Friday, December 02, 2005

Living: How To Do Well At A Job Interview

Practically everyone has had the experience of going in for an interview for an important job and running straight into one of those “mind-blowing” questions posed by an interviewer. This kind of question (“Where do you see yourself in five years?” “What are your weaknesses?”) can stop the interview cold, if you’re not ready for it. The way to deal with these kinds of questions is to expect them and be ready for them in advance. Here are some of the questions interviewees dread and some ideas for how to prepare for them.

“Are you a team player?”
A question so boring that it actually throws interviewees; you are almost certain to be asked this one. The problem is that the only possible answer to this question is “Yes.” (You might try answering “No, I’m a backstabbing little bastard,” but that’s not going to get you the job unless you’re interviewing with Microsoft.) The problem with answering “Yes” is that all the other job candidates are also going to answer “Yes.” You want to come up with an answer that shows you are a team player, but makes you stand out from the other applicants. So you should answer (slowly) “Well… yes, I suppose you’d consider me a team player… for in reality… my true name is…(dramatic pause here) Brett Favre.” (It doesn't matter if you are a female and don't know who Brett Favre is. Just remember to also tell the interviewer that you are "post-op.")

“What are your weaknesses?”
Interviewees really dread being asked this one. An honest answer about your weaknesses will virtually guarantee that you come off worse than other job candidates. A dishonest answer (“I have no weaknesses”) will make you seem like a braggart or egomaniac. The question is really a kind of trap from which there is no escape. There is only one acceptable answer: “Kryptonite.”

“What would your past managers say about you?”
Another “trap” sort of question. The interviewer knows what your past managers say about you; he has your references in front of him. What the interviewer is trying to do here is gauge the sort of relationship you had with your previous bosses. You want your answer to show the interviewer that your relationship with previous employers was close, but not stand-offish or submissive. So your answer should be something like: “They would say that my private parts taste kind of funny.”

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
You are right to resent this question; no company is going to guarantee you a career path, or even a job for five years. So when someone asks you “Where do you see yourself in five years,” you might be tempted to turn the question around on the interviewer, and answer (with a friendly smile) “In your chair.”

For a long time this was long considered to be the “smart” answer to this question; but now interviewers are wise to that answer and when you say “In five years, I see myself sitting in your chair” they will simply smile back and say: “You’re already in my chair. I switched chairs just before you came into the office.”
So then you say:“I switched them back again when you were taking that call.”
If the interviewer falls for that, you have reached a critical moment in the interview. The interviewer may be caught off-guard by this answer—if so, he will stare at you for a second, then grasp the arms of the chair he’s sitting in and look around him wildly—the expression on his face will be something like: “How—how could she have done that? I was sitting in this chair the whole time, even when I was on the phone—there’s no way she could have switched—it’s imposs—it unbelieva—“

If so, you know you’ve got the interviewer where you want him—and you’ve got the job, too! Just sit there, smile smugly, and say nothing. The interviewer will stammer out something about a starting salary, eventually. Don’t agree to the first figure offered. Ask for a lower figure, if you really want to throw him.

“What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?”
Most inexperienced interviewees start blabbing something about “shooting Class 5 whitewater rapids” or “the Marine Corps” or “dealing with the death of a loved one.” This is a big mistake. The interviewer doesn’t care about your personal life, he wants to know what you are capable of doing for the company. So when he asks you “What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?”—without hesitating, without batting an eye, you say: “An uncooked zucchini.” That will raise his eyebrows, and it will instantly separate you from the herd of job candidates (unless they, too, have read this article.)

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    At 5:43 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

    That's pretty much dead on.

    At 7:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    So this explains my lackluster career....


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