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  #41  
Old 16 January 2013, 09:37 PM
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"If you had turned you cell phone to silent and it rang really loudly despite it being on silent, what would you tell me?" - Asked at Kimberly-Clark, biomedical engineer candidate.
I would apologize for the interruption and explain that I have certain numbers from which I would only get calls in case of emergency set to ring me even when my phone is on silent. If it's ringing, there is something quite wrong and I need to check it immediately. I will drop what I'm doing for a call from one of those numbers, and if it's the type of job that has no flexibility for emergencies it's not a job I'm willing to take.
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  #42  
Old 16 January 2013, 10:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Richard W View Post
Indeed - as I said, I've been asked the cheese sandwich version and it was completely appropriate at the time. And they thought my cheese sandwich documentation was really good, too. I didn't get the job for other reasons, though.

I think I've had "how to make a cup of tea," too.
I've always wanted to use the cheese sandwich one. Maybe if I'm ever interviewing anyone again...

I think the best technical writer test I saw, though, was a 'genuine piece of developer documentation' that I was given half an hour to scrawl on with all the clarifications I would want in order to document the thing in question. And boy, did it need a lot of them! The way the introduction had plainly been copied from another project and then not updated was a particularly lovely touch, I thought...
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  #43  
Old 16 January 2013, 10:14 PM
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My answer to "Tell me how you make a tuna sandwich" would be "I don't. I am allergic to fish."
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  #44  
Old 16 January 2013, 10:21 PM
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Originally Posted by snopes View Post
Who's ordering you to "jump"? You're free to decline to answer any interview question you don't want to answer. And "that's not my job" isn't really an appropriate response, since you don't have the job at that point.
What I mean is that this type of interview process looks to hire people who have a stronger attachment to their employer than usual, perhaps playing upon their love of the philosophy or "mission statement" or culture of the company and what it represents, and not the work itself. They are looking for people who will feel privileged because of this, and because of that they will be more than just flexible, but rather, compulsive pleasers. If a person comes to you for a interview, and they tell you without prompting that this is their "dream" job, it makes for good business to take advantage of that, to a certain extent. It could be a lower salary, or it could be getting more work out of them, voluntarily.

I didn't mean that they ask people to "jump" in the interview process, but that they want people later to be so enamored with the job and working for said company that they will do whatever they are asked for, whenever they are asked for it, even if it is not part of their job.

The only passing experience I have with this is through my friends and colleagues who work in the high-tech industry in California, and how strong the culture is in some companies that it really makes people unfairly choose between a career and any vestige of individual life, because so many of their co-workers (competing for promotions and opportunities) don't consider it a choice, as their job is first, second, and third in their lives. Said people have no friends outside of work, and when they are married, rarely have children. However, that did not stop said company from laying people off when the dollars demanded it. Sure, those who were perceived by managers as being more loyal to the culture, may have found work in other groups or departments, but it was no guarantee, and all of that sacrifice ended up having no "quid pro quo" payback. Business is business - loyalty shouldn't be measured beyond your next paycheck, because most companies don't think of it any other way.
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  #45  
Old 16 January 2013, 10:39 PM
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And you can tell that because one of the interview questions was a little unusual?
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  #46  
Old 17 January 2013, 02:25 AM
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4. "A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?"
"I'm here to rent a room and by the way, I might need your trousers."

Quote:
23. "On a scale from 1 to 10, rate me as an interviewer." - Asked at Kraft Foods, general laborer candidate.
...okay, that one is bloody evil.
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  #47  
Old 17 January 2013, 02:38 AM
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I didn't mean that they ask people to "jump" in the interview process, but that they want people later to be so enamored with the job and working for said company that they will do whatever they are asked for, whenever they are asked for it, even if it is not part of their job.
Wow. That's quite an inference to make from a question about a penguin in a sombrero.
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  #48  
Old 17 January 2013, 03:01 AM
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They would learn something about me with the penguin question. I don't know if it's what they would want in a candidate, but I think I would say, "Well, penguins can't talk, so he'd just look at us, but I guess he's here because he got lost on his way to the fish market."
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  #49  
Old 17 January 2013, 03:53 AM
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Originally Posted by snopes View Post
Wow. That's quite an inference to make from a question about a penguin in a sombrero.
Those questions (and other tactics) are there to destabilize people and push them out of their comfort zone and see how they react. I had an internship interviews with an interviewer and an "observer" who sat outside my field of view, whom I was instructed to ignore. In typical urban-legend fashion, the rumour was that if you looked at the "observer" even once, you wouldn't get hired because you didn't follow instructions. The company was EDS, founded by Ross Perot but now owned by HP, and well known for its conservative and bureaucratic culture. This was back in 1989/1990. We students were told, before interviews, about this culture - the very strict culture where we had to wear business suits and not sport jackets ("jacket and trousers cut from the same cloth" was the exact quote used) as well as the drug and alcohol testing policies (which even today is rare in Canada), ethical policies, and so on. Obviously they were looking for people to fit into their very narrow vision of a good employee - that's their prerogative, but it's not my cup of team.

