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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

So tomorrow brings with it the first round of interviews with myself on the other side of the interviewing table for the first time. My boss asked me to come up with some "good interview" questions for the candidates and while I was brainstorming on that, I couldn't help remember interviews I have been on in the past.

And let me tell you, I have been on A LOT of interviews. I started working when I was 15 years old and since then I have had about 15 jobs since then, everything from lifeguard to retail to executive assistant. And I have heard ALL the questions.

I had one potential employer asked me what I hated most about my last boss, only to find out they were FRIENDS. One employer asked me how I unwound after a tough day and gave me three answers to chosose from, one of which was "Hit the bar with friends" and I had to weigh in my head whether honesty is the best policy or whether I should totally lie and choose "Engage in a culturally stimulating activity like visiting a museum or seeing a foreign film" (Incidentally WHO says "God I had an awful day at work, let's hit the MFA....HARD").

But let me tell you, the WORST interview questions are the ones that they ask at all of these jobs. The trifecta of banal, clearly taken from some kind of HR handbook questions. Namely:

What was a time in your professional career when you felt you made a mistake/could have done something better?
What was a time in your professional career when you were proud of an accomplishment?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Pretty much everyone has a stock answer to these three questions. And I am willing to bet that no one REALLY mentions a time they really effed up. "Well there was the time I came into work a little drunk from the night before and accidentally set off the alarm in the office and so I turned around and left and just decided to come in late". No way. More like "Once I was covering a meeting for my boss and my notes were not QUITE as explicit as they could have been. Sure I wrote 20 pages and the meeting was only an hour long...but I felt I could have done a better job if I had not been given the assignment so last minute".

And the five years one? I NEVER know what to say. I don't even know what I want to be doing in 5 weeks, much less 5 months. I definitely suffer from a lack of a game plan and no potential employer wants to hear "God i have no idea! I am waiting until I'm 30 to figure out what I really want to do. Until then I guess I'm kind of killing time". But again I have a stock answer for that too.

So essentially what these questions do is show who is better at BSing/who has more interview experience. I would rather ask a straightforward question like "How familiar are you with Excel, what have you used it for in the past?", than those "Can you think of a time..." lameass questions.

Although I have to be honest, part of me would LOVE to ask those, just for the sake of for ONCE being in a room where those questions are being asked and not having to answer it.


23 comments:

Mr. & Mrs. Cappella said...

hahaha, HATE the "5 years" question. HATE IT!
~jeannie

Sarah said...

haha seriously! we should all be honest enough to say "well hopefully i win the lottery and never have to work again".

Ezra said...

I like to ask "what's your favorite animal and why?" after they say the animal, but before they say the why, cut them off and tell them they are wrong. the correct answer was (insert any animal they didn't say).

It works especially well if it's the first question of the interview

Sarah said...

LOL.

i would love to conduct an interview like it was a sketch on The Daily Show. "Your last name is Lafave? Isn't that french for "douche"?.

Amanda* said...

Yeah, I can't wait to hear how this goes. I especially like Ezra's idea there...

ka-rista said...

I've never been on a job interview* and you’ve just frightened the be’ Jesus out of me.

*I'm not counting the Dinsey Store or Burtuccies

Sarah said...

Disney Store TOTALLY counts!

Especially if they asked Disney related questions and/or quizzed you on Disney knowledge.

when i interviewed to work in the jazz room at HMV, even though i knew nothing about jazz, they gave me a "jazz quiz" and even though it think i answered every question with one of the marsalis brothers..they still hired me. haha!

kim said...

hey, that should totally make for an interesting entry tomorrow :) why can't you do the excel-question though? is that some american policy or something? i've [obviously] never been to a job interview over there but they do sound different to here. then again, besides the department-store the only interview i ever had to go to was for the training here in the agency. my bosses are all artsy and advertisy and fun so they didn't ask any "five year" questions or the like...

sounds stressful but i hope you still have fun :)

PS: i'm already looking forward to the stories about how inappropriate and awful their wardrobe was :D

Sarah said...

i totally will ask the excel question. its just that all the HR sites i have been looking at have the Same Old Questions and they aren't even GOOD ones (i don't think.

i dont think i could blog here about what inappro outfits the candidates have (hopefully they don't!) ....but i may send you a snarky email about it
:-P

Mr. & Mrs. Cappella said...

