Are technical phone interviews pointless?

  • Sean Lange

    SSC Guru

    Points: 286402

    Alvin Ramard (7/22/2015)


    Lynn Pettis (7/21/2015)


    Stephanie Giovannini (7/21/2015)


    Lynn Pettis (7/21/2015)


    Stephanie Giovannini (7/21/2015)


    Sean Lange (7/21/2015)


    If this is a sql job, which I assume it is, just ask them for any built in function to get the current datetime. If they hesitate more than a second or two the interview is over. Anybody looking for a job in sql should be able to answer that without any hint of hesitation. And from what I hear from a number of people around here is the ability to answer that is shockingly rare.

    All of them answer that. But remember that they are on the phone and I have no idea what they are doing at the computer while I ask this question.

    If they are giving you answers from the Internet, it has to be obvious in the delay it takes for them to answer. Again, I have been on several of these, including on while still in Afghanistan. If I had tried to use the internet on any of those interviews to help answer questions I am sure that I would not have finished any of the interviews. There is no way I could Google/Bing a question quickly enough to make it appear I knew what I was talking about on the phone.

    Usually the delay is obvious. One interviewee pretended that the call dropped while she Googled. After a long series of "ums" the sound stopped while the call stayed active. After I hung up and called her back, she had a complete and perfectly phrased answer to the question I'd asked.

    But there are some that answer questions without delay that sound like a textbook. Maybe they have a textbook open? Maybe they have memorized a textbook? How many people can quote the textbook definitions of 1NF, 2NF and 3NF from memory in complete sentences? There was no delay on that particular answer, but it was definitely not in the interviewee's own words.

    The key (1nf), the whole key (2nf), and nothing but the key (3nf). That's my answer. It has been too long since I graduated college that I really couldn't give you a full definition since I haven't had to explain this to anyone. I'd have to look it up to give a better description, but I wouldn't quote what I read to re-familiarize myself with the definition.

    Now you're going to make me look them up.

    I have no problem designing a database that is in the 3rd normal form, but don't ask me to give you the definition of 1nf, 2nf, or 3nf.

    Well, maybe in a few minutes you can. 😀

    I agree with that Alvin. I would really stumble over providing a definition. 1NF is fairly easy but 2NF is a bit more challenging when the textbook definition was studied so long ago.

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  • Gail Shaw

    SSC Guru

    Points: 1004424

    To be in 2nd normal form a table must be in 1st normal form and no non-key attribute may depend on part of the candidate key.

    Gail Shaw
    Microsoft Certified Master: SQL Server, MVP, M.Sc (Comp Sci)
    SQL In The Wild: Discussions on DB performance with occasional diversions into recoverability

    We walk in the dark places no others will enter
    We stand on the bridge and no one may pass
  • dweil

    SSCrazy

    Points: 2408

    Who really cares if they are looking up the answer on the internet. The idea is to see how they would approach /solve a particular problem/solution. If they look it up on the internet and get it right, why not. Nobody has all the answers in their head but we all need the ability to quickly find the relevant technical information. The inherent difficulty with a phone interview is trying to assess how the potential employee would apply the response they gave back.

  • SQLRNNR

    SSC Guru

    Points: 281210

    dweil (7/23/2015)


    Who really cares if they are looking up the answer on the internet. The idea is to see how they would approach /solve a particular problem/solution. If they look it up on the internet and get it right, why not. Nobody has all the answers in their head but we all need the ability to quickly find the relevant technical information. The inherent difficulty with a phone interview is trying to assess how the potential employee would apply the response they gave back.

    One should care because it goes to integrity.

    If you don't know an answer, don't lie by giving the impression you do know the answer (hence looking it up on the internet). Just admit you don't know the answer. And then at least tell them you know how to find the answer.

    If you cheat on a test, where else will you cheat while doing your job? How well can you be trusted to handle the confidential HR data or client personal data?

    Jason...AKA CirqueDeSQLeil
    _______________________________________________
    I have given a name to my pain...MCM SQL Server, MVP
    SQL RNNR
    Posting Performance Based Questions - Gail Shaw[/url]
    Learn Extended Events

  • WayneS

    SSC Guru

    Points: 95339

    SQLRNNR (7/23/2015)


    dweil (7/23/2015)


    Who really cares if they are looking up the answer on the internet. The idea is to see how they would approach /solve a particular problem/solution. If they look it up on the internet and get it right, why not. Nobody has all the answers in their head but we all need the ability to quickly find the relevant technical information. The inherent difficulty with a phone interview is trying to assess how the potential employee would apply the response they gave back.

    One should care because it goes to integrity.

    If you don't know an answer, don't lie by giving the impression you do know the answer (hence looking it up on the internet). Just admit you don't know the answer. And then at least tell them you know how to find the answer.

    If you cheat on a test, where else will you cheat while doing your job? How well can you be trusted to handle the confidential HR data or client personal data?

    +1000000

    Wayne
    Microsoft Certified Master: SQL Server 2008
    Author - SQL Server T-SQL Recipes[/url]


    If you can't explain to another person how the code that you're copying from the internet works, then DON'T USE IT on a production system! After all, you will be the one supporting it!
    Links: For better assistance in answering your questions[/url], How to ask a question, Performance Problems[/url], Common date/time routines,
    CROSS-TABS and PIVOT tables Part 1[/url] & [url url=http://www

  • Lynn Pettis

    SSC Guru

    Points: 442116

    WayneS (7/23/2015)


    SQLRNNR (7/23/2015)


    dweil (7/23/2015)


    Who really cares if they are looking up the answer on the internet. The idea is to see how they would approach /solve a particular problem/solution. If they look it up on the internet and get it right, why not. Nobody has all the answers in their head but we all need the ability to quickly find the relevant technical information. The inherent difficulty with a phone interview is trying to assess how the potential employee would apply the response they gave back.

    One should care because it goes to integrity.

    If you don't know an answer, don't lie by giving the impression you do know the answer (hence looking it up on the internet). Just admit you don't know the answer. And then at least tell them you know how to find the answer.

    If you cheat on a test, where else will you cheat while doing your job? How well can you be trusted to handle the confidential HR data or client personal data?

    +1000000

    I have to agree. I was asked during a telephone interview about the different DBCC commands I'd use to identify/solve a database problem including syntax. Told them I'd have to look them up in Books Online as I didn't have the DBCC commands memorized and didn't use them so often that I'd remember them anyways.

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