But some of these questions and tactics - like the "how do you make a sandwich" question - test a person's compliance to odd requests. I have no doubt that some companies - even large companies with well-defined procedures and rules - would prefer an employee who would wash his supervisor's car without question or hesitation, if they were asked to do it on company time, than one who would question such a dubious order. Loyalty may be highly valued, but I don't think it's rewarded.
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  #50  
Old 17 January 2013, 08:10 AM
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Originally Posted by DevilBunny View Post
I think the best technical writer test I saw, though, was a 'genuine piece of developer documentation' that I was given half an hour to scrawl on with all the clarifications I would want in order to document the thing in question. And boy, did it need a lot of them! The way the introduction had plainly been copied from another project and then not updated was a particularly lovely touch, I thought...
When I was a developer, I actually used to be the interview test for candidate technical authors. I'd made a rather complicated class diagram of the project we were working on, and they said "Right, Richard, go in there and explain that diagram to them, and answer their questions, and we'll give them half an hour and see what they've written"...

(eta)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hero_Mike View Post
But some of these questions and tactics - like the "how do you make a sandwich" question - test a person's compliance to odd requests.
No they don't - as stated several times already, that question tests how clearly you can explain something, how many assumptions you make about people's knowledge of a common task, such as assuming that everybody knows the same things you know (you need to check the audience; one of the stipulations in the question I was asked was that the audience was from a culture which didn't have cheese), whether you can get the tone right and use the appropriate level of detail, how flexible your instructions are, and so on. As well as basic spelling and grammar. It's a fairly standard question to ask a technical author, and there are a lot of other jobs which include an element of documentation or the ability to write clear instructions.

Last edited by Richard W; 17 January 2013 at 08:19 AM.
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  #51  
Old 17 January 2013, 08:18 AM
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Originally Posted by TurquoiseGirl View Post
My answer to "Tell me how you make a tuna sandwich" would be "I don't. I am allergic to fish."
That's a pretty good answer for the penguin question as well. Come to think of it, it works for some of the others too.
Quote:
Have you ever stolen a pen from work?
No, I don't. I am allergic to fish.
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  #52  
Old 17 January 2013, 10:59 AM
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An end to the moratorium of Orca culling in the Gulf of Mexico?

Protesting against Robin Williams' portrayal in happy feet?

A reminder not to take so many hallucinogens before your next interview?

Puedo hacer el trabajo, el Sr. Skipper?
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  #53  
Old 17 January 2013, 11:15 AM
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DS2 went for an interview with a high profile, IT firm in Dublin.
One of the questions asked was 'How many golfballs could you fit into a double decker bus'

I told him he should have written down, 'that question is a load of balls'
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  #54  
Old 17 January 2013, 11:39 AM
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Depends on the club.
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  #55  
Old 17 January 2013, 12:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hero_Mike View Post
Those questions (and other tactics) are there to destabilize people and push them out of their comfort zone and see how they react.
Or they are there because there is no way the interviewee can prepare for such an answer, and you get to see how fast and well he or she thinks on his or her feet, which is an important skill in many fields.
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  #56  
Old 17 January 2013, 12:19 PM
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Even if they are intended to push people out of their comfort zone, that does not support all the other assumptions Mike is making about culture, conformity, etc.
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  #57  
Old 17 January 2013, 12:27 PM
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'How many golfballs could you fit into a double decker bus'

A: Logistics aside, it would be best to guage this on how many golfballs we can acquire on short notice, and whether I'm allowed to remove the top windows, or cut a hole in the roof after sealing the doors.

"On a scale from 1 to 10, rate me as an interviewer."

A: 1. You didn't specify whether the scale runs from good to bad or bad to good...

(Leaving it hanging, then seeing how the interviewer reacts. I'm guessing this is a question based on how willing you are to challenge authority.)
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  #58  
Old 17 January 2013, 01:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard W View Post
(you need to check the audience; one of the stipulations in the question I was asked was that the audience was from a culture which didn't have cheese)
Oklahoma?

Gen "Too close to the rhino" Yus
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  #59  
Old 17 January 2013, 02:53 PM
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Quote:
4. "A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?" - Asked at Clark Construction Group, office engineer candidate.
"What? It's Taco Tuesday and the local Mexican place gives a discount if you wear a sombrero"
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  #60  
Old 17 January 2013, 03:00 PM
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I might stumble on the tuna sandwich question, because I'm very dogmatic about my tuna sandwiches (you don't mix anything but mayo with the tuna).

The "Have you ever stolen a pen from work?" one is tricky. My immediate gut reaction is to say, "No...I've taken pens from work occasionally, but I don't think it qualifies as 'stealing' because those kind of cheap pens are essentially disposable items that businesses expect will disappear in reasonable numbers. Taking a box of pens home with me would be stealing, but occasionally taking one home in my pocket is not." Honest, but I have a feeling that kind of rationalization would not be pleasing to many. Yet just saying "Yes" would be no better, and saying "No" would likelly cause them to assume you're lying....there really seems to be no right answer.
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