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How NOT to interview a system administrator

How NOT to interview a system administrator

Sysadmin horror stories from the frontline

In a Reddit group for system administrators last month, a user posted a question: What's the hardest you've ever noped out of an interview?

What followed was a string of confessionals and horror stories about some truly awful interview experiences from which the authors simply ran to the hills.

Here are some of the worst.

Is this hypothetical or?

One respondent – Life_is_an_RPG – said they had gone for an interview at a small start-up for a Linux sysadmin position.

“About 10 minutes into the interview, the manager starts asking some very detailed questions about how I would troubleshoot a hardware issue. I give him my spiel on my troubleshooting methodology and then, being a PC hardware guru, I start throwing out possible solutions. The whole time, the manager is taking notes as fast as he can write. I stopped mid-sentence and ask point blank, ‘Is this a hypothetical problem with no defined answer or something you're actually experiencing?’

“Sheepishly, the manager admitted it was a problem they were currently experiencing. The system had been barely usable for weeks and they couldn't afford a technical support contract to get help from the vendor.”

After the HR person in the room fumbled for an answer about whether the position actually existed, the respondent “told them I don't work for free and left”.

Not a big believer

Redditor temproart recounted this exchange from their nightmare interview:

CTO: Yeah I'm not really a big believer in virtualisation.

CTO: *stares me down to see my reaction*

Me: *laughs nervously* hahaha you got me *laughs nervously*

CTO: Yeah, just not a fan of the performance hit.

Me: Okayyyy then...

Mike doesn’t know

Respondent Wargala described how they went to an interview with the company chief and a woman from the HR department.

“Boss is asking me a bunch of questions, and he says: ‘I'm sorry, you just don't sound like an IT Director’ (at the time I wasn't close to that). I said: ‘What are you talking about? I thought this was an interview for a sysadmin job’.

“He looks confused, so I pull out the job description from my bag, and show him. He becomes instantly red faced, and says to the HR lady: ‘This isn't the job I asked you to post. That job is for Mike who hasn't left the company yet, and doesn't know it yet’.

“The most awkward silence I've felt in an interview in decades settles in.”

I prefer Matthew

Redditor so_much_reddit_T-T posted that they have a name that is easily and commonly shortened, but that they go by the longer version.

“For this story, we’ll pretend my name is Matthew,” they wrote.

They go into the interview room and sit across the table from their recruiter, HR representative and the company IT director.

“Them: So tell us about yourself.

Me: Well I’m Matthew, and <my background here>.

IT Director: Awesome Matt! You do go by Matt right?

Me: Well honestly, I really prefer Matthew.

ITD: Well I’m going to call you Matt. If you’re going to work here, you need to learn to be flexible and live outside your comfort zone.”

‘Matthew’ was understandably not impressed.

“At that point I stood up and turned to HR and the recruiter and said: ‘I’m sorry, if my boss won’t even use the name I prefer, this isn’t the place for me. Could you kindly show me out?’ Needless to say, that was the end of that.”

C’thulu in the server room

Redditor rabid_mermaid recounted their story of getting a shock in a company’s server room.

They said they opened the door to see “C'thulu himself rising from the depths, His ethernet appendages reaching for my throatCables everywhere. Across the floor, strung up like spider webs, fraying in the middle. And from an IT company nonetheless! You couldn't walk more than two feet into the room without having to duck. They clearly just didn't give a crap.”

Money for misery

Redditor Spamburger_Hamburger told the story of an interview with a company’s CTO, IT manager and three engineers whose team they would be joining.

Those engineers “all looked miserable” they recalled.

“I always ask current employees what's their favourite thing or what they like about working there. Their answers were vague and felt forced.

“I got a tour of the offices, datacentre, and warehouse and every employee looked like they were indentured servants. It was the saddest corporate environment I'd ever been in. After the tour I told them I was no longer interested, thanked them for their time and left. No amount of money is worth being as miserable as those people looked.”

Lottery loser

Ragnarok189 described how they were once flown out to a company’s headquarters for a couple of days of meeting the team, management interviews and tours of the offices.

“At the end of the second day, the team, in front of me, draws a lottery, and the loser had to be the one to take me out to dinner that evening!”

As one Redditor summarised all the assorted tales: “TL;DR Don’t apply for an IT job.”

Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.

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Tags recruitmentITskillsjob interviewredditsystem administratorshortageskills crisissysadmin

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