Job interviews, so-called experts and what really happens when the WiFi goes down

In the last couple of years I have been asked to attend a number of job interviews in my capacity as an IT specialist. In my case IT specialist means the guy who knows slightly more about computers than any one else in the office.

However, seeing as every desk based job is almost by definition a job in computing, having a relatively skilled IT person in the interview room does no harm.

It's an enjoyable role, where I am able to put my tuppence worth in, without actually being the one making the decision as to who gets hired. Another benefit of being an assistant to the actual interviewer is that you can step back a bit and try to imagine the person in the role.

My favourite IT question to ask in an interview is, technically, not really an IT question at all.

How good are you really, at working offline?

"You come into work one morning and the Internet is down. What do you do?"

Obviously there is no correct answer to this one, and over the course of these interviews, I have heard a dozen different responses.

People talk about trying to fix the internet connection themselves; they will suggest calling out their IT support; some will propose that they go to a local Café or even just using their phones.

In every case, the answer was not as interesting as the thought process that underlay it. The assumption, every time, was that the internet was absolutely essential to their work, even in the short term.

Depending on your job, this may or may not be the case. For example, you don't need the internet to answer your emails. You can draft a response to a hundred emails and then wait for the router to kick back in.

You don't need the internet to write reports. You don't need it to work on spreadsheets. You don't need it to call clients or suppliers. You don't need the internet to manage projects.

You definitely do not need the internet to make some tea or tidy the storage cupboard.

In the short term, there are an enormous amount of things you can do without going online, but this answer never occurred to any of the interviewees.

Most of their answers were formed around the necessity of returning, as quickly as possible, to their normal working methods, and those methods were invariably tied to being online.

Of course you need to get back online as quickly as possible. There will be tasks which can only be completed via web access. Nevertheless, the idea that being connected to the internet is absolutely integral to your work is simply not true. But worse is that fact that it is not even considered to be a question.

Does this come down to simple habit. For many people the Internet is now indistinguishable from social media, in or out of work. By this I mean social media in it's broadest meaning. If I were to define it, I would say the most universal definition of social media could include anything which allows you to communicate. That could easily include email and even the likes of WhatsApp. Others may argue with that as a definition, but if you accept it then social media becomes the ultimate in grey areas.

If my definition holds, then your working life and your social life are now fused together and cannot be separated.

This is not an attempt to demean social media in any way. Frankly it wouldn't matter if it were. Social media is part of the fabric of people's lives and that is not going away any time soon.

However, it is important to work from the assumption that you absolutely need to be in control of your social media use, particularly in terms of demarcation. If you don't set up boundaries between your personal online use and your business use you will risk allowing it to control your life in ways that may not be immediately apparent.

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