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I have been interviewing for a junior level dev role and in the last interview I was given a take home assignment to assess my technical skills. The last question was really broad. It was "give a high level description of a way we can share product documentation between the cloud CRM, externally hosted website, network shared folders. All 3 locations must be in sync and all must only allow authorized users access".

The interviewer knows I do not know their systems, and when I had tried to ask in previous interviews I was often given an answers like "we don't really have a system established yet and you would be helping make it".

I would like to ask him for more details on the question, but I'm having trouble finding words because the question seems too vague to me. Should I submit the assignment without having answered the last part and tell him I couldn't even understand the question?

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    I'm not a fan of take home assignments for interviews, your job isn't to work for them in your free time and this sounds suspicouly like they want to get some free work out of you, as they want you to deliver a concept for the solution of the problem, they said you'd be working on. – Dulkan Sep 4 '18 at 6:52
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    This is a development question? Seems like a fairly simple networking question. – Kilisi Sep 4 '18 at 8:26
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    Re close votes (unclear what you're asking): There is a clear question on the very last sentence of this post. – rath Sep 4 '18 at 13:40
  • @Kilisi networking? I see no routers or switches. – JanP Sep 4 '18 at 23:32
  • @JanP lot more to networking than routers and switches, but if they have a LAN and WAN then they definitely utilise both. And if they need to synchronise files across them then it's pretty basic network engineering. I don't see what development has to do with it. Might have to write a simple script perhaps, unsure if that classifies as development? But most of it would just be getting different parts of networks to talk to each other nicely. – Kilisi Sep 4 '18 at 23:56
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Wouldn`t mind to see the rest of that test Sounds like unpaid consulting task list.

In this case, what i think, they may be looking at your opinion, i.e. to see what you can google out ;)

In any case, steer toward SharePoint, user permission play a huge role in any processes running there.

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You don't need details and you don't need to know their specifics. It's very hard to answer this question without attempting to answer the take-home but I'll try:

These things usually require a single point of entry for authorized users to make the edits and a single source of truth for the other systems to pull information from.

This on its own is enough to get you started on a high-level answer. Again, you don't need the specifics but you need to demonstrate you understand the business value and business objectives this provides for them. Bonus if you demonstrate enough technical acumen to be able to implement it.

There are many commercial and open-source systems you can coerce to work with each other in this scenario, but don't get bogged down in specifics. They want to know they can give you a problem and you can understand their language to come up with an answer. Not so much a junior task, but there you go.

No, you should not tell him you didn't understand the question in your submission because that will eliminate you as a candidate. See what you can do on your own, and submit that.

  • Ok thanks. I submitted my attempt to answer. Out of curiosity what is the correct answer? I really am interested and would like to know. – JanP Sep 4 '18 at 23:33
  • I mean I'm guessing things like Dropbox are a little too basic – JanP Sep 4 '18 at 23:33
  • @JanP Depends what access control it has. You could've gone with Dropbox, Owncloud/Nextcloud, or simple network file sharing. The CRM can be Salesforce or (google alternatives) and the static site Wordpress. All of them work with access federation like Keycloak or Office 365 so you can manage access levels in one place. You will notice this answer is high-level as well. Depends on their budget and future expansion plans. I hope this has helped somewhat, and good luck in your submission! – rath Sep 5 '18 at 9:08
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I don't know if you are still considering (or still in consideration for) this position, but I believe you overthinking the problem. "High-level" means exactly that: high-level. That means no technical details, no implementation plan, no recommendations on services to acquire to provide the solution.

Before you start making implementation suggestions, you need to understand what the system needs to do and how it needs to accomplish it. Use general descriptions of system functions, not recommendations of established products that fulfill those functions. Because you don't know their current systems, like you said, you're not going to be able to determine what they can leverage from their current infrastructure and what services they need to purchase. That's a budgetary decision you will likely not be involved with.

With all that being said, the question itself is a little more advanced than one I would give to a junior-level developer. I believe they were more interested in your thought process, rather than judging you on your final solution. As to your original question, I would go ahead and submit the assignment. If they liked you, not completing the assignment probably won't mean much. If they had concerns going in, providing an answer will not likely change their minds much.

As they say, "The worst they can say is 'No'."

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    "If they liked you, not completing the assignment probably won't mean much. If they had concerns going in, providing an answer will not likely change their minds much." Are you saying it doesn't matter either way? – Brandin Sep 13 '18 at 11:36
  • Because the OP said he was "interviewing", the implication is he/she passed an initial screening to make it to the interview phase. The hiring manager(s) could simply set aside a non-response for this one question, if the rest of the interview was positive. Interviews are not just knowledge assessments. Attitude, overall demeanor, emotional intelligence, and whether or not the person would be a good fit for the team he/she will be working with also come into play. So, yes, it matters, but it's unlikely going to be a dealbreaker if everything else was on point. – Neil T. Sep 13 '18 at 16:42

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