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feelings before interview

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feelings before interview

Postby Val » Mon Feb 21, 2005 11:20 pm


Life is a surprising thing. It is only 7 years of struggling through my attempts to keep postdoc-like science-realted employments since I finished my PhD. And now the administrator addresses me "senior scientist like you", and suggests to apply for a permanent position which he would advertise soon... Really, I did not notice how this switch between "junior scientist" and "senior scientist" in my career happened.

Well, anyway, I am invited for a job interview with a different department. Maybe, they already have an internal applicant whom they want to see in this position, or maybe not. It is hard to tell from the description of the selection criteria, and from the hirer's attitude in our initial conversation.

My career prospectives at the current department seem to be OK, so I will keep my cool when being interviewed. It is not going to be the end of the world for me if I do not receive this offer.

The question I did not like most being asked at an interview: "Can you lie looking straight into your opponent's eye ?". I consider myself capable of doing such a thing. I replied that I cannot do it... while looking straight into the interviewer's eye.

Regards,
Val
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feelings before interview

Postby Andrew » Tue Feb 22, 2005 8:51 am

Good answer. The way to think about these ethical type questions, many of which ask you to place one value above another (loyalty vs honesty, etc) is to realize that most people value integrity most highly of all. Some of these questions are really tough though (Would you lie to protect your boss?)...
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feelings before interview

Postby TF » Tue Feb 22, 2005 9:06 am

I would have taken offense to such a question. In reality any sort of question like this is really not black and white, like the interviewer is suggesting. I think in reality, for most rational people, the honest answer would be, "it depends on the situation". However, the most honest answer is not always the best.
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feelings before interview

Postby Emil Chuck » Tue Feb 22, 2005 9:19 am

Well, that question is certainly better than "How would you describe a sunrise to a blind man?" That came up in one of my interview competitions which I was directing.

I certainly like the answers given. I probably would contemplate the relevance of the question given the job you are applying for. If it were as an administrator, my answer would be that I would prefer to maintain my integrity and honesty when dealing diplomatically with my colleagues or my superiors. If it were in a research position, I wouldn't want to imply I was capable of convincing someone that bad data are good, or false data are true.

Certainly questions like that reflect badly on the interviewer and the hiring council. If possible I would quietly lodge a complaint (after a decision on the position had been made) with the chair of that search or the person supervising the chair of that search for the "inappropriateness" of that question. Indeed it would be one demerit I would hold over that job.

Remember, even though you are not in the position of power, you have to be confident that you want to work for that group. You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.
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feelings before interview

Postby Paul » Tue Feb 22, 2005 12:35 pm

This type of question are just funny!!

I once got asked "If music was rain, what would you plant in your garden?"...Lots of people have since come up with fairly good answers ("ears" is probably my favorite) but my reply, in the heat of the interview, was to burst out laughing and say "you're fricking joking, right?". Actually made the interview panel laugh and I got offered the position.

I agree with Emil completely...you are also interviewing them! Be yourself and don't be afraid to highlight your opinions on the relevance, or lack of, of their questions or to explain why you feel as question is impossible to answer in a sentence.

Anyone else has questions of this type?

Cheers,

Paul
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feelings before interview

Postby Andrew » Tue Feb 22, 2005 12:37 pm

I wouldn't say that asking those sort of ethical questions designed to probe your thoughts on these matters is inappropriate in an interview situation. Further, being offended or complaining to HR is the quickest way to lose an opportunity. I would recommend that you be very sure of yourself before you accuse someone of crossing a line.
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feelings before interview

Postby Andrew » Tue Feb 22, 2005 12:40 pm

If you could be a tree, what kind of tree would you be? Probably too well known by now, but the best answer I've heard is "what kind of trees are you looking for here?"
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feelings before interview

Postby Val » Tue Feb 22, 2005 6:50 pm


I remember coming for an interview to a medical device R&D company. Here is the dialog between the Operations Manager and me:
-- Are you married ?
-- No. Why ?
-- We want you to work overtime on weekends.
-- Is the overtime going to be paid ?
-- No.

This conversation left me gasping for air. Not surprisingly, by now their share price dropped to 1/10 of what it was 10 years ago, and recently I heard they laid off all of their R&D staff (and this is an R&D company !). The Operations Manager, however, is still there.

About another question. I heard a psychological testing was popular in the 1950s. A popular question was: "Do you enjoy gay parties ?" Answer to choose was "Yes" or "No". Either way, you made a bad impression about yourself... :-)

Regards,
Val

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feelings before interview

Postby Andrew » Tue Feb 22, 2005 7:23 pm

In the US, "are you married?" is an illegal question. How to handle illegal questions is a whole separate thread, but laws vary among countries.
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feelings before interview

Postby Bill L. » Tue Feb 22, 2005 8:28 pm


Hi Val,

I always think that such questions beg for a follow up question, such as: "Why do you ask?"

I'm not talking about the cynical "Because I'll tell you what you want to hear", but in the practical sense of wanting to understand more about what's important to the interviewer, their perspective, and what's going on for them in asking.

Here's why. There are way too many reasons as to why a person would ask a question like "could you ever lie to others". (They read it online and thought it was a nifty question to ask, they just had a staff person who lied through their teeth for three years and embezzeled, etc.)

For example, I recently had a student (a clinican) who was asked, after a question or two about her independence and willingness to be a team player, if she ever went beyond her scope of practice. Now, should could have answered yes, in the vein of: I am willing to take the intitative when the well being of a patient is a stake. But she could have answered no, in the line of: I know that I need to follow the written and unwritten rules to avoid malpractice.

I think interview questions are tools created to elicit a body of information, but they can be very imprecise, blunt tools. Reframing statements, follow up questions or clarifying back-stories/additional information are almost always required to truly address their concern, much less answer their question.

Bill L. & Naledi S.

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