Comment On The Receptionist Test

"When you work in computing services for a university, you spend about as much time on high-minded development as you do un-jamming printers and resetting passwords for faculty," Ed G. writes. "It's not ideal, but it's a living." It was time to get some new staff, and after being burned by some previous employees that could talk the talk, but not walk the walk, they devised a new litmus test for potential hires, called "The Receptionist Test." [expand full text]
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Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:03 • by Raiko
We should use this at my college.

Pure enervy?

2008-10-22 11:05 • by anonymous_coder() (unregistered)
Hmm. Converting your body to enervy. e-nervy.

The mind boggles.

Whoops, typo fixed! -Ed.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:10 • by LuckiNite (unregistered)
Unfortunately, this test (or something similar) is needed for many jobs.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:11 • by mp (unregistered)
The real WTF is that they interviewed the candidates after those receptionist tests.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:12 • by zip (unregistered)
I can't wait for someone to explain how real developers don't need to have the common sense to check that a printer is on, and how they'd walk out of the interview if you tried this on them.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:14 • by campkev
Sounds like a job interview I had. I walked in and the guy immediately walked me into a room where there was a table with a completely dissassembled (as in case open, ram, processor, IDE cables, etc sitting next to it, not as in keyboard mouse and monitor not plugged in) computer. "Make that work, I'll be back in 20 minutes" Despite being the only one of the 5 candidates that day without on A+ cert, I was the only one who got it working. Interviewer said the other guys didn't even come close.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:16 • by phleabo (unregistered)
I like how you managed to fit in the Linux bigot stereotype. Very subtle.

I think the real WTF is that this story is largely fictional.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:17 • by frustrati (unregistered)
224115 in reply to 224109
zip:
I can't wait for someone to explain how real developers don't need to have the common sense to check that a printer is on, and how they'd walk out of the interview if you tried this on them.
I like the idea behind the test and it works well for a job that entails support, as the poster mentioned.

I suppose it does reveal the candidate's problem solving skills regardless. I like the "just download and install Ubuntu" one. Now you have <insert huge number> problems.

In fact, now that I think about it, this test would work well for any tech job. Great idea!

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:18 • by tim (unregistered)
Coming here and reading these makes me feel more confident about my ability to get a job when I graduate

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:20 • by Leo (unregistered)
224117 in reply to 224112
campkev:
Sounds like a job interview I had. I walked in and the guy immediately walked me into a room where there was a table with a completely dissassembled (as in case open, ram, processor, IDE cables, etc sitting next to it, not as in keyboard mouse and monitor not plugged in) computer. "Make that work, I'll be back in 20 minutes" Despite being the only one of the 5 candidates that day without on A+ cert, I was the only one who got it working. Interviewer said the other guys didn't even come close.


Was there anything wrong with it, or was it just assembling the parts together? Doesn't speak well of the A+ cert, either way.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:21 • by shepd
Why is it these applicants even make it there?

Oh, I forgot. Like most places, I'm guessing the hiring (okay, resume review) process is based on how many degrees the person has, how many languages/operating systems/insert-unrelated-thing-here they've worked on, and how long they were in their last job, rather than the basic items the job actually requires; such as, in this case "Can work with a computer running windows properly".

It's sad, but I rarely get to the interview stage from a resume application. It's because my resume doesn't look like a million bucks (It's not *bad* per se, it's just I didn't complete post-secondary, I owned my own store and I tried a new career; it seems HR considers these "risks", or so I'm guessing--colleagues and managers consider them perks, though, once they realize how valuable outside experience is). However, every single interview I've ever had has resulted in a job offer. Although, I usually need to apply to a few dozen jobs to get an interview. Oh well, at least I'm in a job that keeps my happy now! But it was rough getting here!

(And yes, I've had lots of people review my resume. Even people "trained" to check resumes over. They think it's okay, although they'd wish I'd embellish to the point I'm actually just out and out lying. It's my unwillingness to flat out lie [unlike the candidates you got] that's the issue.)

