Friday, November 9, 2007


It's a rare candidate who's not filled with trepidation at the thought of the interview situation. Being bombarded with questions, with what seems like your whole future on the line is no fun in anyone's (except a demented masochist's) book. But the good news is that with a little practice and lots of preparation you can turn interviews into altogether more manageable experiences AND have a good chance of success. The guide below will help to show you how. Print it out for reference if you like.


If the idea of being interviewed rates with having your teeth extracted (without anaesthetic), try to bear in mind the following points:
  1. The employer has seen your CV and covering letter and wants to know more. You have got further than many others, and now have good odds for success.

  2. Employers do want to employ someone- you could be just what they're looking for.

  3. As with exams, the more preparation you can do, the better you'll feel on the day.

  4. Interviews are two way streets. You can take some control over the course of the interview, as we'll be explaining below.

  5. Interviewers are human too!
Now that you can face thinking about it, it's a good time to consider the purpose of an interview. For you, it's a vital opportunity to show the employer that you are right for the job and to get a feel for the company you are seeking to join. The interviewer will be using the interview to:

  • verify the accuracy of your CV and delve deeper into the information you gave
  • evaluate your verbal and interpersonal skills
  • establish the relevance of your experience and achievements
  • see how you respond in the situation
  • give you information about the position
  • determine salary requirements The best interviews leave both candidate and interviewer clear and satisfied about what each has to offer.
You must spend time preparing in order to maximise your impact in the interview. Lack of preparation will leave you at a distinct disadvantage.

The best candidates present themselves as interested and well informed. Think about information you should know:

  • the nature of the job

  • the company's products and / or services

  • the position of the company within the industry

  • any changes or restructuring it has undergone

Your careers service is a good starting point for information. Also you can ring the company itself for additional information.

The interviewer will need to find out more about you to be able to decide if you're the right candidate for the job. They will therefore be asking you lots of pertinent questions. Some of them may be tough to answer so be prepared.

Review your CV -

  • Check it's complete and consistent- if there are any gaps make sure you have a good explanation for them.

  • Run through your list of skills, experience, etc and work out why they are particularly useful to this employer.

Anticipate some possible tough questions, or areas they might concentrate on. Prepare convincing answers to standard interview questions such as:

  1. Why are you interested in a career in...?

  2. Why did you apply to this firm...?

  3. Why did you choose a degree in...?

  4. What skills do you possess that would be useful for a career in...?

  5. What do you think are your strengths and weaknesses...?

  6. Tell me about your work experience in...?

Knowing what answers you could give to questions such as these will make you much less likely to panic and much more likely to give good answers.

The interviewer may also ask you to say something about yourself generally. You should structure a couple of paragraphs on yourself and your achievements and become confident in talking about yourself.

Try practising your answers to all these questions with someone whose advice you trust. Also your careers service probably runs interview practice sessions. These can be invaluable- the more practice and feedback you get, the more confident and capable you will become in an interview situation.


Towards the end of an interview you will usually be asked if you have any questions. Resist the urge to say no and run! This is an opportunity to find out more and to show an employer what you already know about their company. Asking questions lets the interviewer know you're interested, and are a good listener as well as a good talker.


  • about the prospective job's duties in more detail

  • about such issues as potential for career advancement, the company's plans for the future, and so forth

  • any issues from the interview you need clarifying

  • bring in any knowledge you have of, for example, recent changes in the company, its working practices, market strategy, etc

  • about perks or your salary (unless specifically asked- in which case give a range)

  • for information that has already been clearly given during the interview

Check these simple points:
  • You know exactly when and where the interview will take place.

  • You've planned how to get to the interview and how long it will take- give yourself plenty of time.

  • You know the interviewer's name and job title.

  • Your interview outfit is smart, clean and looks businesslike.

  • Check that the same goes for yourself!

  • Remember, however much we might disapprove, first impressions are very important.

  • Remember to take a copy of your CV and application form, the job advert and a pen and paper for any notes you might want to make during the interview.
Now that you've prepared thoroughly for the interview, here's some advice for the day itself.

Dealing With Stress
While most of us are never going to find an interview a relaxing experience, we should be able to keep the stress and strain to manageable levels. Bear in mind the following:

  • Try to remember the interview is human too and may even be nervous themselves.
  • With all the preparation and practice you're in a good position to do well on the day.

  • Try taking deep slow breaths to relax yourself before the interview.
  • Be positive!
Different Formats

Bear in mind that interviews are not always "one to one". Organisations such as the Civil Service often use a panel to interview candidates. This presents additional challenges:
  • Try not to be daunted.

