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I’m preparing for the final panel interview with the senior management team of one IT company. I was told by its HR department that I’m on the short list of three candidates for the post of “senior creative engineer.” The HR assistant advised me to come 30 minutes ahead of the appointed time so that I can prepare for those “difficult interview questions.” Do you have any idea of what the HR assistant is telling me? – Deadly Nervous.
We’re on the same boat. I’m not sure what they mean by “difficult interview questions” and why that company is using it for employment purposes. For me, there are only three major objectives in conducting an interview for employment:
One is to give information to prospective employees on what they expect about the job and the organization. An effective orientation is best done during the last step of the hiring process rather than after. Two is to assess the applicant’s ability to perform the job and jell with the corporate culture. Three is to make friends with all applicants, if not turn them into valued customers.
We’ve to find out the context of why that company prefers to use killer job interview questions as the apparent determining factor. Let me tell you this story: There was a famous British literary personality who was interviewed by reporters upon his arrival in New York. He remembered that he had been warned before leaving London that American news hawks would probably try to make a fool out of him.
“Are you going to visit any night clubs during your stay in New York?” was the first question.
“Are there any night clubs in New York?” parried the literary man.
The next day, he was shocked to read the morning paper about his interview. According to the story, the first question he had asked on stepping ashore was, “Are there any night clubs in New York?”
Even in the case of a face-to-face exchange of information, the interviewee and the interviewer will get the chance to muddle their respective story, depending on one’s objective or bias, if you may. Therefore, I must tell you that there’s really a need for a balanced presentation of positive or negative factors of the three job interview objectives that I’ve stated earlier.
If that company focuses only on, say determining an applicant’s ability to perform the job with little emphasis on what it could offer in return (not only in terms of pay and perks package), then the individual hired will likely be disappointed and soon quit his new job. Obviously, this can be very costly on both sides.
Rather than cower in fear in anticipation of their killer questions, it’s better for you to prepare your strategy in accordance with the three objectives of job interviews, even assuming that your prospective employer is ignorant about them. If not - and you’re not sure how the interview would proceed - then I suggest that you do the following:
- Analyze and probe deeper into the organization, its mission, values, and vision. Know the history and current strategies of the company, its founder, their management team, its products or services, management style, future plans, and other relevant issues. Check the company website. And dig for more information from the Internet. Enrich your knowledge of the company by interviewing its current employees. Rather than agonize on the possible killer questions that may come your way, you can turn the tide by creating your own killer questions, the sooner that you are allowed to raise them: What is the reason for this job vacancy? Why doesn’t the company promote from within? What is the average turnover rate? How does the company intend to become number one in its industry? You mission statement says (blank), how would you like to elaborate them by giving specific examples? One caveat though: Don’t antagonize your interviewers, but explain beforehand that you are very interested and positive in ensuring a job fit.
- Study the job requirements and specifications. Try asking for a copy of the job description or performance standards. If not, settle for what the job ad is telling you: “What’s the basic job of a senior creative engineer?” The key word for the vacant job is “creative.” If that should describe it all, then, I recommend that you read William Poundstone’s book, “How Would You Move Mount Fuji?” This 2003 paperback which is based on Microsoft’s style of selecting the most creative thinkers is an enjoyable read as it gives you more than enough killer questions to play around with. Here are some of them: “How would you weigh a jet plane without using scales? How do they make M&Ms? If you are on a boat and toss a suitcase overboard, will the water level rise or fall? How many times a day do a clock’s hands overlap?” Indeed, these are difficult to answer. But as Poundstone has said about Microsoft: “Software is about ideas, not assembly lines, and those ideas are changing… Microsoft is conscious that it has to be looking for people capable of inventing the Microsoft of five or ten years hence.”
- Lastly, recognize that management decisions are not based on the result of your interview alone but on the totality of what you can offer. No applicant is expected to beat any job interview. But the selection process is more of identifying the two poorer candidates in the short list than of identifying the best one. With this in mind, your best bet is to focus on the background and future plans of the organization rather than be nervous by those anticipated killer questions.
DO YOU WANT TO CHALLENGE THIS ADVICE? This article is for non-managerial employees who can’t raise an issue against their bosses for fear of reprisal or job insecurity. Send your supporting or contrary view to email@example.com or follow Rey Elbo on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter for his random management thoughts.
InterAksyon.com means BUSINESS