How Do You Assess Candidates During Interviews?

Hi all, I would like to know how do you assess your new candidates in terms of written assessment and practical assessment. Do you give them sort of a test which will be multiple choice and for practical, crimping CCTV cable and Network cable?

We are in position to recruit new candidates but we would like to set sort of a test.

Please suggest me some principles.


A lot depends on which group is hiring, but when we hire for our data team (wired/wireless networking) we will have them whiteboard network diagrams for stuff like RADIUS authentication steps, wireless device onboarding, firewall IDS steps, etc.

We're less intensive on the security team, because we're generally hiring techs with 4-5 years of experience, if they can't crimp a cable at this point... we really screwed up the interview.

I agree with a good bit of what Mr. Patton has to say; it depends on the position and the experience level I am looking for. Obviously top tier people get a more rigorous interview. I do call previous employers also.

For most, I have just a few test actually.

I talk with them to find out if they are they nice people. Being nice is like being tall; You either are or you are not.

Among other small indicators, one of my favorites is to hand them my smart phone and ask them to take a screen shot. If they can't I don't hire them. It is a small thing, but it is very telling.

Another is to ask them to list numbers. If they list the numbers left to right, I pass. If they list the numbers top to bottom, that is a positive. People who list left to right think differently than those who list top to bottom. I am a top to bottom kind of guy. I can talk to you and you understand me quickly. Left to right is not wrong, just different. We will always have problems communicating.

I like someone who asks what kind of information we will provide them; (i.e. other techs phone numbers, corporate policy, email accounts, training, etc). If they ask me, they are inquisitive and that is helpful. If they don't, they expect things to be provided to them. That is a negative.

I just went and had the 8 people currently in my office list numbers without telling them why. To keep it real, I gave everyone printer paper with no lines, and asked them to "list numbers until I came back". I have a sample that includes men, women, clerical, sales, and technical staff. Not one of them listed top to bottom. Oddly, the one who I would guess has the highest IQ listed random numbers instead of sequential integers.

Also, I would consider myself to be pretty knowledgeable, and know of several different android methods to screenshot a phone, but if you handed me an iphone the first place i would go would be safari.

I don't think any of these methods are wrong, but with any type of test like this you run the risk of missing on a great candidate due to interview jitters. I haven't figured out the perfect interview (and believe me, I have plenty of practice) but one thing I have begun to realize is that you really have just use your judgement. I used to do tool ID test, cable ID test, term test, etc. but at the end of the day just listening to what they have to say seems to work best.

Hiring is tough.

It is tough. Interesting test. 8 for 8.

I don't want to get stuck on it, and it is just one thing, but to me, a list is just that - a list. If you make a grocery list, it is generally top to bottom on the paper. To-do list are generally top to bottom. I have yet to figure out why people write numbers left to right, but they do.

Years ago I was a young tech and I was rack mounting monitors in a large console and numbering them. I started on the left at the top and left bottom was next and so on. My manager came back and could not understand how I arrived at that. To him it was top left all the way to top right, then second row, repeat.

We got along well, but never agreed on much.

Any chance you were raised in Asia? I know many asian languages can be vertically oriented :).

On the subject of different labeling schemes: I had an old timer a few years back who had a very unique panel labeling system that I didn't catch until he used it on several sites. I like to use 24 port panels, and label the ports a floor/panel/port scheme, ie 1A-1 and up. I've had a couple of run ins with bad ports on 96 port panels that steered me 24s on all but the largest jobs. My old timer tech started labeling port based on a floor/location/port scheme, where instead of the panel letters he would add the ports together, and would not relabel the panels with the new numbers. This meant that 1C-1 (3rd panel, 1st port, panels are labeled with letters) would become 1-49, which the client would have to count ports to discover. When confronted about this, he became furious about the fact that "end users are idiots who can't add". I thought his logic was crazy. but I'm sure that if I looked around long enough someone would have agreed with him, and in his mind it worked great.

