10 questions for Bit9 CTO Harry Sverdlove

By , IDG News Service |  Software

7. What are some of your favorite interview questions or techniques to elicit information to determine whether a candidate will be successful at your company? What sort of answers send up red flags for you and make you think a job candidate wouldn't be a good fit?

I ask people to describe problems that they have solved, and how they solved them. Also, I'll come up with problems, and then ask candidates how they would solve them. With engineers, you'll often get different levels of response. Most of the technical challenges we face can be solved with simple, easy-to-solve approaches. If a candidate comes back with complex theories, then red flags go up for me. But if a candidate comes back with common-sense answers to potentially complex questions, that's a big plus.

I think it's more effective to focus specifically on the things they've actually done and not just theoretical answers. What's really telling is when I ask someone what problems they had in the past and how they dealt with them.

The other question I like to ask people is to name the worst co-worker or boss they've worked with and why.

The reason I ask that is because we all work for different characters, so I'm not looking for who that person is, but I want to see how animated they get as they answer. It tells me if they have a negative or positive outlook on their career. It's like asking a date about an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend that they've had. If they get very animated, and they talk for a long time that might say that maybe they've spent a little too much time thinking about the negative aspects.

8. What is it about your current job, at this particular company, that sets it apart from other chief technology positions?

We're in one of the spaces that is moving and evolving at a faster speed than any other company for which I've worked. The security market is changing faster than I've ever seen. The technology is changing faster than ever before, but also the threat landscape is changing faster than ever before. Until recently, no one had heard of Anonymous or hacktivism. There is also the idea of nation states carrying out wide-scale cyber-espionage. Just a few years back, this wasn't talked about outside of government agencies. Now, you can't pick up a newspaper without reading about some data breach traced back to China or some other country. We're also now seeing the early rumblings of cyberwar and cyberterrorism -- Stuxnet, a cyberattack on Iran's nuclear capabilities, just happened two years ago.

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