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:22 • by Troy (unregistered)
I've used Ubuntu, it's pretty lame;
I had to have ink, paper, AND power to print!

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:24 • by snoofle
Jake:
His solution? Hit Control+P harder

Well, you know us Americans; if someone/thing doesn't understand us, we just speak slower and louder!

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:24 • by Jay (unregistered)
I just want to say, fictional or not... the Tales from The Interview stories are always my favorite.

Did anyone else think of Nick Burns when the guy kept trying to get it to print. "Just hit Apple-P and it will print... GAH!"

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:29 • by Milton Waddams (unregistered)
Damn write-protect tabs!! I hated those things!

captcha: genitus
I think that's plural for genitals. Or maybe singular for genitals.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:29 • by K&T (unregistered)
224125 in reply to 224120
snoofle:
Well, you know us Americans; if someone/thing doesn't understand us, we just speak slower and louder!


Yes, and the French method would be to write the computer off as worthless and wax on about how Computers should know french.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:35 • by Dave (unregistered)
224126 in reply to 224109
zip:
I can't wait for someone to explain how real developers don't need to have the common sense to check that a printer is on, and how they'd walk out of the interview if you tried this on them.


Thats IT's job..as long as I can failover onto one of the other printers in the cluster why should I care? :D

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:36 • by Nick (unregistered)
I'm having some trouble reading this WTF.

Wait...
<switch monitor on>
that's better!

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:37 • by Endo808 (unregistered)
224128 in reply to 224125
K&T:
snoofle:
Well, you know us Americans; if someone/thing doesn't understand us, we just speak slower and louder!


Yes, and the French method would be to write the computer off as worthless and wax on about how Computers should know french.


To be fair I'd write off some slow speaking, loud shouting american as worthless too. You'll find the french perfectly helpful if you talk to them like people instead of retards.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:40 • by dave n (unregistered)
224129 in reply to 224112
Funnily enough I got my first IT job via an interview with a test like this.
2 of us interviewed for an entry level support position, via a back to work scheme.
Other guy had experience in office apps, could hack up a decent spreadsheet in excel that looked pretty enough, but id he check the power cable on the desktop pc?

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:42 • by derula
224131 in reply to 224125
K&T:
snoofle:
Well, you know us Americans; if someone/thing doesn't understand us, we just speak slower and louder!


Yes, and the French method would be to write the computer off as worthless and wax on about how Computers should know french.


Okay just that you're happy, the German method would be to concentrate the ones we don't understand in camps telling everyone else they were evil while secretly killing them.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:43 • by snoofle
224132 in reply to 224128
Endo808:
K&T:
snoofle:
Well, you know us Americans; if someone/thing doesn't understand us, we just speak slower and louder!


Yes, and the French method would be to write the computer off as worthless and wax on about how Computers should know french.


To be fair I'd write off some slow speaking, loud shouting american as worthless too. You'll find the french perfectly helpful if you talk to them like people instead of retards.

Having been to both Montreal and Paris, I'd have to say that in Canada, I got more politeness by attempting (and failing) to speak French than trying to get by with English, whereas in Paris, I got far more politeness by just sticking with English than trying to speak French (I only know a few words).

I guess it depends on the day and the place...

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:46 • by mauhiz (unregistered)
Well basic support is the main dish of every tech support, I remember a client complaining his speakers did not work and she had not connected them to the computer.

If this WTF is true, I'm amazed how many candidates can fail such a basic test. I mean, the fact they apply to a tech support job implies they ought to be ready in their mind to do that kind of work. I'd never consider working in a position I don't even know the basics of. (Unless the boss is real hot, or the pay is real high, well I'll say I'd consider in some cases...)

captcha : haero (someone who plays gauitar?)

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:50 • by brodie
224137 in reply to 224114
phleabo:
I like how you managed to fit in the Linux bigot stereotype. Very subtle.

I think the real WTF is that this story is largely fictional.

Do you have some inside knowledge about this story to back up that assertation? Or is this just a case of "gut feeling"?

