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Would You Buy a Book on How to Screen IT Job Candidates?

By  Jan 20, 2010

Topics: Other IT Certifications

Hi there. Although this post is aimed primarily at IT recruiters, human resource personnel, and IT hiring managers, I believe that job candidates can also obtain helpful information from this post as well as provide valuable feedback for our subject at hand.

My question for you today is simply this: Would you purchase a book whose purpose is to help IT hiring managers to accurately screen job candidates’ practical skill levels?

More than a few companies have been ‘bitten’ by hiring IT candidates based upon their stated technology expertise rather than upon what the candidate actually knows/knows how to do. Although any firm worth its salt will perform (at the very least) a ‘technical interview’ to assess the candidate’s actual skill level, I know from personal experience in the field that many companies either (a) don’t have the expertise on hand who have enough time to devote to such a task; and/or (b) don’t even know where to begin as far as assessing real-world technical competency is concerned.

The Idea

The book idea I am pitching to you today would contain a series of question/answer combinations in a variety of information technology disciplines, including the following:

  • Windows system administration
  • Cisco router and switch administration
  • Microsoft Exchange Server administration
  • PC hardware repair
  • Network support
  • Web development

I envision presenting 5-10 questions from each of three skill levels for each technology: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. The questions would be designed not so much to test the candidate’s knowledge of underlying theory (although we would both agree, I’m sure, that theoretical understanding is important), but to evaluate the candidate's practical technical knowledge.

In short, the purpose of this book is to separate folks who accurately represent their skills on their résumés from those who do so inaccurately and dishonestly.

Here is an example question/answer from the “Cisco Router and Switch Administration” category, Beginner level:

Q: On a Cisco router, how do you enter privileged EXEC mode?

A: Type enable or en from the Cisco IOS prompt.

As simple as the previous question is, it covers quite a bit of ground:

  • Does the candidate know what “privileged EXEC mode” means?
  • Does the candidate know the proper command(s)?
  • Does the candidate know the purpose of privileged EXEC mode?

Devil’s Advocate

If you are of the crafty sort, you might be thinking to yourself, “What would prevent IT job candidates from purchasing the book and simply memorizing answers before attending a technical interview?” To this question I offer the following responses:

The truth will out. If a job candidate is desperate enough to try this cheap shortcut to get hired, then it is only a matter of time before his or her incompetence is revealed (before hire date, preferably).

Extension questions. The book proposal I am presenting to you today involves the notion of extension questions, which function as ‘add-ons’ to existing questions. For example, in the previous question pertaining to the Cisco IOS, some extension topics that the interviewer might cover include the following:

  • Brief description of the operating modes of a Cisco router
  • How one would obtain a privileged EXEC mode session on a remote router

Please feel free to leave as much feedback on this topic as you’d like in the comments portion of this post. I look forward to communicating with you!