Favorite Interview Questions, Revisited

Favorite interview questions, reviewed

Straight on from thinking about subjectivity in evaluating interview responses, I find a post that illustrates subjectivity in interviewing:  One question you ask in every interview.  Wow!  What a list!  I don’t suggest implementing many of them.  Let’s go through the suggestions:

Are you good at troubleshooting? If they ask me what I mean, the interview is over.”

I can see that “troubleshooting” is probably similar across the board, and that there are ways to reveal stupidity and cluelessness in asking “What do you mean by that?”  However, as someone who regularly finds three or four possible interpretations of almost anything, I think “the interview is over” is an overreaction.

“What kind of troubleshooting do you mean?”  The company is a bakery.  One might question exactly how much of what I think of as “troubleshooting” would be involved in a cook’s work, or why someone applying for “dishwasher” would be asked to troubleshoot.

OTOH, perhaps the interviewer here can’t tolerate being asked for more information, or to clarify instructions.  If so, he’ll find it hard to keep employees and may find ongoing management a problem.

Counting hairs on a dog’s body

Please tell me that the positions for which this question is used have some element of problem solving, or at least creativity?  I’d count hair on a small section, then do a volume calc on the dog (l * h * w, or perhaps surface area of a sphere?) to extrapolate.  would I have access to Google? (No quick  and reliable answers, BTW).  But unless the question fit into a well-defined set of “Creativity and problem solving” type questions, I’d be thinking the interviewer were just a bit strange.

Remember, part of your challenge as interviewER is recruiting the candidate to work for you.  How strange do you want to be?

Furthermore–what do you do if someone comes from a culture that treats dogs as unclean?  Chances are, you won’t know this ahead of time.  But you would have just asked your highly competent technical support person to do the equivalent of cleaning a toilet (in my culture).

Why do you want this job?

Excellent.  Works for any position.  The answer, even if prepared, tells you something useful about the candidate.

When I call your references, what will I hear about ______?

Again, excellent (except for the inference that the questioner actually doesn’t call references).  While the question itself will give you useful information, you’ll get even more if you DO follow up and call the reference and verify that the answers at least align.  (And if the answers DON’T align, you have the most useful information of all–that (in all likelihood) your candidate at best doesn’t understand his or her relationships with co-workers, or at worst, your candidate lies / fabricates / thinks you can be conned.)

Where are you and what are you doing 10 years from now?

I hate this question, at least when it’s asked of me.  Like I’m supposed to know?  Like I have been able to predict the outcome of my life 10 years into the future, from any point 10 years ago?  Given the depth of my own reaction, I’ll allow it’s a personal, philosophical thing.

I understand the traditional admonitions to “set goals and write them down and you, too, can earn more than your peer group.”  I’ll write a blog post about that one day.  The quibble hinges on, “to what extent does “earning more” equate to “happier, more content, more useful?”

YMMV.  You may be a goal-setter who has 10 year plans.  You may want people with 10 year plans to work for you, and for some jobs, that may be a good criterion.  Not all.  Make sure you know which position needs 10-year planning before you waste interview time on this one.

Why are you the best person in the world for this job?

CEO of Apple, when Steve Jobs quits?  For that, maybe you need the best person in the world.  For most other positions, you need the “best person who will actually take the job.”  You don’t need the “best cashier in the world” to work in your store.  You need the “best cashier in the area, who thinks driving to your office is worth the money.”  You need the “best child care provider who will show up at 6:30, in your zip code.”

And then also, you need “the best person who is available,” or “who is willing to quit what he or she is doing today to work for you.”

What’s your favorite book or movie?

I hope you’re not thinking that this one can’t be prepared!  If you’ve been in match.com, you will have thought through your answer (or perhaps I should say, “you should think through your answer!”) I blew one interview once, before I was 20, on not having a “right” answer to this question.  Never again.  I have an answer for a job interview.  (For the record, I had a different one for a date, and it worked out well.)  I’d have to think about movies for a minute.  Personally, I don’t watch enough movies to know how to interpret anyone’s answer.  Before you trot this question out, decide whether you will be able to get useful data from a range of answers.

What’s your favorite, or least favorite, interview question?