know anyone a rung or two up the ladder from the hiring manager?

When is the interview? Keep us posted and GL :)
I don't hold the reason I have been unable to promote outside of custody on anyone in particular. Politics are definitely an issue with government jobs. There's so much turnover and movement that its hard to get a reading on people. We go through wardens every couple years sometimes sooner and they're the ultimate selecting authority for jobs at the institutional level. So even if you are "in good" with one warden, when he/she leaves for another joint all that equity is down the drain quickly. As a person who just keeps his head down and does his job I've not tried to keep up with those politics. Now that I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel on my career I really want to improve my standing for obvious financial reasons (better pension, better TSP contributions).

All the things you listed are for sure things that I need to work on. I think I can nail most of the technical stuff in the interview, I'm only worried about things on a larger scale that maybe I haven't personally dealt with. These are possible questions I could easily see since the interviewer who would normally be the department head is going to be someone through a teleconference at the regional level. These are high level technicians that DO deal with much more technically complex things than we do on a local level. So I worry that they might throw out some stuff we might not normally be asked to know.
 

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Be prepared for some of these questions:

1. Tell me about a time you failed, and what you did about it.
2. Tell me about a time when something didn’t go as planned, and what you did about it, and how it turned out.
3. Tell me about a time you were on a team and you didn’t agree with the consensus on a direction the team was going. How did you handle it? What was the outcome.
4. Tell me about a time you assumed a leader role without being assigned. What difficulties did you have?
 

shorticus

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I can tell you (as a former IT Manager for a Sheriff’s Office and a person who has been the interviewer and decision maker) that the absolute most important thing that I was concerned about was attitude. If I can deal with you as a person, you’re at a significant advantage.

Chances are if you are applying for a computer specialist position, you probably don’t have a ton of computer experience, and if you do, you’re not familiar with that department and how they do things. You have a huge advantage cause you are familiar with law enforcement. Point is, I’m going to be teaching you how we do things and the plan would be to groom you and show you how we do things with the expectation being that you will he self-motivated enough to advance yourself in our department.

You seem to be a nice guy from my experience with you so just go in and be yourself. I’d be willing to bet that you’re easy to work with so you’re going to be an asset.

I can also say from experience that when it comes to IT politics will play a part, but it’s far less than any other area of the department. The only time I may or may not have seen a situation where a person is hired outside of being the best candidate for the position would have been if the Department is struggling to find someone to fill the position. At that point someone above you may give you a ”recommendation”.

Hope this helps!
 

Marhault

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Be prepared for some of these questions:

1. Tell me about a time you failed, and what you did about it.
2. Tell me about a time when something didn’t go as planned, and what you did about it, and how it turned out.
3. Tell me about a time you were on a team and you didn’t agree with the consensus on a direction the team was going. How did you handle it? What was the outcome.
4. Tell me about a time you assumed a leader role without being assigned. What difficulties did you have?
These are all thought provoking questions but generally vague. I mean even now having the time to think on them they're hard to come up with an answer to. I'll have to think about these. You think they're more looking for specifics as far as troubleshooting an issue or more just looking to see what your reaction is to adversity?
 

ekricket

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These are all thought provoking questions but generally vague. I mean even now having the time to think on them they're hard to come up with an answer to. I'll have to think about these. You think they're more looking for specifics as far as troubleshooting an issue or more just looking to see what your reaction is to adversity?

Lol try having one of them dropped in you with no time to think. They don’t care what your answer specifically is, they are looking to see how you talk about shit. Step one is to just come up with and example. Anything works. Say you had a traffic ticket and you fought it and lost. Or your house was on fire and you couldn’t save anybody. Just have something to talk about.
Whatever the question, don’t stutter and stammer, just say “that’s a deep one, let me take a few seconds”. Then compose yourself, get out the subject, and start talking.
Stay on point and don’t ramble. But don’t be a robot, be congenial.
Avoid politics. Just say you’ve been busy with Covid planning. (That’s a good subject right now to look for successes and failures or taking the lead in something). Just say you always trust whoever’s elected does a good job.
If you do things outside work with fellow employees bring that in somehow, shows you are a team guy and value coworkers as more than inconveniences at work.
 

