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I'm interested in members' favorite interview questions.

Please post your favorites.

I'll start with a good one I heard recently.

My friend was interviewing for a .Net developer vacancy.

His question was -- Convince me that you're a expert .Net developer in 60 seconds or less.

jhack's picture

You must read this thread:

http://www.manager-tools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=1988

Wendii rocks and rules.

John

tomw's picture

[quote="sklosky"]His question was -- Convince me that you're a expert .Net developer in 60 seconds or less.[/quote]

I'd call that a terrible question. It's completely subjective based on what the interviewer considers an expert to be. It also has no behavioral component at all. Anyone could be an expert, the more important question is whether they sit around and read .Net books all day or actually deliver results.

pmoriarty's picture

Without a doubt, my overall best question is:

Tell me about yourself.

Very few people that I have interviewed answer this question well. It makes the ones who do answer it well really stand out and for the most part, they have been people I have ultimately hired.

AManagerTool's picture

I am interviewing people for a position right now and I need to vent.

These podcasts have ruined me. I hear every single mistake that every candidate is making over and over again.....AHHHHH. It's like Mark's voice is in my head.

1. No resume...not a single one being referred to me by our recruiters lists anything close to an accomplishment. Just job descriptions.
2. Bizarre formats and fonts
3. One resume was 6 pages long and one was a half page and the others were everything in between.
4. Objective - "To obtain gainful employment".....I kid you not. That was an objective.
5. Employment dates: Job 1: Mar 1996 - Jul 1996, Job 2: 1997 - Dec. 2007, Job 2: 2008 - Present

Yesterday's phone screens:
Candidate 1:

Me:
You list Visual Studio.NET development as one of your applications that you use yet I see no actual .NET development in any of your job descriptions. Tell me about a time you used the .NET framework for development.
Candidate:
Ahh, I listed that....mmmmm ahhhhmmmmm. Well, I don't know how that got on my resume.

Candidate 2:
Me:
Tell me a story about a time you had to deal with a difficult customer.
Candidate:
When I deal with difficult customers, I am polite, I tell them what I am going to do and .... I'm polite.
Me:
Perhaps, I wasn't clear. I am asking you to tell me about a particular incident that you dealt with a difficult customer.
Candidate:
*sounding kind of testy* I'm confused, what is it that you want to know? I already answered how I deal with a difficult customer.

Candidate 3:
Me:
So tell me about yourself and why you feel that you could do this job that I described to you.
Candidate:
Well its all right there on my resume.
Me:
*Looks at a resume listing 2 pages of job descriptions alone* Oh!

[color=darkred]This is just painful! :oops: [/color]

terrih's picture
stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="AManagerTool"]Yesterday's phone screens:
Candidate 1:

Me:
You list Visual Studio.NET development as one of your applications that you use yet I see no actual .NET development in any of your job descriptions. Tell me about a time you used the .NET framework for development.
Candidate:
Ahh, I listed that....mmmmm ahhhhmmmmm. Well, I don't know how that got on my resume.[/quote]

Was this a resume you'd received direct from the candidate or via a recruiter who had 'optimized' it.

I've been in that position, from the candidate side, twice. Both times it was a role that I'd been put forward for by a recruiter and the details that had been sent to the company had been 'optimized' (i.e. edited) by the recruiter, two different companies. In both cases the recruiter, who didn't understand the technology area, had added things (e.g. I was an Oracle DBA (Database Administrator) but the job was an Oracle Applications Administrator so they added "Oracle Applications Administration" to my DBA jobs &c) and left me to be mugged in the interview. Naturally I asked to be taken off their systems immediately that happened, but as the candidate you're the product not the customer so your power is limited. There are some agencies that have been known for such edits but it goes in waves and a company that was fine last year may not be this and vice versa.

Something like that is a double whammy as not only do you interview for a job you've got no hope of getting but you risk being blackballed by that company, for future jobs you could do, as someone who lied on their CV. Even if you say that it wasn't you that added the claim there's always the risk that the recruiting manager won't believe you. Unfortunately there are candidates who will lie on their CV, we periodically hear on the news about people who have claimed qualifications they don't have &c, so it's hard to blame managers for being suspicious.

Stephen

AManagerTool's picture

Steven...good observation.

All the resumes seem to be cut and pasted into some type of recruiter format. The guy probably got set up. That said, he had a real hard time putting a sentence together, staying on topic or describing what he could do. I just couldn't picture him in the role. The misstatement was more the icing on the cake.

