13
May
08

Rambling: Job Interviews

One week ago I was in Galway, Ireland, for a job interview at a very successful European company. I decided after the interview that I didn’t want to work for them, and they called yesterday to tell me they didn’t want me to work for them anyway.

I dressed up for the interview, which made me uncomfortable, but they told me they were glad that I did, otherwise they’d have thought I wasn’t serious about the job. Then they asked me a lot of silly questions like:

* Why Galway?
* How will you deal with all the rain?
* Why translating?
* Why do you want to work here?
* Why should we hire you?
* Where do you see yourself in three years?
* Have you ever had to work in a team? What did you have to accomplish, what was your contribution, and what was the outcome?
* What has been the greatest achievement in your life so far?

That team work question really bothered me, since you know what they want to hear but it’s just so trite. They want to hear that you had a difficult project to work on and what your amazing contribution was that saved the day and the project. But I think that working in a team means that you don’t have one person who saves the day. Anyway, I found it hard to pick an example because the question is so silly, and later on the phone they told me that while I did very well on their written test, I had a hard time finding examples and they were more interested in someone with stronger communication skills. (I was relieved, though, because I figure it’s easier to be turned down than to have to tell them ‘It’s great that you want me, but I figured I’d rather stay put.’)

Be that as it may, I dare you to think about this question:
What has been the greatest achievement in your life so far?

Here’s what I read yesterday:
“These questions seem to be about honesty. Really, they’re about diplomacy. What you’re most proud of might be your comic-book collection. That’s not necessarily what the interviewer wants to hear, and you probably know that. There are safer answers, such as “the feeling of accomplishment I get from doing something – it could be anything – really well.” The trouble with the traditional interview is that both sides are wise to the game. The interviewers nod, not believing a word of it.”
(“How would you move Mount Fuji?” by William Poundstone, page 17)

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