Interview Questions, Answered Honestly

“Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?”

Can you be more specific? Like, do you want to hear about my childhood in Chicago and my abiding love for bad teen TV shows, or were you looking for the greatest hits of my resumé? Because if you just want the greatest hits of my resumé, maybe you could have familiarized yourself with it just a teeny tiny bit before I drove ten miles, through lunchtime traffic, in my crappy car that has no air conditioning, only to be told once I arrived that your office doesn’t validate parking.

“What are your greatest weaknesses?”
You understand that I’m trying to get hired here, right? How is telling you about things I’m NOT good at going to help me with that goal? I mean, you do know everybody who says “I’m too much of a perfectionist! I care too much! I work too hard!” is just a butt-smooching liar, right? And why would you want to work with a butt-smooching liar? Truth talk: Whenever I make coffee, it tastes like something that came out of Hagrid’s ass.  Also: I’ll probably spend a lot of the work day reading ONTD and wishing I looked like Selena Gomez.

“What are your greatest strengths?”
Reciting the title of every Buffy episode in the order they aired, and parallel parking. 

“Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?”
Employed somewhere, hopefully. Living in a house, but maybe a condo? Maybe still a regular old apartment, because my current place is super cute and my roommate is delightful. But then again, I’ll definitely be married in ten years, absolutely, unless I’m still single. And I’ll probably have at least one kid, because I really like kids! Except I guess I might also not, because I’d have to meet the right guy first, you know, I’d want to do it as a team, and dude, it is so super hard to meet even a random guy in Los Angeles, let alone the right one. Though I supposed I can’t really rule out the possibility of unplanned pregnancy. Oh God, please don’t let me have an unplanned pregnancy. Did I remember to take my birth control pill today? Wait, wait, I’m not supposed to take it for another hour. Phew. Close one. Anyway. I will definitely be in one or more of those places. And definitely not still at this job.

“Why do you want this job?”
BECAUSE I NEED A JOB. I NEED ANY JOB THAT I CAN DO WITH MY CLOTHES ON ALTHOUGH I AM STARTING TO GET MORE FLEXIBLE ABOUT THAT CONDITION. Because you’re offering health insurance. Because I have bills to pay. Because I don’t always want to be driving a crappy car with no air conditioning.

And I think I would be great at this particular one, because if I didn’t, I would not be wasting your time and mine. I’m here! I arrived on time, with three copies of my resume, printed on card stock! I’m smiling! I put on mascara! I shaved my legs! I’m wearing heels and a skirt and suit jacket! This is all an indication of my enthusiasm and interest about this position, because I could be on my couch in yoga pants, shoving fistfuls of Cheez-Its into my mouth and watching the Switched At Birth marathon on ABC Family!

So, you’ll call and let me know when you make a decision, right?


Molly Shalgos has contributed to The Hairpin, HelloGiggles, and the Center for Psychology of Women. She works in television, so she goes on job interviews a lot. Like, a LOT. 


21 Comments / Post A Comment

Babs Bunny (#547)

I failed a job interview a few months ago because they asked WORD PROBLEMS. Yes, like those word problems you’d have on a high school math test. BTW, the job did not require math.

maiasaura (#924)

@Babs Bunny This happened to me at a Large Tech Company where I was interviewing to be, essentially, customer service. THE CUSTOMERS DO NOT CARE IF I CAN FIGURE OUT HOW MANY DIMPLES A GOLF BALL HAS WITHOUT USING PAPER OR A PEN.

Aaaaand apparently I’m still mad about that.

Babs Bunny (#547)

@maiasaura Ah, one of my questions was: how would you figure out how many golf balls would fit in a bus? (And I might have asked if it was a short bus.)

yankeepeach (#276)

I have always been impressed by people who can successfully parallel park. I would totally hire you based on that skill alone.

“How I wish you could make a living parallel parking. It’s all geometry. Knowing all the angles, when to make that first turn and then when to swing it back in. That’s the key.”