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:51 • by incognito (unregistered)
Wait...I'm having trouble placing the time period - what with the talk of Ubuntu and Wikipedia. The PC still had a floppy drive???? Honestly - do you think an 18 year old kid has grown up with a floppy drive at all?

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:53 • by Zecc
224140 in reply to 224132
snoofle:
I guess it depends on the day and the place...

Well, I guess it depends on whether they care if your insulting their language or not.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:56 • by DaveAronson
Hello, tech support? I'm having trouble writing a comment, could you come take a look at it?

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 11:58 • by mauve (unregistered)
Ubuntu: making Linux accessible to morons since 2004.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:00 • by Just Some Guy (unregistered)
224145 in reply to 224112
campkev:
Sounds like a job interview I had. I walked in and the guy immediately walked me into a room where there was a table with a completely dissassembled (as in case open, ram, processor, IDE cables, etc sitting next to it, not as in keyboard mouse and monitor not plugged in) computer. "Make that work, I'll be back in 20 minutes" Despite being the only one of the 5 candidates that day without on A+ cert, I was the only one who got it working. Interviewer said the other guys didn't even come close.


That's one way to save on labor expenses.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:02 • by iToad (unregistered)
Some of the smarter companies take management candidates out to dinner, and then arrange for the restaurant to make a small error in the candidate's order. If he flies into a screaming rage, he doesn't get the job.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:03 • by bd (unregistered)
224147 in reply to 224141
DaveAronson:
Hello, tech support? I'm having trouble writing a comment, could you come take a look at it?
Have you tried turning it off and on again?

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:06 • by Osno (unregistered)
Did anyone at all pass the test? I mean, when I am at a job interview, I try to make as little eye contact as possible with anyone not interviewing me. If you go solve the problems that people are actually being payed to solve (and with no context at all), you may end up looking like a showoff.

I once had an interviewee who stormed in the middle of a discussion and made a very obvious suggestion not because he wasn't smart, but because he didn't know what was being discussed. I showed him the door mainly because of that.

I would gently suggest that she call IT, but nothing more.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:06 • by Kl4m
224149 in reply to 224132
snoofle:

Having been to both Montreal and Paris, I'd have to say that in Canada, I got more politeness by attempting (and failing) to speak French than trying to get by with English, whereas in Paris, I got far more politeness by just sticking with English than trying to speak French (I only know a few words).


That's because of "particular" relations between english and french people in the province of Quebec, particularly in Montreal.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:07 • by Neil (unregistered)
I think the biggest WTF is that they were using floppy disks in the same timeframe that someone could use Wikipedia and download Ubuntu.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:09 • by Satanicpuppy
224151 in reply to 224138
incognito:
Wait...I'm having trouble placing the time period - what with the talk of Ubuntu and Wikipedia. The PC still had a floppy drive???? Honestly - do you think an 18 year old kid has grown up with a floppy drive at all?


I can understand screwing up the dead tech: a write protect tab? How quaint.

But step one (assuming you didn't immediately think write protect tab) should have been to try another disk, to see if it was a drive problem or a disk problem, not to spend 10 minutes blowing on it. That shows a fundamental lack of understanding: magnetic media doesn't have dust-related errors of that sort.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:19 • by BobB
I had a similar test when I was applying for a city job involving repair/maint of their desktop PCs. They brought me to a PC that would boot, but nothing displayed on screen. I checked the power cord on the monitor, it was loose. Plugged it back in. PC booted up with display. Total time, 10seconds.

Didn't get the job, but not sure I would have wanted it. Got another one so I wasn't too heart broken.

I will still fix a PC for friends, but I gave up doing anything like that on a professional level or as a moonlighting attempt. People will break something else totally independent of what was fixed, hand it back to you and expect it to be fixed for free since 'you touched it last'. "My internet doesn't work anymore and you hooked my CD drive in last week, so fix it for free, since you touched it last!"