  • Try not to aim your answers exclusively at one interviewer- include all the panellists in your answers and eye contact.

  • Tailoring your answers to fit a diverse panel is a difficult skill to master.

  • Remember that panels may be fairer on candidates- even if one of them doesn't like you there are the others who may well disagree. Personal clashes are much more significant in one to one interviews.
Another possibility is facing an interviewer who deliberately attempts to place you under stress. They may use an aggressive questioning technique, or ask very tough questions. This is designed to see how you cope with pressure. Remain calm and answer each question rationally. Do not take it personally! If possible find out before the interview what format it will be taking.

Directing the Interview

Many people leave an interview with the feeling that they haven't "sold themselves fully". It is possible to take more control in an interview so that at the end you can feel you have put yourself across in the best light. The interviewee can take a more active role:

  • If you find a question or point unclear then ask. A simple request for clarification is far more preferable than waffle.

  • If you're given a question with a simple yes / no answer, try to expand your answer into a reply which stresses your skills and achievements.

  • Any questions about your weaknesses, or that reveal any weakness- try to turn them round to highlight some strength you possess.

  • Watch for feedback from the interviewer and try to respond to it. If there are signs that the interviewer's interest is wandering- shorten your answer or switch to another subject.

  • Don't say you agree when you really don't. As long as you express your difference of opinion in a reasonable and reasoned way it's perfectly acceptable.

  • Listen carefully- the more you know the more directed your responses and questions can be.

Body Language

Be aware of any nonverbal signals you may give out during an interview. Posture and body language can be important in determining what people think of you. While too many hints may confuse and be impossible to remember, there are a few simple tips to ensure you make a good impression:
  • Look at the interviewer- avoiding eye contact can make you seem untrustworthy and lacking in confidence.

  • Try not to fidget.

  • Avoid crossing your arms- it seems defensive.

  • Lean forward when answering- it makes you appear interested.
It's a rare interview that contains a job offer within it. If, a couple of weeks later, you receive an offer- CONGRATULATIONS. If not, try not to be disheartened. Look on the interview as a learning experience. Next time you'll be even better.


Monday, November 5, 2007

The time for revolution has come

We are at a cusp in computing history. This time is now a delicate balancing point where the future of computing can go one way or another. It is also obvious that one party stands to lose a great deal while another stands to win a great deal. Ironically the party that stands to lose the most is the one who has brought this turning point into reality.
As you have probably guessed by now I am talking about the release of Windows Vista and the role it will play in computing history. It will either be seen as the saviour of Microsoft or as the downfall. The release of Vista has come at a time when Linux is at a stage when inexperienced computer users can install and use it for normal daily tasks. Linux is getting media recognition and support by industry giants. This has raised its stature quite considerably in the public eye.
This means that with the release of Vista companies and individuals will be asking themselves about upgrading both the software and hardware of their computing systems. They will look at the cost of Vista, the hardware requirements, the benefits it will give and consider if the upgrade is worth it. Now for the first time in over a decade the companies and individuals realise that there is now an alternative that is able to provide as much functionality as Vista and has a lot less stringent hardware, software, license and financial requirements.
The current version of Windows has become so large and unwieldy that ninety percent of existing computing hardware is unable support it. There is not enough benefit provided for average daily use to justify those requirements. To need to have over 1Gb of ram and at least 15Gb hard disk space just to install and run the operating system is excessive. To achieve the same functionality with a Linux system only 256Mb ram and 2Gb hard disk space is needed. That is about a quarter of what is needed for Vista and this means Linux can run on more than ninety five percent of existing hardware.
This means that the time is ripe for a computer revolution and if the Linux community plays its cards right the death star can be destroyed with a single well placed photon torpedo and everyone will shout "Viva la Revolution!!!"

No other operating system has ever been this shaky

This year has been a remarkable year for operating systems. Windows Vista has been released to much fanfare and anticipation. Only to be shunned and spoken about in a derogatory manner due to the poor driver support and intrusive UAC. Linux has improved so much so that I am seeing more and more reports of people moving over from windows to Linux. The current shining star of the Linux family is the *ubuntu distribution set which has proved to be the most popular choice for those moving from the windows camp.
I predicted at the start of the year that this is the time for a revolution in the computing world and now other articles and blogs are starting to make similar sorts of sounds (well actually words really :). It really does seem that many people are wavering in their choice of operating systems. Which brings me to the title of this article.
In the history of computing there has never been a situation like this. This year, this time, is the first time a widespread and almost universally used operating system is on the verge of collapse. I think that Microsoft have been taken by surprise at the speed of Linux adoption and especially at how quickly it has matured. Those of you who remember the state of Linux when XP was released and compare it to the state it is today will realise that Linux must be the fastest maturing operating system in history.
Yes Vista is on very shaky grounds. So shaky I would compare it to walking on custard. Custard is one of those strange compounds that if you hit it, it feels solid but if you touch it your hand sinks into it. Vista, by its proprietary nature is slow moving and will not change much from its initial release. Linux on the other hand is fast moving and continually improving. Back to the custard analogy Vista will sink while Linux will be able to walk with impunity.