@yankeepeach my driving test examiner told me i had perfect parallel parking. it’s gotten me laid approximately zero times, so i have to say its usefulness is limited.

Do it again, Once More, With Feeling!

short shrift (#530)

Strengths: accounts
Weaknesses: eczema

elizabeast (#629)

At least you didn’t go into an interview for a medical marketing/social media position at a prestigious University and talk about My Drunk Kitchen.

short shrift (#530)

My first post-college interview was for a retail position (ball so hard) and at one point my interviewer and I had a long, painful exchange about my thesis, which only made sense to me later when I realized that I was talking about the Renaissance epic poem The Faerie Queene and he was talking about Dairy Queen. Incredibly I got the job!

e (#734)

From the other side of the table- I recently had to give an interview, and it is really challenging on that side too. I think that might be a comfort to people- understand your interviewer is also thinking, “what the hell?”. You basically try and find a list of things to ask people, and then wonder how on earth can any basic questions really establish if this a person who will come in to work and understand what you want done and do it?

So when the interviewer says, “give an example of a challenging situation and how you handled it,” they know absolutely what a moron they sound like.

@e I know right? Is there anyone at all who thinks this process is worthwhile?

I think Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a book a few years ago about how the labor market is dominated by insane magical thinking and does a terrible job of matching the labor supply to demand.

sony_b (#225)

@stuffisthings, @e – I have had to interview hundreds of people, and I absolutely hate it. There is no difference between a five minute meet and greet and spending half a day in terms of predicting what a person will be like to work with.

For a highly technical position a real test is a great thing, but the chit-chat part is awful. I’ve worked for companies where they required us to ask the dumb-ass interview questions.

When I was hiring interns a few years ago I did something completely different. Instead of coming in to the office, I had them meet me at a notoriously awful Starbucks – over crowded, never quite clean, crappy customer service, basically stressful environment. Then I got there half an hour early and watched to see how they handled themselves. The kids who didn’t get flustered and were polite with the counter folks and other patrons got hired. Best batch of interns ever.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@sony_b That’s both evil and brilliant. I would so not have been your intern.

RosemaryF (#345)

I interviewed for my current position with one of the worst hangovers of my life. When asked, “Why do you work,” I said, “Because I have bills to pay.”

Luckily I was able to expound and blah blah blah my way out of that answer and ended up getting the job. And I love this job! I plan on staying here until I die.

mishaps (#65)

To this day, any time I discuss a retainer relationship, I have to say “ReTAAAAIIIINahhhh!” at some point in the process. Usually not with the client, though.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

My least favorites are those “there’s no right answer, I just want to see how you think!” questions. Like when the crazy woman who interviewed me for a temp secretary job asked why manhole covers were round. “Because it’s what Microsoft asks” is not a legitimate reason to ask dumb questions like this, BTW.

sony_b (#225)

@MuffyStJohn That’s really common in technical interviews, and can be useful when you’re looking for a specific type of tester. But the manhole covers question does have a real answer. (Round is the only shape that can never fall through the hole no matter what angle it is dropped from.)

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@sony_b The way it was presented was “we just want to see the way you think!”, so as an interview question it (supposedly) wasn’t a right/wrong thing. I don’t know though; I didn’t get the job. Which was probably one of the better things to ever happen to me in terms of not-getting-jobs, because apparently the person I’d have been working under was an utter psychopath.

sony_b (#225)

@MuffyStJohn I get that. I guess mostly I find it amusing when a question that does have a real answer gets asked in that way, because the interviewer doesn’t have a clue.

Glad you escaped the psychopath. I’ve been lucky and had mostly great managers since I’ve been in tech. I had a doozy of a co-worker for a couple of years though. It is no fun.

Also when interviewing for my current job I was asked about my “core values” or something like that, and I talked about about integrity (because that is very important to me) which I discovered later also happens to be our organization’s #1 stated core value. I don’t know if it would be considered better that I didn’t know and still said it, or if I had actually bothered to look them up beforehand…

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