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interview questions revisited

After reading this board for awhile now, I finally had the courage to answer those stupid, "what are your strengths" interview questions.

I was asked, "What's your greatest non-technical strength?"  I replied, "Upper body."  He smiled, and said that was a great answer.  They offered me the job.

Ah, feels good to finally say something like that in an interview.

Friday, February 27, 2004

What is your greatest strength? 

The ability to deftly handle bad interview questions such as this.

What is your greatest weakness?

The same, as I tend to answer them with a bit of sass.

Way to push back on that question.

Friday, February 27, 2004

You know, I have a theory about this kind of thing... It goes a little something like this.

When you have two or more people having a conversation one of them tends to take a lead role, defining everyone else as they go along. Typically everyone else will accept their role and go along because a) it's easy and can be fun and b) it reduces conflicts.

However, you can usurp the leader by creating a new game, like switching from Monopoly to Trivial Pursuit by asking nonsense questions during Monopoly until everyone is more interested in that than Monopoly. The guy who wanted to play Monopoly doesn't mind the switch because your game is more fun anyway.

In an interview the interviewer is the default leader, so 99% of applicants are going to take a follower position. As with any other negotiation, genuinely not being too concerned with the outcome will help, and this will let you break out of the traditional role as follower.

Anyone who doesn't just accept their role as interviewee and can steer the topic where they want will have the upper hand over those who follow the traditional interview format.

My interview habits and hiring patterns have borne this theory out. The more fun I'm having, and the more I define what we talk about, even if it's not related to the job in question, the better I do.

Friday, February 27, 2004

I think that's definitely a theory with some merit, Mark.  I did not want this job, and told them they couldn't pay me enough to pull me away from my current job.  They begged me for an interview, so I said sure.  I actually had fun in the interview.  I talked about stuff that interested me, and I answered his questions as well as I could.  I think I grilled him more than he was expecting.  I went through the Joel test and asked how their builds go and all that stuff. 

Mark, you mentioned taking the upper hand in the conversation - when my interviewer asked me a question that piqued my interest (What do I admire in a manager?)  I answered then remembered to ask him pretty much the same kind of question, "What is your managerial style?"  It's a loaded question, because I just told him that a manager who hires someone then never trusts them to do the job they were hired for is not a good manager.  It was amusing to see him dance a bit.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Again, you guys do realize this question isn't about the answer itself, but rather how it's answered, right?

Going back to the Apprentice thread - if the question was "what do you consider your greatest weakness?", Nick would give one of those silly "my greatest weakness is that I don't have any weaknesses" answers, while Troy would give a sincere "I tend to come on too strong" or "I sometimes rush into engagements before doing the research - I need to learn to slow down" type answer.

BTW, my reaction to "upper body" would be to have the interviewee do pullups - you'd better be able to put your money where your mouth is. ;-)


Friday, February 27, 2004

"I answered then remembered to ask him pretty much the same kind of question, "What is your managerial style?"


That's very slick.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Actually we're going back to an earlier inteview thread where you said something about answering it honestly and being able to self asses yourself. Or to the thread about the lie detector test really being about convincing the person you're giving the test that you have the ability to see right through them.

I still think this is the rorschach of interview questions - so open ended it's really designed to elicit an emotional response they can use to asses your level of maturity. Certainly if you had any hangups this kind of question would bring them out.
Friday, February 27, 2004

Aside from technical interviews that I've been conducting lately the only interview experience I have from the other side comes from my time in a business fraternity.  When interviewing one candidate I asked...

"What sets you apart from the other candidates we've seen."

The candidates actually had time to meet and talk to each other in some meaningful fashion and I was anticipating a weak response along the lines of, "I'm a harder worker".

What I got was, "Hah!  I'm French."  She was, and it was so off from the line I was looking for it was just hilarious - she carried it off without much attitude and the entire experience from that point forward was very different.


And a quick story from The Restaurant.  When interviewing for wait staff Rocco kept having candidates tell him that they were a 'people person' and that they liked people.  Finally he was getting quite tired of this fake attitude and asked the next candidate if he was a 'people person'.  The response?  "No, I hate people."  Instant hire.

Friday, February 27, 2004

I assumed Rocco hired people who had waitstaff experience, but going on the Today show (or whatever) instead of placing ads in papers was hilarious.

He seemed to hire for emotional reasons. That guy who was first in line had to be hired because he would've felt bad not hiring him and so forth.

"Are you a people person?" == "Can you answer this simple yes or no question that I'm giving you the answer to?"
Friday, February 27, 2004

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