Marhault

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Lol try having one of them dropped in you with no time to think. They don’t care what your answer specifically is, they are looking to see how you talk about shit. Step one is to just come up with and example. Anything works. Say you had a traffic ticket and you fought it and lost. Or your house was on fire and you couldn’t save anybody. Just have something to talk about.
Whatever the question, don’t stutter and stammer, just say “that’s a deep one, let me take a few seconds”. Then compose yourself, get out the subject, and start talking.
Stay on point and don’t ramble. But don’t be a robot, be congenial.
Avoid politics. Just say you’ve been busy with Covid planning. (That’s a good subject right now to look for successes and failures or taking the lead in something). Just say you always trust whoever’s elected does a good job.
If you do things outside work with fellow employees bring that in somehow, shows you are a team guy and value coworkers as more than inconveniences at work.
Awesome advice! When I first read those questions my mind immediately went to IT issues and I never thought about just general life adversity. That honestly helps. The point about avoiding politics was a given but good advice nonetheless. I never thought about the doing things with coworkers outside of work...that's a good one too, I just need to think about how to incorporate that into an interview.
 

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U need to stand out in the interview. Wear a tux and bring a friend! Good luck!
 

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allforcharity

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Most questions revolve around the themes of a) how good at you at solving problems, b) how do you deal with conflict among peers, and c) work sort of work do you see yourself doing in 3-5 years.
 

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My only advice would be to practice. Just like anything else in life - the more times you do it the better you are at it. Best to get someone you don't know to interview you. If they have management experience they should be able to do a decent job of making it challenging. Practice like you play. Ideally you'd find a half dozen people to practice with. Use the ones that are outside your domain of expertise for practice first then practice with the ones that are in your domain area closer to the day of.

Best of luck, sometimes you get a lucky break and sometimes you don't. Successful people are the ones that take full advantage of the lucky breaks and don't let the bad luck get them down.
 

CraigT78

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As someone who has given well over 50 technical interviews, I can tell you that I focus on 1/3 technical, 1/3 situational and 1/3 attitude.

I can figure out within 15 minutes of the person has the technical chops. My path of questioning is to start easy and continue down the path until the candidate can't answer the question. The key is how they handle the one they don't know. Do they hem and haw, or do they state they'd go to knowledge base, peers, google. I don't know how government goes, and if I worked anywhere that had politics like @Moxie Mike listed, I would not be there long.

Next up is situational questions. I focus on four key skillsets. Customer focus, driving results, managing complexity, and collaboration.

Some example questions I use:
Tell me about a time when you had a customer request you felt was inappropriate.
Tell me about a time you were able to turn a not so happy customer into a satisfied customer.
Tell me about a time when you were unable to meet an objective.
Tell me about a time you used calculated risk to achieve results.
Tell me about a time you recognized a process improvement, particularly when you noticed before anyone else.
Describe a situation when you had to analyze and evaluate a more complex problem.
Describe a situation that highlights your collaboration style.
Tell me about a difficult situation where you gained trust and support of others.

The content of the answer is important, but not as important as how you answer. Answer with confidence. Think quickly, ask for clarification if you need addition time to think. IT managers are looking for critical thought and the ability to think on your feet and under pressure. How a candidate handles themselves well I can expect will handle a system down situation with the same confidence and thought process.

Finally I am watching the candidate for attitude. Deal breakers for me include anyone with a piss poor attitude about their last position, last company, last boss. If you can't find the positives from your past experiences, I don't want to be the next victim at your inevitable next interview.

Other pet peeves are those who do not elaborate answers. The interview should be a fluid conversation, not short answers where I'm doing all the talking. But don't regurgitate info. Answer the question, use it as an opportunity to highlight a specific skillset or experience and stop.