I'm using agencies...several. They all seem to do the same thing. They mangle the candidates resume into their format....which is horrible. I'd rather they just put their header on the candidates resume so I can see what they can do. Every one of them avoids having the candidate list accomplishments. Every job section consists of bullet lists of responsibilities. I can't believe that these people don't have accomplishments! Where are they? What makes them better than the rest of the people I am interviewing?

When they supply a steady stream of candidates listing only responsibilities all I have to differentiate them is negative. I have to look for screw ups instead of accomplishments. I have been picking the resumes with the least amounts of screw ups.

Perhaps someone with more experience can tell me why an agency does this. I can guess that they have no confidence in their candidates ability to put a resume together.

JPenny's picture

The manager interview should focus on six main areas of competence. Prepare behavioral interview questions that explore the ability to make decisions, delegate, develop and motivate staff, communicate effectively and manage work. Examples include:
"Tell me about an important assignment or task that you delegated. How did you ensure that it would be completed successfully?" and
"Tell me about the steps you took to establish rapport with a new staff member".

[url]http://www.best-job-interview.com/management-job-interview-questions.htm...

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="AManagerTool"]I'm using agencies...several. They all seem to do the same thing. They mangle the candidates resume into their format....which is horrible. I'd rather they just put their header on the candidates resume so I can see what they can do. [/quote]

I suspect it's probably something to do with wanting to present the information with the agency's 'branding' or something like that. Perhaps someone who has worked in the industry can enlighten us.

Putting it into a standard format is one thing, inventing content is something else altogether!

[quote="AManagerTool"]Every one of them avoids having the candidate list accomplishments. Every job section consists of bullet lists of responsibilities. I can't believe that these people don't have accomplishments! Where are they? What makes them better than the rest of the people I am interviewing?[/quote]

Reading this triggered a thought.

When you advertise a job or send a requirement to an agency what, generally,do you ask for? Do you say "Must have saved their employer £100,000 by delivering a .NET based application under budget and ahead of schedule" or do you say "5 years experience of .NET development in a Pharma related environment"?

Every job hunting course I've been on, and every reference I recall reading, has been very heavy on the idea of fitting your application to the advert or (where employers provide it) the person specification. To the extent that they teach that if the advert says "We need a PRINCE2 certified project manager with 10 years experience of major IT projects in the UK Local Government sector" your response should be "For the last 10 years I have been working in Local Government in the UK delivering major IT projects as a project manager. I gained PRINCE2 certification in 2002 and updated to PRINCE2 (2005) in 2006." Going back further I'm reasonably sure that most of not all of us were told in school or college to "Answer the question as it's written". If what we're asked for is skills and responsibilities then what we're trained to answer with is skills and responsibilities (often the evidence for the skills is the responsibility that needed it.

The only job ads I remember ever seeing that specified accomplishments were for sales or Business Development (i.e. sales) roles. There I've seen things like "A proven track record of year on year revenue growth". That's possibly because it's fairly easy in those sorts of roles to see the accomplishments, if your job is to sell toothpaste then we can look at how much toothpaste you sold, how that compares with how much you sold last period and how much everyone else sold. Also sales roles tend to be very accomplishment driven and accomplishments tend to be recognised. I've seen a lot of "#1 sales person for 4 years running" announcements, never "#1 project manager" or "#1 .NET developer".

Stephen

jhack's picture

Stephen,

Great point. The ideal is a cover letter that addresses the "For the last 10 years I have been working in Local Government in the UK delivering major IT projects..." side of things, while your resume highlights your accomplishments.

Of course, most agencies will dispense with your cover letter, and many will mangle your resume into their format.

That's why networking and researching opportunities is so powerful - your message isn't filtered. Your cover letter and resume go directly to the hiring manager.

John

wendii's picture

[quoteI suspect it's probably something to do with wanting to present the information with the agency's 'branding' or something like that[/quote]

That's exactly the reason. And.. when I worked in an agency, the CVs were retyped by the 18 year old receptionist.

Draw your own conclusions!

Wendii

stephenbooth_uk's picture

On the original question, being in IT I've had a few of the 'lateral thinking' questions (I think Microsoft are the best known users of these) over the years.