The 5 years one I always just throw them a curve ball, like...

well I hope to be a homeowner and my wife and I have discuss children, etc.....

although sometimes that gives the my personal life is moer important than work vibe. But, that's the way it should be right?

~Chris

rooroo said...

are you interviewing for, like, an admin position? it's kinda hard to find someone for those because it's not like they have to have a philosophy about filing or proven note-taking results, you know? mostly they just have to be a competent, amiable person and sometimes it's hard to tell in one meeting. if it were me i'd probably just ask them to tell me about their education/job history/technical skillls and have a conversation with them about it, and just get a sense for thier personality, because isn't that the most important thing? i'm sure you will have plenty of stories about some crazies though... i work in hr and i've run into some effed up situations and people. ;)

san said...

i would hate being in your shoes... job interviews are the worst, but maybe you can help me out at some point [with all your experience] when i will be looking for a job in LA. my job interview experience is not really great.

jsb said...

Ha! Just discovered your blog and this made me laugh. I have been on both sides of the table and honestly prefer answering the questions than asking them.

The strangest question I ever got was at a interview for a music store. The manager actually conducted the interview on the sales floor and at the very end asked, "from the employees on the sales floor right now, which one would you fire and why?"

Hummm... ugh? After a couple of seconds of brain fuzz, I told him I would fire him. The reason, I wanted his job.

He laughed and said, "good answer, that shows you have initiative."

I got the job... and eventually his job too.

Sass said...

Tell me about it, I've heard them all. But once on an interview, my interviewer asked, how do you fry an egg? yes and believe the job had nothing to do with cooking

Sarah said...

ha! i love when retail employers take themselves so seriously. when i worked at macy's in college, there were all these questions during my interview about my "professional goals" and "biggest career challenges". i was like "I'm 19 and you are paying me $7 an hour. calm down."

AnnaB said...

If I'm supervising the person, I like asking them about their favorite boss. It's handy to see if they value independence or interpersonal stuff. Also talking about movies tells you a lot about a person. I hired a girl whose favorite movie was "Bring it On". She lasted a month.

Sarah said...

ooooh. Bring it On is a fine film....but I probably would not admit as much to a potential employer. just like I wouldn't say Pee Wee's Big Adventure wasn't one of my faves either.

even though it, well, IS.

Stacey said...

My favorite questions were from my second interview for my current job:

1.) How would your best friend describe you? (I nearly freaked. I love my best friend & she loves me, but we fight like cats & dogs. I pulled it off by saying she'd describe me as opinionated & determined - instead of a total pain in the ass!)
2.) Are you a Red Sox fan? (Love this question!)

Sarah said...

i love the first question!!! and god forbid anyone ever asks me in a job interview if I am a red sox fan. (i am not. i feel like the only person in boston who doesn't give a crap either way about baseball whatsoever).in any case they would probably be REALLY dissapointed in me.

minijonb said...

i have an interview on Friday for a position at my current company. i know i should be preparing for all these questions, but i'll probably just cram over a list of 100 interview questions the night before and half-wing it.

Jill said...

I've been asked absolutely insane questions at interviews!!

1) if a judge starts yelling at you in court are you going to just break down and cry like a little girlie girl?? (if I kick you in the nuts are you going to just break down and cry like a little girlie girl?? Let's see now, shall we??)

2) Are you pregnant? (which literally made me nutso, thinking that I must look like a cow!!) If not, do you have any plans of becoming pregnant??

3) What are your thoughts regarding email privacy? How would you feel if every email that you sent and/or received was read by the company? (that would just be fan-fucking-tastic!! SWEET!!)

4) How much of your day do you spend on the internet?? (considering I blog one can only imagine how an honest answer would have been received on this one!!)

clipper829 said...

I've been interviewed by a panel of folks many times, and once, right in the middle of the interview, as I was answering a question, one of the other panel members blurted out "I'm sorry I just have to ask, how old are you anyways?"

Inappro.

Sarah said...

good lord! the pregnant question and the age question are both illegal to ask in the state of MA. i just learned that today! not that you couldn't have guessed by the level of inappro-ness.