And finally, ask questions when it's your turn. Have a few about the day today, how you can make an immediate impact, and also one from the interview. Maybe you got a question you didn't think you answered well. Flip it and ask a similar question to the hiring manager. For example - I ask about your collaboration style, you answer but get a read on me that maybe that wasn't was I was looking for. So at the end, say - you asked about my collaboration style, in your opinion what collaboration style works best inside this department. It shows your interested and payed attention.

Good luck!
 

Marhault

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I appreciate all the answers so far and I have a ton of notes that I'm working on with all that.

Would any of you guys that are working in IT know what type of technical questions I might face? Is it going to be more generic stuff to see if I'm even knowledgeable about networking or will it be more specific technical or troubleshooting questions? I feel like I'm at a disadvantage because most of my knowledge is hardware (PC's not large scale networking or servers) and software stuff. Our agency is going more and more to thin clients and remote desktop services so my hardware knowledge feels so obsolete and my network knowledge is lacking. I've been doing some compTIA practice tests to try and refresh some stuff but my weakest part I'm afraid is what I'm going to be grilled about the most. I'm struggling with TCP and UDP ports, some I know, some I don't. I think some of my issue is the way these questions are worded on the compTIA exams. The other area I'm weak in is network protocols. So any advice where to focus my efforts for the next couple weeks would be great.

I talked to the HR manager and she said its a panel interview and to expect both technical and regular interview questions. I don't want to excel at the regular interview and flop on the tech stuff because its outside my knowledge.

Again, all the help has been great. I have like 2 pages of notes lol.
 

CraigT78

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I appreciate all the answers so far and I have a ton of notes that I'm working on with all that.

Would any of you guys that are working in IT know what type of technical questions I might face? Is it going to be more generic stuff to see if I'm even knowledgeable about networking or will it be more specific technical or troubleshooting questions? I feel like I'm at a disadvantage because most of my knowledge is hardware (PC's not large scale networking or servers) and software stuff. Our agency is going more and more to thin clients and remote desktop services so my hardware knowledge feels so obsolete and my network knowledge is lacking. I've been doing some compTIA practice tests to try and refresh some stuff but my weakest part I'm afraid is what I'm going to be grilled about the most. I'm struggling with TCP and UDP ports, some I know, some I don't. I think some of my issue is the way these questions are worded on the compTIA exams. The other area I'm weak in is network protocols. So any advice where to focus my efforts for the next couple weeks would be great.

I talked to the HR manager and she said its a panel interview and to expect both technical and regular interview questions. I don't want to excel at the regular interview and flop on the tech stuff because its outside my knowledge.

Again, all the help has been great. I have like 2 pages of notes lol.
I can't help with the technical portion as my experience is very product specific. When I do ask technical questions it's along the lines of "How do you troubleshoot" and issue where you don't have network connectivity. I then expand on the answer with a harder question. It gives me a gauge of how far they are in a particular subject. I'll also ask Linux commands. Our products are on a Red Hat OS so that comes into play.

Don't ever just say, I don't know that. Instead answer with - I can't seem to remember that off the tip of my head, so I would have to refer to documentation and or Google for help there. Make note of that question and then after the interview, find the answer and when you send your thank you email, be sure to work in a reply with the answer.
 

Marhault

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I can't help with the technical portion as my experience is very product specific. When I do ask technical questions it's along the lines of "How do you troubleshoot" and issue where you don't have network connectivity. I then expand on the answer with a harder question. It gives me a gauge of how far they are in a particular subject. I'll also ask Linux commands. Our products are on a Red Hat OS so that comes into play.

Don't ever just say, I don't know that. Instead answer with - I can't seem to remember that off the tip of my head, so I would have to refer to documentation and or Google for help there. Make note of that question and then after the interview, find the answer and when you send your thank you email, be sure to work in a reply with the answer.
Luckily everything we have is Microsoft because I have zero clue about Linux. They say the interview will be on the short side, so I'm not expecting them to go through everything, I guess I'm just wanting to hear from some Network guys especially someone who might actually be the individual who does the hiring, what their go to questions would be to get an idea of knowledge.

