Open Insights 17 – Secrets Of The Interview

Issue 17 – Secrets Of The Interview
March 1, 2006

by Sean Hull
Founder and Senior Consultant
Heavyweight Internet Group

Welcome to our free monthly newsletter, discussing news, developments and business best practices at the intersection of Oracle and Open Source software.

In This Issue:
1. Feature: How to Interview
2. Current Reading
3. Lightweight Humor
4. Past Issues
5. Technical Articles
6. About Heavyweight Internet Group

1. Feature: Secrets Of The Interview
Anthony Bourdain is a famous New York City chef, has been on various talkshows, and published a spectacularly funny expose of the restaurant business called “Kitchen Confidential”. In it he discusses a restaurant owner and purveyer from the West Village who has a longstanding reputation, and interesting nickname to boot. This quote inspired this months newsletter…

“Bigfoot understood — as I came to understand — that character is far more important than skills or employment history. And he recognized character — good and bad — brilliantly. He understood, and taught me, that a guy who shows up every day on time, never calls in sick and does what he said he was going to do is less likely to f**k you in the end than a guy who has an incredible resume but is less than reliable about arrival time. Skills can be taught. Character you either have or don’t have. Bigfoot understood that there are two types of people in the world: those who do what they say they’re going to do — and everyone else.”

Now with all the interviews you’ve either had, or given, how often are you preoccupied with specifics of skills, and distracted by the details of the project itself to forget these important essentials?

I will certainly grant you that a good foundation and skillset is important. Basic problem solving, as well as theoretical and abstract thinking are crucial for technical positions. But all the Fortune 500 experience, name dropping, and buzzwords on the resume don’t necessarily lead that way. Specific skills may be less important as they are all learnable. Furthermore there is likely a huge pool of specifics for your project which will be new and have to be learned anyway. Did the individual work their way through college, hold jobs before college, are they on-time and confident?

If you think back to projects you’ve managed in the past you’ll find, as I have in subcontracting freelancers now for over seven years, it is that the ones who are driven and determined, and can execute what they say, when they say they will who you want to work with again. Can they estimate their time to complete tasks and follow through?

So how many times has your interviewee made mistakes and gotten back up? In my experience interviews are composed of questions of one type, but inevitably what clients compliment and thank me for after a project is completed, all boil down to those things which define character.
2. Current Reading
Copy This, by Kinkos founder Paul Orfalea, and Ann Marsh
Especially prescient this month, as it connects right in with our character versus skill discussion is Copy This. It’s the story of Kinkos founder Paul Orfalea, how he started the company, how he turned his dyslexia into an asset, and how he continues to lack basic reading and writing skills (unbelievably for a fortune 500 CEO), yet through his great people skills, and really paying attention to the things that matter he managed to grow Kinkos into a household brand. I saw Paul speak six months ago at the New York Small Business Summit, and he has real charm and charisma. I became even more convinced that the real skills that matter most are those very skills that interviews so often miss.

Pro MySQL, by Michael Kruckenberg & Jay Pipes
If you’re looking to move into the MySQL space, or you manage a few of these databases, this is an excellent APress title to take a look at. It skips a lot of the basics you can get from the manuals, and digs into the meatier material. I’ll also point you to a related article I did for DBA Zine: MySQL for the Oracle DBA

Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain
Bourdain has been through the trenches. Before I read this book I had no idea that might describe the kitchens of some of New York’s finest restaurants. Yet there it is in black and white, all the crazy hours, colorful characters, and wild stories that he tells so well. This book is not for the squeamish, and it may be that many of us would rather not know!

3. Lightweight Humor
Here’s an amusing Dilbert from a few days ago. The boss is grilling Dilbert over a project that is four months behind, and he tries to pass the buck.

4. Past Issues
Issue 16: Success In Juggling
Issue 15: About Technology
Issue 14: The Tricky Database
Issue 13: Oracle Heavy Lifting
Archive: Past Issues

5. Technical Articles
Oracle9i + RAC on Linux/Firewire: click here
Migrating MySQL to Oracle: click here
MySQL Disaster Recovery: click here

6. About Heavyweight Internet Group

In a nutshell, Oracle. Everything related to and surrounding the database technology we specialize in, but specifically setup, admin and tuning of Oracle technology. I have 10 years experience with Oracle, wrote a book on the technology, and write and lecture frequently. I’m founder and senior consultant of the company. In capacities where your company might hire Deloitte, AIG, or Oracle Consulting we can bring the same level of service and experience, at about half the price. Simple equation.

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