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Submitted by michaelbackes on


Hi everyone, 

After several years of various flavors of behavioral-style questions, I ran into a situation that I didn't expect: 

The candidate recognized the behavioral pattern, and then declined to actually give specific scenarios out of the past and explicitly said that the answers would stay at a generic level. 

I went along with it just to kind of see how it would go, and the individual is highly analytical from what I can tell with a highly technical background. For me, the explicit rejection is a big red flag. I've had people take time to think of something, which is fine. I've had things that fell apart when i probed for depth, also to be expected. But I have never had someone recognize the style of questions and reject it flatly. I don't want to be too biased in my assessment, hence I am seeing if anyone else has run into this before (I am sure it's happened to someone else),



pucciot's picture
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I am curious about how he approached it.

Apologetically or smugly ?

Did the candidate indicate that they could not remember a specific example ?

That would show a lack of a good memory and lack of preparation.

- Admittedly I often have a hard time remembering such situations. 

So --- I can be empathetic to this. 
If they admitted their difficulty and still tried to answer ...
It is a smudge mark - but not a big red flag if the rest of the interview went well.


If, on the other hand, it was a clear response of "I am not going to play this game with you"  -- I would take that as a red flag and a good reason not to hire.

He is behaving as if he is smarter than you, better than you , and doesn’t have to play by the same rules as everybody else.

We are often faced with tasks and projects and just plain silly things at work, such as some kind of mandatory HR training.
Or some new flavor of the week initiative some boss thought up.

Refusal to "play along" shows a lack of being a good team member.

Sometimes we do have to "play along".  Sometimes that's just part of the job. 

I would not want someone on my team that could not be a “good sport” in these situations.


Good Luck




jrb3's picture
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When hiring, I'm not filling a generic position, nor do I desire a generic direct-report.  Even at entry-level!  This one "failed to demonstrate" and thus filtered himself out.

Jollymom's picture

What do you usually look at then? 

ted.rosner's picture
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Sorry, but I think this is completely clear. Failing to answer reasonable questions at interview is an immediate fail. If we assume that one of central tenets of MT guidance - past performance is our best predictor of future performance - is true, this candidate has given you a reason to say no: no demonstration of any past performance.