I realize that a lot of this stuff is going to be specific to the system we run, although I wouldn't put it past the interviewer to ask about our specific setup at the local institution just to see if I know anything. The interview is going to be with our regional computer services manager on a teleconference I'm not sure who else will be present but my HR contact said that the regional manager will be directing the interview. So not so much a panel as just multiple people in the room.

I know for most people on here these types of things are way below your pay grade lol but for me this is big step in my career to finally be able to get out of custody (not that there's anything wrong with custody, I really enjoy my job for the most part) and to do something I'm more interested in and will help my retirement income.
 

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BTW the advice about the thank you email...wrote that shit down. That's the kind of stuff a guy like me wouldn't ever think about!
 

CraigT78

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Luckily everything we have is Microsoft because I have zero clue about Linux. They say the interview will be on the short side, so I'm not expecting them to go through everything, I guess I'm just wanting to hear from some Network guys especially someone who might actually be the individual who does the hiring, what their go to questions would be to get an idea of knowledge.

I realize that a lot of this stuff is going to be specific to the system we run, although I wouldn't put it past the interviewer to ask about our specific setup at the local institution just to see if I know anything. The interview is going to be with our regional computer services manager on a teleconference I'm not sure who else will be present but my HR contact said that the regional manager will be directing the interview. So not so much a panel as just multiple people in the room.

I know for most people on here these types of things are way below your pay grade lol but for me this is big step in my career to finally be able to get out of custody (not that there's anything wrong with custody, I really enjoy my job for the most part) and to do something I'm more interested in and will help my retirement income.
I hear you. I just finished two rounds of 3 panel interviews for an Associate Director position and it was brutal. You're doing exactly the right stuff - research and preparing. You'll be confident when you walk in there and that's the most important thing. Obviously I don't know your interviewer, but my experience is that interviews are more of a troubleshooting interview for IT, than a quiz format. I doubt you'll be asked anything but the most basic fact type questions "what's the default mail port" or what's our DNS setup, expect a few " this application is frozen" where do you start type questions.
 

One Eyed Dollar

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I recommend that you try to work the Scrub Donkey chips into every answer.

Some example questions I use:
Tell me about a time when you had a customer request you felt was inappropriate.
Let me tell you about these poker chips...
Tell me about a time you were able to turn a not so happy customer into a satisfied customer.
One guy wanted to sell his chips before he even received them, so...
Tell me about a time when you were unable to meet an objective.
The USPS did not ship me all the boxes I needed, so my shipping was delayed. I responded by keeping all my customers aware of the situation and...
Tell me about a time you used calculated risk to achieve results.
So then I agreed to have 50,000 poker chips shipped from China to my house in the middle of a pandemic, but I calculated that the virus should die during shipping according to the experts...
Tell me about a time you recognized a process improvement, particularly when you noticed before anyone else.
I recognized that if I put all of the chips on the dining table at once, it would force the rest of my family to help pack boxes so that we could eat dinner...
Describe a situation when you had to analyze and evaluate a more complex problem.
Some of the boxes were delayed in shipping, so I had to prioritize which orders I could complete first without them...
Describe a situation that highlights your collaboration style.
It takes a team of people to create and order thousands of donkey-themed poker chips. The most difficult part is always managing the creative staff. Artists, amiright?
Tell me about a difficult situation where you gained trust and support of others.
So then I convinced a bunch of people on an internet forum to send me thousands of dollars to buy little circles with pictures of donkeys from some unnamed manufacturer halfway around the world...
BOOM. New position for sure!
 

BonScot

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I’ve conducted hundreds of interviews over the years so I’ll tell you what I look for in a candidate.