Things like that made me want to piss all over their keyboards and take a dump in their printer trays. Not that I had thought the scenario through or anything.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:20 • by SomeCoder (unregistered)
224153 in reply to 224148
Osno:
Did anyone at all pass the test? I mean, when I am at a job interview, I try to make as little eye contact as possible with anyone not interviewing me. If you go solve the problems that people are actually being payed to solve (and with no context at all), you may end up looking like a showoff.

I once had an interviewee who stormed in the middle of a discussion and made a very obvious suggestion not because he wasn't smart, but because he didn't know what was being discussed. I showed him the door mainly because of that.

I would gently suggest that she call IT, but nothing more.


Yeah, while I like this idea for an interview test, I don't think I would really even take it. I could probably pass it, but, as this poster said, I'd probably just suggest she call IT and let them look at her computer.

It's a good test, for sure, and these people in the story are obviously morons but what would you do if a candidate just said "oh well, better check with IT?" rather than offer to help?

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:25 • by Dave (unregistered)
224156 in reply to 224132
Paris is hardly representative, FWIW my gf spent a year in france (Rennes) and I found the french obnoxious no matter what language you spoke to them in.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:26 • by Aleks (unregistered)
224157 in reply to 224109
zip:
I can't wait for someone to explain how real developers don't need to have the common sense to check that a printer is on, and how they'd walk out of the interview if you tried this on them.


But of course! That is a hardware problem. Assuming you are thinking of real software developers. Remember how many of them are needed to change a light bulb?

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:27 • by justin (unregistered)
224158 in reply to 224112
I think it would have been great had you assembled it, put a bios password on it, and walked out with a note saying, break this, ill be back in 20 minutes

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:28 • by DaveyDaveDave
224159 in reply to 224153
SomeCoder:
Osno:
Did anyone at all pass the test? I mean, when I am at a job interview, I try to make as little eye contact as possible with anyone not interviewing me. If you go solve the problems that people are actually being payed to solve (and with no context at all), you may end up looking like a showoff.

I once had an interviewee who stormed in the middle of a discussion and made a very obvious suggestion not because he wasn't smart, but because he didn't know what was being discussed. I showed him the door mainly because of that.

I would gently suggest that she call IT, but nothing more.


Yeah, while I like this idea for an interview test, I don't think I would really even take it. I could probably pass it, but, as this poster said, I'd probably just suggest she call IT and let them look at her computer.

It's a good test, for sure, and these people in the story are obviously morons but what would you do if a candidate just said "oh well, better check with IT?" rather than offer to help?


Personally - I'd think, 'what an unfriendly, unhelpful person, I wouldn't want to work with him/her'.

It's very true that you can tell an awful lot about a person from how he/she talks to the receptionist (or waiter, porter, other service staff).

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:29 • by Kermos
Finally, there was Bob. Bob's task was another easy one. The receptionist had a file that lacked an extension. She even offered some help, saying that she had opened it before in Word. Bob took over the keyboard, right-clicked on the file, and quietly said to himself "Type of file: file? Wha...?" Whatever the problem she was experiencing, he had the skills to identify the meta-problem. "Yeah, this is pretty frustrating for you, isn't it?" She nodded in agreement. "Windows sucks and Microsoft sucks. You'd never have this problem if you were on Ubuntu. In fact..." he continued on a six-minute spiel about how much better Ubuntu is. When he finished his lecture, he had her go to the Ubuntu site. "Go to the downloads section and get Obnoxious Orangutan." This is when the interviewer stepped into the room, so he helpfully added, "It should take a while to download, but I'll come back after my interview to walk you through the installation!"


While I agree that he couldn't have picked a worse solution to a very simple problem, the guy wasn't completely without a valid point.

Windows' dependency on arbitrary file extensions to decide what to do with a file and by default hide known extensions is a major WTF. That's after all where spammers success with postcard.gif.exe comes from.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:30 • by rbonvall
They should have hired the recepcionist for the position.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:30 • by Anon (unregistered)
To be fair, the keyboard language thing is a bit tricky. It's not something you expect to see suddenly change by itself. If the receptionist's keyboard was happily typing in English the day before, why would it suddenly be set to French?