Another is to ask them to list numbers. If they list the numbers left to right, I pass... We will always have problems communicating.

I've read this maybe 3, 4 times now and still don't understand why you pass but they don't.

Would you rather hire someone you can communicate to and they understand you the first time you say something or would you rather hire someone that you have to continue to explain things to over and over until they get it?

It is not a huge deal. Just something I have noticed over the years. Like I said, make a grocery list and most will use the paper top to bottom. You would think that a list of numbers (or anything else) would be the same, but it is not.

I understand what you are saying about communication but I don't think your test actually says much about how well a candidate communicates. It's just a difference in strategy/approach. If you are dismissing candidates outright because they deviate from your own list-making strategies I think you may be missing out on some potentially strong employees.

Because he's the guy that writes the checks.

For techs, I would have them demonstrate fundamentals of cable terminations. You'd think they would all know it, but you can often find techs that don't really understand what they're doing. Ask them to describe what they're doing/why they're doing it as they go. For example I'd look for techs that mention maintaining maximum twist on pairs and doing a light pull-test on terminations to ensure they are snug.

Don't go overboard on tests like asking how many grains of sand are on a beach, but find something that is a little more relevant to security. You want to assess problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Ask them to whiteboard out a system that consists of:

  • 4 1080p PoE Cameras
  • NVR with dual NICs (1 for cameras, 1 for clients)
  • 2 on-site client PCs, using Windows/thick client
  • 1 off-site client PC, using Window/thick client
  • 1 Mobile device using web interface to NVR

Ask them how they would secure the system from rogue access. Ask them to diagnose a problem where the mobile device can connect to the system but the remote PC cannot. Look for things like do they show 2 network switches (or 2 VLANs on the same switch) to support the dual networks. Look to see if they draw a router to facilitate the remote connection. Ask them to guesstimate how much bandwidth the cameras would use. Ask them to guesstimate how much storage would be needed for 14 days of continuous recording.

After the above drawing/questions are complete, as them to draw in the core components of an access control system that would be integrated with the NVR/VMS. Do they put the access devices on the "secure" net, or the IT one? Do they ask about things like "how many doors" before drawing the access control part?

Hi all thank you for all the reply's. I was evaluating all of the reply's and most of them do make sense.

I came out with something little bit basic and not to overboard.

1. Read an IP address of a PC

2. Crimp an RJ45 patch cable (straight)

3. Crimp a RG59 Coaxial Cable

4.Wire up a 3 pin plug

5. Use a multimeter for reading AC & DC Source

6. Read a resistor without using multimeter

We are interested in students which they finalized their Industrial electronics diploma and candidates who worked in similar industry with some technical back ground.

Thank You

Wire up a 3 pin plug

At the risk of failing the interview, what kind of 3 pin plug did you have in mind?

Maybe I'm different, but I think that most practical stuff, like terminations, using a DMM, and such are easily taught. What you can't teach is common sense, deduction skills, personality, and work ethics. You can't fix stupid, but you can teach a young dog a new trick.

So, I get what Mark Jones is saying. He needs to be able to give a set of tasks and have them followed his way. I totally get that. I'm not 100% sold on his numbering list as the be all, end all test, but it works for him.

I would rather take the subject out of the office and just have casual conversations with them. Being in a new office is sometimes intimidating and you might not see the real person there. Take them to an open place like a park or mall. Let them take down their guard and show who they really are.

But a really good tell tale sign is hygiene. If you stink or are dirty, I don't think I can deal with that. I don't want my clients to have to deal with that either. I once had a stinky guy that worked for me at my previous business (retail store) and I won't do it again. Take a shower before you get to work. Wear clean clothes. And deodorant is your friend. And toothpaste.

I think that most practical stuff, like terminations, using a DMM, and such are easily taught. What you can't teach is common sense, deduction skills, personality, and work ethics.

That's a good point. I am somewhere in the middle about this, as it depends on how senior the role is. This discussion seems to be more about junior techs, yes/no? In that case, I'd be more concerned about maximizing fundamentals - work ethic, personality, general intelligence, etc.

