Language barrier, redefined

This pilot fish is doing phone screening for a Linux sysadmin position, but the resume for one of the candidates HR has sent him seems, well, a little off.

"There was the extensive experience in this and that area," says fish. "Twenty-plus years as an enterprise-level architect. Expert knowledge in alphabet soup."

But an HR-approved candidate's a candidate, and fish proceeds to the phone interview.

Fish: OK, on your resume you list a bunch of operating systems. Since we're interviewing for a Linux admin, what's your favorite distribution and why?

Candidate: "It said right in the resume. I'll repeat it again: HP-UX, Windows 2008, Solaris, CentOS, Red Hat, BSD, OS X, AIX, Fedora Core, HP-UX..."

Hmm, fish thinks, only three of those are Linux. But he continues: So out of these, which Linux distro do you use most?

Candidate: "Red Hat." Why? "I don't know."

Fish: OK, what are the runlevels?

Candidate: "0 is reboot, 1 is multiuser mode, 2 is graphical mode." What about 4? "That's multiuser with graphical." How about 6? "I don't know."

Fish knows the runlevels can vary between Linux distributions, but runlevel 0 is always halt, and runlevel 6 is always reboot. This is looking less likely by the minute.

Still, he tries again, this time with an easy one: What's the PID of the init process?

Candidate: "What? Please repeat the question."

Fish: Sure. What's the process ID of the init process?

Candidate: "Is that the same thing as init.d?"

Fish: Yes, right.

Candidate: "I don't know."

Fish presses on: What are several ways of telling the current running kernel?

Candidate: "uname -r" And another way? "rpm -r kernel" How about another way? "I gave you two already, what more do you want?"

Fish: There are at least eight ways I know.

Candidate: "I don't know!"

"He said it even louder and meaner this time, as if I owed him money," fish says. "I told him, 'I have no more questions. Do you have any questions for me?' He said, 'You have a language barrier. I can't understand you. I want another interviewer.'

"The manager was in the same room. He put the mute on, and we both couldn't stop laughing. The door to the office wasn't fully shut, and most of our team could hear the candidate's many I don't knows. The manager was still in disaster recovery mode when I went home."

All Sharky wants to know is, when will you send your true tale of IT life to me at sharky@computerworld.com? I'll file off the identifying marks, and you'll get a stylish Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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