Monday, July 23, 2007

Stupid interview questions

I'm not far away from entering the job market again. This means, of course, the joy of job interviews. As a contractor I go through more job interviews in about two years than most people do in their lifetimes. As a result I'm quite good at all the bullshit that's required.

One of the key things that you learn from doing hundreds of job interviews is how useless the whole process is. I suppose you can weed out the absurdly unqualified (programmers who can't complete basic programming tasks, business analysts who can't form a coherent sentence) however, they're all but useless for finding the best person for the job.

Really, interviews are little more than a thinly disguised popularity contest. Who would the interviewers most want to spend time with? If a workplace can actually admit that's their hiring process and it's done right, this is actually a pretty good way to recruit people. After all, why hire people you can't stand to be around?

But hardly anyone admits this. So you end up with this standard way of doing interviews with more or less standard questions because of course this will produce standardised results. Except it doesn't. Interviewers ask stupid questions, interviewees lie in response and interviewers make an arbitrary decision. And so the world keeps turning.

Here's a few of the questions I've had to answer hundreds of times with the kind of honest answer I wish I could get away with giving:

Q: What did you do in your last position?
A: Kept my contempt for my moronic manager concealed for long enough to complete the required work and get out without killing anyone.

Q: How do you deal with difficult co-workers?
A: I've mastered the ability to speak calmly while fixing them with a stare that makes it clear I'd step on their throat and crush their fucking windpipe if there were no witnesses.

Q: What pay rate do you want?
A: What do I want? About double what you're prepared to pay me. Can we stop pretending you care what I want?

Q: What would you say is your best quality?
A: The ability to work with morons without killing them.

Q: What would you say is your worst quality?
A: The inability to take stupid fucking questions like that seriously. What do you expect me to say? That I'm a pathological liar, thief, addicted to crystal meth and prone to violent outbursts?

Q: That's all the questions we have, do you have any questions?
A: Yeah, why do you ask such stupid fucking questions? Seriously, did you have to fail an intelligence test to get your job?

For those suffering from sarcasm blindness (an unfortunately widespread condition) I don't actually say those things in interviews. 9 times out of 10 I can work out exactly what an interviewer wants to hear and I'm an accomplished liar. I think the interviewers know that too. It's just that, if I fuck up, they like to be able to say "but he interviewed so well..."

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