Ethicacy in Telephone Interview Answers


Aka: Googling during a phone interview

This is tangentally relevant to OpenBSD, you can safely ignore it and you’re life will not have missed anything. Take the road less travelled.

Ethics and IT

We continue to have some interesting discussions at work about the ethicacy of a lot of things we get around to in IT. For example, we’re the guys that are brought on by various departments and HR to assist them in forensic type stuff which sometimes goes into trolling through peoples archives on our backup tapes (email, documents, etc.)

The generalised ‘ethos’ statement in the workplace seems to be:

if it's legal, then you do it.

But we have an abundant list of recent and current Global Events of totally unethical behaviour dressed ‘legal’ as defined by the conqueror to not be so enthralled by such simplistic misdirections.

An example Ethical Dilemma

Our ethical dilemma, within IT, for today was a phone interview I went through where purposeful trip-up questions were raised. Given time, some of the questions could possibly have been deduced, but why bother when you can easily Google/Bing to get your answer ?

Note: The field with a huge library of answers freely published online is IT (and fields where the IT crowd are fixated with, such as music, science fiction, and fantasy.)

The questions seem to have been good questions, in some manner, and definitely tripped me up because I didn’t know, but do the questions reveal comparability of skills, or abilities to search the web?

One of my univesity courses, an Accounting course, had an open book final course exam (the only one I’ve ever been in) and this was largely so students didn’t have to memorise any of the material, but if you didn’t understand the material, there wasn’t enough time to find answers and have it relevant to the problems in the exam.

Was this one of those problems ? Was my error in not asking / clarifying whether I could use [choice of favourite search engine]?

Hopefully you find the material educational in what it may be asking and how easy it is for IT personnel to find answers on the internet without having to memorise things. You still have to know your stuff to make use of the answers, but it is soo easy to find answers to IT things on the Internet these days.

Were these questions good IT questions ?

How many bits in a mac address

“Urgghhh, I don’t know. I recall when I read them in places, that they’re separated with colons, and theres something like four or more of them.”

What races through my mind: “How could I figure this out with-out Googling?”

I’m talking with the interviewer that I’m trying to figure out the answer

Wait, …, What’s the difference between using Google/Bing and dissecting the answer from getting an example MAC and manually calculating the # of bits ?

What does it reveal

Why don’t I know this ?

And that was only the first question!!! Things are definitely not looking up for my interview.

We’re in trouble and we haven’t even passed the first step.

In Linux, what is the default signal sent by kill

Urggggh, never thought of that before. I may have read it somewhere but definitely haven’t used it ‘without an explicit’ signal to ‘know’ what to expect as a default behaviour.

This one is simple enough to find from the manpage: kill(1) Straight there in the 1st Paragraph of the Description.

What does it reveal

Why don’t I know this ?

Of the ps output what is the label D for

Urgghhh, OK, this interview is seriously becoming a disaster. Haven’t really bothered with looking at the ‘labels’ except to see whether the service/app was a zombie or didn’t even execute.

This one took a little longer to find (had to page through two screens to get at the answer), but it’s right there in the ole manpage: ps(1) but look for it under the column ‘state’

What does it reveal

Why don’t I know this ?

After learning a little more about ’D’ I’m a little more pleased with my work environment than I was previously. There are some poor bastards out there who either don’t get enough resources, or a dealing with real cool problems that have these ’D’ issues.


If anything, I’m glad I’ve added to my glossary of commands, and leaves us with this lesson:

If you get a phone interview on a topic that is thoroughly covered by the Internet, clarify with the interviewer whether you’re allowed to use the Internet as a resource, and if not, are you allowed to use other resources at your finger tips (and voice search on your phone doesn’t count!!! because my phone runs an OS no one talks about.)

There may be no ethical dilemma, just the need to clarify.