BOFH: Interviewing for Helpdesk
Easy when you know how
BOFH 2004: Episode 5
Interviewing for new Helldesk types with the Boss and the Helldesk Coordinator is a tedious, timewasting and pointless job and I sometimes find myself wondering why the agency doesn't just cut out the middle man and send us people who've never used a computer before.
As the "technical person", I'm included in the interview process to contrive some tricky questions to determine the person's level of technical expertise. Once that's complete it's then my job to advise the interview committee that the prospective candidate has all the technical acumen of a sack of spanners. Which they then ignore by appointing the person anyway.
It's company policy.
"It's a bloody helldesk position!" I blurt, when the Boss tells me that we're up for another set of interviews. "It's not like their experience is going to make a difference!"
"Course it does!" the Helldesk Coordinator argues. "We need someone with experience of the software that our users have - so that problems are resolved in good time!"
"The only skill a Helldesk person needs is the ability to spot idiots!" I respond. "The rest is just tat you can pick up from the other Helldesk people. You know, like how many times you have to rapidly toggle the powersupply switch to open the secret Intel BIOS Easter Egg."
"What secret Intel BIOS Easter Egg?" the Helldesk Coordinator asks.
The fact that there's NO secret powersupply-toggle-activated Intel BIOS easter egg, never was, and never will be only serves to illustrate my key point about the ability to recognise idiots. They come in all shapes and sizes, and are represented at all levels of the IT foodchain.
"Nothing," I reply, faking sincerity badly to ensure at least one loud bang in the department before day's end.
"Well we still need some questions to help us determine his level of expertise, what extra skills he might have, and what sort of offer we make to him," the Boss comments.
"His, Him?" I ask, PC-ly
"Uh, Him or Her," the Boss responds quickly.
I make a mental note to accidentally mention this incident to one of the more rampant windup toys at HR for a bit of at-work entertainment later in the week...
. . .
"So you're wanting something like 'Can you name and explain the FSMO roles in a Windows 2000 Domain Controller?'" I ask later while we're waiting for the first victim to show.
"Pardon?" the Boss asks, while the Helldesk Coordinator looks on blankly.
"FSMO roles. In a Domain Controller."
"Ahh.. I was thinking about something a little, well, more user orientated."
"Without FSMO roles, we'd have no users!"
"Something a user would ask about!" the Helldesk Coordinator snaps.
"Oh you mean like 'What happened to all my files?', 'When are you going to let me out of this tape safe?', or 'Did you just break the key off in the lock?'"
"NO! I mean questions like 'A user is not able to login. What would you look at first?'"
"But more open ended," the Boss comments, "like 'Can you give me an example of..' questions."
"Of course!" I blurt. "I think I've got the hang of it. Send in the accused!"
. . .
"Can you give me an example of..." I ask, watching the Boss and Helldesk Coordinator brace themselves, "..causes of login failure."
"Caps Lock down," the candidate replies knowledgably. "Wrong Password, the User's been disabled, they're not logging into the right domain..."
. . Several Interviews later . .
"Well," the Boss burbles. "They all seem to be of the same level to me."
"Yes," I respond. "Reasonably experienced too, which makes a change. They're all so similar it's going to be a hard choice."
"Perhaps not - One more to go," the Boss burbles. "Ah..uuum I don't seem to have a name on my pad?"
"Late applicant," the Helldesk Coordinator responds. "HR emailled me the CV earlier this morning. He seemed the cream of the crop, loads of experience!"
"I'll get him in then," I say, noticing the name and wandering over to the door.
. . .
"Hello," the PFY says, sitting down in the candidate's chair.
"Is this some sort of joke?" the Boss asks.
"What?" the PFY asks.
"You've already got a job here!"
"Yes, but I was thinking of downskilling. And there's a lot of things about the helpdesk that appeal to me."
"Like what?" the Helldesk coordinator asks.
"The ability to sleep on the job, for one. And, I was thinking that I could just record the words 'Have you rebooted your machine?' and put them into an answerphone on my desk to increase resolution times."
"I think you'll find there's a lot more to a Helpdesk role than that!"
"Yes, drinking coffee and looking at porn, true, but I thought I'd just start off slowly and work my into the advanced career options over time..."
"I think this interview is over," the Boss snaps.
. . .
"So, how do we decide?" the Boss asks when we reconvene later.
"Well, I took the liberty of phoning the applicants and asking them another 'Can you give an example' question, and one candidate stands out head and shoulders above the rest. Number 3, uuuum... Mr Watters."
"Really. You're that impressed with his answer?"
"Oh yes, his answer was a lot more than I'd expected and I think he's the man for the job. Told him so in fact!"
"Oh well, I suppose it works out. Ah.. What was the question?"
"Can you give an example of a situation where you bribed an interview panel to get a position?"
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