Tough Interview Questions

If you thought your last interview went poorly, can you imagine being asked to sell the interviewer an invisible pen?

Krishnan Anantharaman blogged for the Wall Street Journal about some of the more off-the-wall questions interns faced in their interviewing process.  To read the full story (it is a fun read), please visit:

http://blogs.wsj.com/hire-education/2011/03/04/five-guys-walk-into-a-bar/

So why would a company ask an interviewee “What is the chance two people in a room have the same birthday if three people are present?”  Look beyond the answer and see what this type of question elicits from a candidate…does he/she have an affinity toward math and statistics.  The question about how many airplanes are flying over the US at this moment is impossible to answer…but does show how an individual attacks a problem/challenge.  Does he/she blindly guess or is there a rational thought process employed in the arrival of the candidate’s answer.  These are tough interview questions, but when purposefully asked, they do serve a purpose in evaluating candidates.

Lastly, these sorts of unusual questions cause the interviewee a fair amount of stress.  The companies listed often have a vested interest in understanding how a potential employee will react in a stressful environment.  For Enterprise, they need to understand how a management trainee will deal with difficult customers or employees – having a cupcake interview process does not mimic real life situations.

There is an engineering firm that works in the energy sector that has a very difficult final round interview.  The candidates are subject to two long days with minimal sleep, visits to an oil or gas rig, interviews late into the night, and paperwork – the company needs to understand how an individual reacts to stress (common in the job), the decision-making skills when tired (again, common with this job), and working at odd hours (again, common with this job).  Since they have instituted their intense final round, their offer/yield rate has gone up considerably as candidate better know what they are signing up for and their attrition rate after 2 years is significantly lower as new employees better understand the unique demands of the job.

To wrap up, when preparing for an interview, it may be wise to consider the culture of the organization as it may tip you off as to the environment you will face in an interview.

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About Kevin Monahan

I have 10+ years experience in coaching clients in their career management and career change efforts. Personal career consulting services combined with employer outreach to help find opportunities for both constituents.
This entry was posted in Career Management, Communications, Interview, Job Search and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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