Archive for June, 2012

Trick questions

Most interviewers are smart enough not to use them but some claim that trick questions are good for spotting people like to spew BS. I don’t like these questions personally but there is something to that. These questions make it easy to spot when someone is pretending to know what they’re talking about.

Given the numbers 1-1000, what is the minimum numbers of guesses needed to find a specific number if you are given the hint higher/lower, for each quess you make?

The answer is 1, by the way.

Where a banana costs $0.20, an apple costs $0.40, and an orange costs $0.60, how much does a pear cost?

I prefer apples and oranges anyway so I wouldn’t even ask.

Personality question: what kind of animal are you?

Some interview questions seem ridiculous and impossible to answer. Many of these crazy sounding questions are personality questions and if you recognize a personality question, you can actually forget about trying to find the right answer and just relax – let your personality show.

what kind of animal are you?

There’s no right answer (but there are wrong answers) so you let the interviewer get to know you and hopefully like you.

I’m definitely a dog. I don’t know why, but dogs just love me. They really treat me like one of their own.

Now if the interviewer is a dog person, we now have something in common. That’s a very good thing because people like people they have things in common with.

The one thing you need to avoid is negative association. You don’t want to be associated with something the interviewer hates so avoid spiders and mosquitoes because most people don’t like them.

if you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?

Hired! by Elinor Stutz – book review

I approached Elinor Stutz’s Hired! published by Career Press with some interest since I actively teach interview skills and I want to make sure I’m giving my students the best ideas to work with. Plus I have no real sales experience so perhaps someone trained in sales would have some good insights on applying sales techniques I don’t know into job interview advice.

I ended up with 7 of 216 pages marked, which for me, is a disappointing number of things I found interesting. Some of them were things I already teach my students. For example they Stutz says to make a list of your top attributes and how they will help the company before heading to the interview. Well, yeah, everyone who gets an interview should walk in with some messages about how they can help the company. I teach my students to identify the pain points – the problems the company faces relevent to the position you’re interviewing for and focus on how you can help the company overcome those problems. What can you do for the listener? The cornerstone of effective communication.

This idea of finding out how you can help the company is revisited about 100 pages later (I would have organized the book differently) when the author suggests that you find out why there’s an opening in the first place. Stutz asks you to find out what the problems are while you’re in the interview chair but if you’ve done your homework, it’s actually time to confirm what you’ve already figured out – what are the pain points related to the position?

One idea I did like was to approach companies you want to work for full time and try to sign up for some freelance work to ‘get your foot in the door.’ Another good idea is to make sure you market yourself correctly at networking events. The author had better success when she switched from ‘I’m a sales trainer’ to ‘I help clients increase revenue by teaching relationship selling.’ Women were turned off by the first because of the word sales but liked the second because of the relationship selling. Men were turned off by the first because of their prejudice (women don’t know sales) but liked the second because of the increse revenue.

It would be interesting to see some research done on whether men and really do respond to different parts of that sentence as the author suspects.

Also, I should mention the danger of following advice that isn’t mine. For example you might think the advice in Hired is trustworthy – hey it’s a book, not a website, right. But the author gives some advice that is just plain wrong when she says to answer the question, ‘what’s your biggest weakness?’ with a positive trait like ‘I’m a perfectionist so I spend more time on projects than anyone else. But I meet my deadlines by working extra hours.’ To me, and to many interviewers, this sounds dishonest. How can I believe that your biggest weakness is that you do better work than everyone else? Sounds to me that you’re biggest weakness is being a liar and thinking I’m stupid. One of these days I’ll write a blog entry about how you should actually answer this question.

Two more ideas worth mentioning:

1. On page 171 and 172 of the book, Stutz discusses agreeing with objections, mentioning overcoming a related challenge, and using buy-ins. A buy-in is something like, ‘Is that the kind of work ethic you’re seeking?’ basically trying to trick the interviewer into saying, ‘yes you do have the work ethic we want.’ You could even look for objections – “Do I seem like the type of candidate you’re seeking?” and if the interviewer has any reservations about hiring you, you now have a chance to deal with them and remove the thing between you and the job.

2. Mirroring – Use the interviewers facial expressions, tone of voice, vocabulry, inflection, etc. But only if you’re good at it and can use the technique to make yourself more likable.

Despite feeling the book was too long for the number of good ideas it got across, and depsite what I feel is a bit of poor advice, this was still an interesting read.

Interview experience: Daewoo International in Seoul, Korea

On April 29, 2010 I interviewed for my dream job at Daewoo International. Now that I’m working somewhere else, the interview remains a painful memory but I can’t deny that it was a learning experience.

I had to arrive at Daewoo Headquarters at 7:30 am. I arrived on time but nearly everyone else was early. There was coffee and Dunkin Donuts there for us. No one touched the donuts; we were all too nervous. We just sat there sipping coffee.

Thanks to alphabetical order I was one of the first to interview. There were five interviewers. First they asked me of my opinion of the Cheonan sinking in English. Then next questions were in Korean: Do I speak better Spanish or Arabic? How was my life in Sudan? When do I plan to get married?

Then I was guided to a computer lab to start preparing for the presentation part of the interview. Unfortunately, the topic I received was something for which I had not prepared: In the age when direct business between vendor and buyer is becoming more common, how can Daewoo as an agent maximize its role to seek profitability?

I had 50 minutes. I spent 20 on research, 10 on PowerPoint, and 20 on the script. They guided me to another waiting room where I had 30 minutes to stew. I presented to 5 interviewers who asked some questions regarding the presentation and about me after I’d finished.

The last step was a Spanish conversation test and it was fairly simple – What was the best trip you’ve ever taken? Compare life between Korea and Guatemala. What did you do to prepare for this interview?

It took about 4 hours in total so I was too exhausted for my afternoon class. The result wasn’t favorable and the process was stressful, but it became a useful experience for future interviews.

Tell us about yourself: how to & how not to

You have to be careful when it comes to taking advice on how to interview from the internet. Lots of people want to give you interview advice but much of the advice people want to give is not worth taking.

Let’s look at this example of how to answer the question, Tell us about yourself.

Now there are a few good things about this answer, but there’s one major flaw. Can you identify the problem? Keep in mind that the answer to tell us about yourself should contain the following:

1. Why you’re there

2. How you can help them

3. Why they will like working with you