Most of the interviews I’ve done are split into two. Section 1 is the technical part where I find out about the person so it’s effectively a run through of your CV (or resume I think you call it). Really I just want to make sure that you’re not an idiot or a dick.

The key things I’m looking for in this part of the interview are as follows:

How long you stay in a job (I’m put off by someone who changes job every year or so. I’m looking for someone who sticks to the same employer for 4/5 years)

Why they want to leave their current job. This is a minefield. Everyone knows it’s down to money or working conditions but don’t say that. Try and keep it positive. In your case mention your passion for all things IT and especially mention that you spend your free time messing around with IT related stuff. NEVER say anything negative about your previous employers. Don’t mention office politics or blame anyone else for anything that’s happened in your career. This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate a “can do” attitude. This is a big factor in me as an employer deciding if 1. You’ll fit in with the team / personalities you’ll be working with. 2. That you’re willing to learn and not a “know it all” 3. That you’re unlikely to up sticks and leave me in a year or so.

I also want to know where you see yourself in three year’s time. This is a great question and again gives candidates an opportunity to shine. Don’t say to the interviewer things like “I want your job” or “I want more money”. Instead talk about how much you hope to have learned and developed as a person.

Basically the first part of the interview is me trying to find out if I can work with you as a person and if you’re a good fit for the department you’ll be working in. I’m also trying to find out if you can be taught and are willing to learn as well as what you’ll bring to the job. That’s the easy part of the interview.

Now on to part 2... The scary part
 
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BonScot

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Part 2


The second part is what we call competency based. There’s probably a different name for it in the US but essentially this is for you to demonstrate different situations that arose in your career, what actions YOU took (not your colleagues or team but YOU as an individual) and the result of YOUR actions.

Many candidates don’t grasp this part of the interview and this is where most fall down. If you know the format and what the interviewer is expecting then it’s really easy to answer these questions.

When you’re answering these competency questions the whole point is for you to demonstrate that in a given situation you were competent. Your answers should all be structured in the same way. Keep this in mind SAR which stands for Situation, Action, Result.

Situation - keep this brief. All the interviewer needs here are details of the situation that arose and why it was a bad thing (the whole point of competency based questions is for you to show how you turned a negative situation into a positive one. All you’re doing when describing the situation is setting up the story).

Action - This is the part to concentrate on and be detailed with your answers. As an interviewer I want to know what YOU did to resolve the situation. This needs to be specific to you. Never use the word “we” as I’m knocking points off if I hear “we did this” or “we did that”. I want to hear “I did this”. It’s a bonus if your examples can tie into the job you’ve applied for but it’s not essential. The whole point is to demonstrate that you understood the situation that arose and how resourceful you were in handling it. Describe what actions you took and why (on a step by step basis) so that I can understand your thought process and the logic behind the steps you took.

Result - keep this brief. Essentially all I want to hear is that the actions you took resolved the situation successfully. Basically everyone lived happily ever after.

You’ll know that you’re being asked a competency based question if it starts

“Tell be about a time when...”
“Can you demonstrate when...”
“Give an example of when...”

Competency based questions traditionally fall into 6 categories and are usually the same although they can be worded differently.

The six categories are usually split as follows:

Communication
Customer Service
Teamwork
Problem solving
Decision making
Results / Target driven

If you’re going for a management role they tend to slip in another two categories:

Leadership
Strategic Awareness

If you google competency based interviews you can find examples of the type of question you can be asked for each category.

Try and come up with two or three examples for each category and then when in the interview pick the best example to suit the question being asked.

If you want to run through examples or want to know anything else just let me know. Hope this helps.
 
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Marhault

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So how did this turn out?
Went really good. The questions were easy simplistic computer questions. They literally asked me what an IP address was. Other than that nothing complex. I haven't heard anything yet. The government works slow. There was a surprise candidate that has really good qualifications so it's very possible he gets the job but it was a good experience. If it doesn't go my way I should get another opportunity later in the year.
 
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