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:30 • by Zero (unregistered)
224163 in reply to 224132
snoofle:
Having been to both Montreal and Paris, I'd have to say that in Canada, I got more politeness by attempting (and failing) to speak French than trying to get by with English, whereas in Paris, I got far more politeness by just sticking with English than trying to speak French (I only know a few words).

I guess it depends on the day and the place...
The difference is that the Canadians are proud they speak French whereas the Parisians are proud they speak French.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:32 • by SomeCoder (unregistered)
224164 in reply to 224159
DaveyDaveDave:
SomeCoder:
Osno:
Did anyone at all pass the test? I mean, when I am at a job interview, I try to make as little eye contact as possible with anyone not interviewing me. If you go solve the problems that people are actually being payed to solve (and with no context at all), you may end up looking like a showoff.

I once had an interviewee who stormed in the middle of a discussion and made a very obvious suggestion not because he wasn't smart, but because he didn't know what was being discussed. I showed him the door mainly because of that.

I would gently suggest that she call IT, but nothing more.


Yeah, while I like this idea for an interview test, I don't think I would really even take it. I could probably pass it, but, as this poster said, I'd probably just suggest she call IT and let them look at her computer.

It's a good test, for sure, and these people in the story are obviously morons but what would you do if a candidate just said "oh well, better check with IT?" rather than offer to help?


Personally - I'd think, 'what an unfriendly, unhelpful person, I wouldn't want to work with him/her'.

It's very true that you can tell an awful lot about a person from how he/she talks to the receptionist (or waiter, porter, other service staff).


That's a pretty terrible assumption to make. You would assume that the guy, nervous as hell, coming in for an interview would immediately jump to his feet to fix a receptionists computer while not being paid for it and having no prior knowledge to how their network, IT, etc. works?

Again, I like this test, but it has some flaws. I really liked the test that someone posted about having the computer lying in pieces on the ground and said "fix this" though.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:33 • by rumpelstiltskin (unregistered)
224165 in reply to 224109
zip:
I can't wait for someone to explain how real developers don't need to have the common sense to check that a printer is on, and how they'd walk out of the interview if you tried this on them.


I would help the receptionist out of hornyness if she were hot, but if I had any reason what-so-ever to believe it was part of the interview, and that was actually work I'd be expected to do, I'd tell them to get corned.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:34 • by Mr B
224166 in reply to 224148
Osno:
Did anyone at all pass the test? I mean, when I am at a job interview, I try to make as little eye contact as possible with anyone not interviewing me. If you go solve the problems that people are actually being payed to solve (and with no context at all), you may end up looking like a showoff.

I once had an interviewee who stormed in the middle of a discussion and made a very obvious suggestion not because he wasn't smart, but because he didn't know what was being discussed. I showed him the door mainly because of that.

I would gently suggest that she call IT, but nothing more.


I stormed in the middle of a discussion once.

In another one I winded, and then drizzled everywhere, much to everyone's consternation.

I think it's a perfectly valid test. If you're content to do your job, only your job, and nothing else, then you're not the sort of person I'd hire, certainly.

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:35 • by xtremezone
224167 in reply to 224143
mauve:
Ubuntu: making Linux accessible to morons since 2004.

Seconded. :D

Re: The Receptionist Test

2008-10-22 12:35 • by Kluge Doctor (unregistered)
224168 in reply to 224131
derula:
K&T:
snoofle:
Well, you know us Americans; if someone/thing doesn't understand us, we just speak slower and louder!


Yes, and the French method would be to write the computer off as worthless and wax on about how Computers should know french.


Okay just that you're happy, the German method would be to concentrate the ones we don't understand in camps telling everyone else they were evil while secretly killing them.


I was born an American citizen, but I have a German heritage, and I'm also fluent in French. I don't know which part of myself to hate.

And, for the record, I think the German insult was (a bit) over the line. It's more Third Reich, than German.
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