My favourite is:[quote]Long ago a sheik was nearing his death and, by custom, would leave all of his wealth to his eldest son. However his eldest son was a twin and no-one was sure which twin was born first. To decide the he sets up a race where each twin son rode their camel in a race and the son who's camel crossed the finish line second would inherit the wealth. The race started off but within sight of the finish line both stopped (neither wanted to be first across the line). After some hours of them milling around and not getting any closer to the finish line a local scholar went and spoke to both of them. Suddenly they both leapt on a camel and started riding hard towards the finish line. What did the scholar say?[/quote]

The answer that first occurred to me (he pointed out that it was not the first son to cross the line who lost out but the son who's camel was first to cross the line so they both immediately jumped on the other's camel to get it across the line first and make the other son the loser) was so obvious that I at first figured it must be wrong, I then discovered that it was the right answer.

Whilst I can kind of see what these questions are testing (ability to apply logic), I'm not sure how they really help in the selection process. If I'm going to set problems for a techie to solve to see if they can do the job then I'm probably going to set problems they will actually face in the job. So, if it's a development job I'm going to be giving them a program spec and some code to look at and ask them to identify any bugs or off specs, if it's a database support job I'm going to ask them to diagnose some database problems or ask them to configure a database in a certain way &c.

Stephen

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="wendii"][quote]I suspect it's probably something to do with wanting to present the information with the agency's 'branding' or something like that[/quote]

That's exactly the reason. [/quote]

Thanks for the confirmation.

[quote="wendii"]And.. when I worked in an agency, the CVs were retyped by the 18 year old receptionist. [/quote]

The last few years every agency who's asked for my CV has insisted that it be in MS Word format. I guess they've downsized the receptionist and just copy-paste now.

Stephen

bflynn's picture

[quote="JPenny"][url]http://www.best-job-interview.com/management-job-interview-questions.htm...

Looking over these questions gives me an idea - IMO, they are not good questions for an interview, but that doesn't mean you can't give great answers.

Example: What is the biggest challenge facing managers today? The answer is pretty simple: time management. Its was the #1 problem 100 years ago when Drucker wrote it and it will still be the same 100 years from now. So, you can answer the question and show you how well read you are and it would be an OK answer.

A great answer would be "Time Management", followed by specific examples of how you compensate for it by using GTD, strict scheduling and O3s for structured communciations with the people working on your project. Use every question as a chance to to tell your story, even when its not directly the answer to the question. Answer the question yes, and then talk about yourself.

Brian

jclishe's picture

A great question that I've heard is "imagine you are standing center stage in an arena with 80,000 people , microphone in hand. What is the single greatest accomplishment in your life that you are most proud of that you'd want everyone in attendance to know?"

The reason it's a great question is because most people get it wrong. Almost everyone will either say that the day they got married or the day their kids were born are their greatest accomplishments. Those are certainly events to be proud of, but they are just that - events. They are not accomplishments.

A good answer is "having been married for 15 years and counting", "raising 2 healthy kids that are stars in school", "finishing a marathon", etc. The reason this is a great question is because it can give you a glimpse of whether or not the candidate is goal oriented and understands what an accomplishment really is. What they are most proud of isn't the point at all; the point is whether or not they respond with something that truly is an accomplishment.

mdave's picture

"Please describe the best person you have worked for and why?" Wait for response. Then "without using names, please describe the worst person you have worked for and why." In my experience, this question really opens the door for the person that has either had negative supervisory experience and not handled them well OR always seems to have bad supervisors (red flags). It also gives some insight on the positive side in terms of workplace and management expectations that a candidate may have. It's been an effective question for me.

I have aslo substitued 'peer you have worked with'. Not quite as effective.

galway's picture

Sometimes (employees') behavior needs to be corrected. Give me an example of a time when you identified ineffective behavior in someone you were leading and how you corrected it.

I use that one everytime I interview someone for a leadership role. I've used it approximately 30-40 times and have yet to hear an answer that I have been satisfied by.

 

Examples of answers I've received:

"I sent him home."

"I told my manager"

"I always handle discipline compassionately"

Mark's picture

I know we need to publish our interview creation tool, and since I'm the reason it's behind schedule, I've hesitated to comment on interview question threads.

A couple of things to please consider:

There are no universal great questions.  The questions are dependent upon the job.

The questions aren't the only important part.  You have to know how to evaluate the answers.

Lists of questions on the internet are uniformly bad for these two reasons combined (and hosts of others as well).  There are clearly people out there who post questions and don't know the answers.  The Wall Street Journal posts wrong answers, for heaven's sake.

Most managers think a good question is one which eliminates people...fair enough.

But if you want a GREAT question, it has to BOTH eliminate those not fit, AND highlight those who are exceptionally right.