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Domino/Notes job interview: Technical questions

This is Part I of a two-part series on how to ace a Notes/Domino job interview. This week we look at the types of technical questions Domino developers and administrators are likely to face. In two weeks, we?ll look at how researching the job description and the company ahead of time can help you optimize your answers to those questions.

With each new year comes the annual resolution to find a better job. While it has been an IT job seeker's market for several years running, landing a new position may be a bit tougher in 2001. The IT supply and demand gap will continue to favor employees, but amid economic uncertainty hiring may soften among employers.

So don't plan on winging it through your next Notes/Domino job interview; anticipate the types of technical questions an interviewer is likely to ask and think through a range of potential answers that will highlight your previous experience.

In screening Notes developers, interviewers "are looking to see how well you solve problems and your depth of knowledge about Domino development," says Jasmeet Aiden, a Notes developer who is currently on the job market. In that context, expect questions designed to illicit your approach to development conundrums. Some of the tougher questions Aiden has been asked in recent interviews are: How do you get a value from an array and parse it into a Notes document? Can you set cookies through a LotusScript agent? If a database is not full-text, how would you build a search mechanism using Domino?

"I try to translate my own experience and what I?ve done and how that solved a problem for my company," Aiden says. If a technical question comes up that he doesn't know the answer to, he tries to break the problem down into parts or describes a similar problem he had in the past and how he solved it.

Administrators also should be ready for hypothetical questions as interviewers try to uncover your troubleshooting skills, says Yssa Bobrow, vice president of information technology at Blue C, a New York-based Ecommerce consulting firm. Bobrow says she usually asks a vague question that to answer properly would require more information. She wants to see if the candidate will ask follow-up questions, and how far they'll go to come up with a solution.

For example, Bobrow would pose this situation: "We have a Notes server on the West Coast and have to route Email to the East Coast. We have WAN connectivity, but not LAN connectivity, and our T1 line goes down for two days. How would you get Email to work during those two days?"

"That's a hard question because it involves database servers, security, and WAN and email issues," she says. "You can't answer it without asking a series of at least five questions about resources and configuration. I want to see how they process information. How well do they do fact-finding? Are they going to give up or will they work it through?"

Keep in mind that besides looking for sound technical answers, interviewers are also looking for clues to your personality and work ethic in how you respond to a question. If you don?t know the answer, be honest. Try to ask follow-up questions that might help you arrive at an answer. Just don't fake it, Bobrow advises: "If an administrator thinks they know everything or is afraid to show that they don't, then they can't learn."

"I don't want someone with an attitude," Bobrow says, adding that there's a difference between confidence in your skills and condescension. "I don't want someone who will talk down to users."

Leslie Goff is a contributing writer based in New York.

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