But the higher you go, the more critical it becomes that the person already has deep domain expertise, as trying to train a senior person on the basics is both very expensive and can be highly disruptive to other team members.

Deodorant, toothpaste and mouthwash. You only get one chance to make a first impression. And shower? If you won't shower for an interview what else won't you do? I do agree with the hygiene issue.

Im a believer in hiring someone that needs a little training but has a great teachable hungry attitude as compared to a person that is super intelligent but doesnt have a great work ethic or people skills. If you are hiring career type individuals I think this approach should be a no-brainer as they could be with you for years.

With that being said, even someone with a great attitude but very little tech knowledge may give you more headaches than what they are worth so you have to tread lightly finding that balance.

This is pretty basic to weed out most people I dont want, but after I look through the resume's I email the people that look of interest to me. I base alot of how and when they reply to me. The things I look for are:

  • How soon did they respond? If they take forever, it obviously means they dont want a job that bad or they just arent one of those people who check emails often. I think most people can agree that most techies check their email several times daily and if I dont hear a response usually within 2 business days then I usually move on unless they have a good explanation and state that explanation in the email of why they took so long.
  • How did they respond. How was their grammer? How was their articulation? How was their responsiveness. My thing is that these guys will be emailing my customers all day long and I want them to be as thorough and explanative as possible. If they give me some short answer or worse, one that has seriously bad grammer, then thats a stopping point for me. Emails are easy, because you have time to proofread and really think about your response, if they cant send a good email, I tend to think they are not very detail oriented.

Next I move on to a phone interview. I really dont grill them to hard here. I just want to see how they sound on the phone, that is my whole purpose because again, they will be talking to my customers on the phone all day, I want to see how they sound. I can usually tell if a person if nervous or unsmart on the phone. A nervous person seems to ramble or repeat things, yet they sound fairly smart, and depending on how well they do, I may bring them in for an interview anyways. A dumb person usually is easy to spot, they just plain sound dumb.

As far as a regular interview, I do sometimes ask those wierd interview questions, just to see if they have wit or not. Main thing I am looking for though is if they are looking to help build the business or if they are looking for a corporate style job where "the company will take care of them". I prefer the former.

I have never seen the use of the word 'unsmart' before.... but the more I say it, the more it makes me laugh.

If you don't mind, I'd like to add it to my lexicon for future use.


Absolutely, we are here to build off each other, even when it comes to wierd humour sayings.

I laughed after I saw the missing apostrophes, misspelled "grammar," and the preposition "to" instead of the adverb "too" before "hard here." Is this a test?

While a candidate's ability to speak and write clearly may be important, and I think most clients will easily overlook minor imperfections in a technician who is skillful, sincere, and helpful. I know I do.

yeah but Im not seeing you for an interview ;) I could have spell checked if I wanted to but Im too lazy to do that here However, I would have spent 2-3 minutes to do this if I was interviewing Its the people that arent willing to put forth the small amount of effort to do things that I pass by

Even then, Im not saying Im a grammar natzi by any means, but if a person sends me a response without any basic grammar skills, ya know, with no periods, then Im done

...I think most clients will easily overlook minor imperfections in a technician who is skillful, sincere, and helpful. I know I do.

But not before laughing ;)

In any service industry the "what" only half the job. The "how" is the other half. So, it's important to vet for the "how", as well, in the interview. I'm an end user but some things are universal to the service sector. Terminating cables, installing cameras, etc. are the "what", but the "how" involves communication with the employer and the client (are they checking in with the client before leaving a job?), courtesy, customer service, professional image, pride in a job well done, and so on.... I noticed reference to hygiene in a previous post. I couldn't agree more. When I interview for a staff position, I probe the person's work history and personal history, including their interests and recreation. If I see a theme of service and selflessness (service positions, volunteer work, etc.) it is likely that they are passionate about service and will represent my Security organization well. The technical aspect is certainly important, but it's important not to overlook the "soft skills".