Re: Interview type Question

From: joel garry <>
Date: Mon, 29 Sep 2008 16:04:32 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <>

On Sep 26, 11:04 pm, Tim X <> wrote:
> joel garry <> writes:
> > On Sep 26, 6:05 am, Steve Howard <> wrote:
> >> On Sep 26, 2:46 am, Tim X <> wrote:
> >> I don't think enough generic questions like this are asked in an
> >> interview.  My favorite two questions (which I ask regularly) are:
> >> 1)  What is the biggest thing you ever broke in technology, and how
> >> did you fix it?
> >> 2)  What is your favorite thing on which to work?
> >> Those tell me volumes about a person.
> >> 1)  tells me if they are honest (because *everyone* has broken
> >> something).
> >> 2)  Gets them to open about themselves
> > Has the opposite effect on me, I close up.  I mean, I'm fairly open
> > about these kind of things on usenet, I find them very entertaining
> > and educational, but in an interview, shoot, how do you create the
> > correct context when so many of these derive from situations like Tim
> > said, without sounding like you are denigrating your current or former
> > employer, which makes you a complainer?  And I know I will put my foot
> > in my mouth since I tend towards brutal honesty, which is too much for
> > people who haven't got to know me.  At least I'm not that guy who puts
> > pictures of himself bleeding on the web.  :-)
> For years I was a bit like this in interviews as well. The point at
> which it all changed was when I was put on the other side of the table
> and had to start interviewing others. this was a real eye opener for me
> because it made me realise what a tough task it is. From then on, I
> tended to feel a lot more relaxed and confident in the ineterview and
> now I tend to just let my personality come across. I take the view that
> the interview is really about whether you will fit in with everyone or
> not.

Had the opposite effect on me, at least after I seriously misjudged someone (a longtime friend/cow-orker of the lead DBA).

> >> An interview is not a confrontation.  I'm trying to get a feel for not
> >> only what they know, but how they do things and what they would be
> >> like to work with everyday.
> Exactly right. Most of the time, you have already selected out those
> that appear to have the requisite skills. At the interview, you are
> trying to get a feel for the person, how they think and their type of
> personality.
> > Depends on the interview.  I'm not convinced anyone can get a good
> > idea what someone is like to work with every day from even a series of
> > interviews.  (I'm not saying that you can't, just that most people
> > overestimate their interviewing ability.)  I've seen purposefully
> > stressful interviews, because, well, they feel they need to see how
> > the interviewee responds to stress.  Many HR professionals think they
> > can figure out if someone will be a good fit for an organization, when
> > maybe the organization needs a bad fit.  Think on that.
> Generally, HR are the absolutely worse group to be involved in the
> selection process unless the position is in HR. The selection should be
> made by those who will need to work directly or cloesly with the
> person.
> I also agree it is impossible to get a really accurate assessment of the
> person from the interview, but its really the only tool you have. I have
> worked at places that used personnality tests to assist in the
> selection. As I originally did a psychology degree prior to doing comp
> sci and moving into development work, I'm very skeptical about the real
> value of such tests. The company I worked for that used them (a large
> global corporation) use to actually select managers based on three or so
> different personality tests. One test was designed to select managers
> that would be good at initiating change, another for managers that were
> good at building culture and teams and another that was used for
> selecting managers that were good at creating stability. they would
> cycle through these on a 3 to 5 year basis. I remain unconvinced at how
> good approach this was, but have to admit the company is still growing
> and appears to be profitable.

Yeah, the unanswerable question is whether it was better than null. Cycling through stability managers, now there's a concept :-)

> >> We hired a guy (against my recommendation) at one point that said he
> >> had never broken anything.  Guess what happened in the first 60 days
> >> he was there?  Yep...  He also turned out to be the type that covered
> >> things up and pointed fingers when stuff like this happened.  I'm sure
> >> in his mind he never *had* broken anything.  Not good...
> > I've watched a series of netadmins come and go at one particular
> > place, several because of the CYA attitude.  The essential problem
> > seems to be interviewing in general is biased towards those who are
> > well-prepared to sell themselves, rather than towards really defining
> > the job requirements and how well the person fits.  As far as that
> > goes, my experience has been that most jobs adjust to the person, and
> > are often quite different than the specified requirements.  Of course,
> > most of my experience has been cleaning up problems from the previous
> > effups.
> Yeah, I get that. It certainly isn't an easy process, which is why
> getting interviewed really doesn't bother me any more. On some level, I
> tend to go into the interview thankful I'm the one getting interviewed
> and not the one who has to make the decision. I might just have been
> lucky, but I've had a 100% success rate in my last 4 interviews
> (covering a period of just over 14 years).
> A funny thing happened at my second last interview. I was asked a very
> technical question. I had done some basic research on the members of the
> selection committee prior to the interview and new the person asking the
> question was the chief IT officer and had a reputation for being very
> focused on technical matters. I'm not great on quick technical responses
> - I prefer to have a bit of time to think about the problem. As I began
> to answer, I knocked over my glass of water. This wasn't
> intentional. I'm actually blind and just didn't realise it was
> there. The selection committee all jumped up and rushed to clean things
> up. I apologised and sat there using the valuable extra minutes to
> refine my answer.

My hat's off to you. I don't know how long until I go blind, and I find it frightening.

> Once everyone had sat down, I started to reply. The person asking the
> question stopped me and said that since I had had additional time to
> think about the question, he now wanted to withdraw it and ask another
> one.
> As things had been going quite well until that point and as I think I
> had a good connection with the majority of the selection committee, I
> responded with "They told me you were a tough bastard, can I have
> another glass of water then?". This caused most of the people on the
> selection committee to break up laughing, including the guy asking the
> question who I judged enjoyed being thought of as a tough bastard. It
> may have just been luck, but the new quesiton was actually much easier
> for me to anser than the original one and the rest of the interview was
> much lighter and easier - in fact, I think everyone relaxed and quite a
> few laughs were had over the remaining hour. I also got the job and
> believe it was mainly because they felt I was someone they could work
> with and would fit in rather than any real assessment of my technical skills.

Great story! Wonders if Gerald Ford got his job that way :-)

> >> For a question like the OP mentioned, I would be looking for things
> >> like Tim posted.  It doesn't have to be word for word, but it shows me
> >> the depth of their experience troubleshooting in general.  As noted
> >> (and as Tim noted), every problem is different.  I would like to see
> >> body language while they answer it, do they dwell on certain things
> >> like the minutia of technical details (not always good), etc.
> > I hope you are not saying you wouldn't hire someone who... baarfs.
> All depends in what direction they baarf! Most likely, I would
> immediately follow suit and it would become a bonding session.

In case anyone doesn't get it:

(Somewhere I was reading a worst interview story where someone actually barfed.)


-- is bogus.
WMD's now available at Home Depot.
Received on Mon Sep 29 2008 - 18:04:32 CDT

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