Things I can easily do in Linux but can't in windows

This is a short sharp and shiny list of things that I can easily do in Linux but find it hard or impossible to do in windows.

Connect more than four people across the internet to a graphical interface at the same time.

Tinker around with the source code.

Compile my own Linux from scratch.

Have as many or as little programs installed as I want.

Change every aspect of the user interface to suit my needs.

Never pay for any program.

Use more of my memory for programs and not for the operating system.

Use less than one gigabyte of hard disk space for my operating system.

Use it on older hardware.

Easily automate any task.

Create my own commands.

Configure, update and restart every aspect of my computer remotely.

Run graphical programs on my local screen from a remote connection.

Start a program running, close my connection and when I reconnect I can still interact with the same program.

Not have to worry about virus's or malware.

Not have to worry about DRM.

Update all installed programs at the same time and completely automatically.

Easily and cleanly uninstall all parts, including configuration files of programs.

Not have to reinstall my operating system because it is slowing down.

Easily transfer my personal settings to any linux computer.

Easily run my own Linux on any computer from a flash drive.

Not have to activate my operating system and give information about my computer to any company.

No more typing of product keys or worrying about losing them.

Never see a nagscreen or have a program crippled because I used it beyond the demonstation time limit.

Never have to restart the machine because a program other than the kernel requires me to.

Compile my own Linux kernel to suit my own machine.

Why Linux is better than windows for virus outbreaks

The age old "discussions" that float around the internet in regards to Linux and windows security are contentious ones. It all seems to boil down to Linux people saying that Linux is more secure and windows people saying that it is not. In this case the windows guys are right, with exceptions. People who are in the know, know, that any operating system is only as secure as it is configured and patched. I still say that even though both operating system can be properly configured and patched, in the event of a virus outbreak (and there will be one) for any operating system, Linux will handle the outbreak far more gracefully than windows. This is because of the fundamental design of the Linux operating system compared to windows. Linux was designed from the start to be used by multiple concurrent users while windows has evolved from a single user model. Much of the single design model is still inherent in the most modern version of windows. In terms of a virus infecting a machine the infection is of far greater consequence to a windows machine than a Linux one. It all come down to how the different operating systems access the underlying system programs. These programs, if taken control of and modified, gives the virus complete control of the system and allows it to do what it wants. While the windows security model has come a long way there is still too much interaction between the user space and the system space. The user space is the group of programs which the user generally uses to do their daily tasks and the system space is the group of programs that control the system. If a virus infects a windows machine it immediately has access to very important system files which allows it to access every other user on the machine and use that users information to propagate itself. If the equivalent virus infects a Linux machine the area of the virus's effect is limited to that user. Due to the nature of Linux operating system design the other users are not effected. This is of course assuming that the user does not have administrative or root privileges. Cleaning up after a virus infection is also much easier on a linux machine. In the worst case all it takes is deleting all the "." files and directories in the users home directory and when the user logs on they will be presented with a default desktop. With windows it is much more difficult as the virus is able to spread itself all over the system and make many registry changes that the average user cannot be sure have been cleaned out. Just deleting the users home directory is not enough. Perhaps the most important difference between the two operating systems is that of patching and upgrading. While windows has an automatic patching process it does not cover any programs not produced by microsoft and any other third party programs must have their own mechanism for patching, if they even bother. Most Linux distributions automatically patch and upgrade not only the core operating system but any program installed from their repository. This provides a central, synchronized area for keeping a Linux system completely up to date and reducing the risk of a virus getting access through a forgotten unpatched program. With the latest version of windows I am not too sure so I will use XP as an example. Adding new users to a windows machine they are automatically selected as a standard user of the power users group. This enables the users to install programs and make system setting changes. Just enough for a virus to install itself and start operating. Adding a new user to a Linux system, Kubuntu for example, by default gives the user the windows equivalent of guest privileges. This means the user can run the programs but not install programs or make system setting changes. This will prevent most viruses from installing themselves. Just that small difference in operating system approach is all that is needed to prevent the majority of virus infestations while still maintaining operating system usability.