Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Interview questions

Today I had an interview for a job at the company where I already work. Luckily, it's for a different position to the one I currently occupy: it would feel a bit harsh if they made you reapply for your job every so often.

Interviews are quite pleasant, because they involve sitting in a quiet room and talking to somebody, often while drinking the beverage of your choice. I really enjoy talking about myself, and I often enjoy drinking my chosen beverage. Maybe that makes me something special - I wouldn't want to claim that, because it might make me seem big headed.

However, you don't just get to talk about your chosen subjects. I've never yet been able to spend an entire interview telling the interviewer about the time I got so drunk I forgot my own name. (There's always hope, though.) What usually happens is that they ask you questions.

Usually. Once I had an interview with two grumpy men in Golders Green, and I swear, part way through one of them fell asleep. And I was doing my level best to keep them awake with tales of derring-do. And how I got so drunk that - anyway, getting off the point here.

They ask you questions. I've been through training, I know you're meant to ask open ended questions to encourage exposition, and close ended questions when you're clear about what answer you want to get. I once wrote a list of questions to ask prospective database administrators, and then got a lecture on non-Euclidean geometry from one candidate, and a frightened stare from the other candidate. I've got questions where I don't care what answer you come back with, as long as you say something entertaining, or logical, or at least do your best to persaude me that if I employ you, I won't shortly regret hiring Dr Unsociable with a degree from Halfwit University. I understand the process.

And yet still, new and interesting questions materialise. I had two doozies today:
What do you think is the biggest misconception other people have about you, and why?
What's the biggest mistake you don't regret?
The first is an absolute minefield of self-incrimination, mixed with my already straong worry that I have little faith in my own mental existence, let alone other people's perception of that. Maybe it's safest to say that most people fail to realise you're the Second Coming of Our Lord in Heaven, and leave it at that. If not, you then have to explain why you think that other people think you don't think, and why it is that you think that other people thinking you don't think is something you think they shouldn't think. Which is enough to make anyone drink so much they forget their own name.

As for the second, I did think of saying I've never made any mistakes, I've just had a series of opportunities to learn more, but I could feel the vomit bubbling up my throat as I countenanced anything as glib as that, so I took the easier route of saying that living in a town for four years that I detested was probably a mistake, but I had benefitted in some ways from the experience.

These were not the worst questions I could have had:
What sort of food are you most similar to?
When did you stop beating your wife?
Do you want to dress up as Sonic the Hedgehog, or in this gimp suit?
Now I just have to wait and see whether I did well, badly, or went down in flames.

(I think Jasper Carrott pointed out how hard it would be to do a driving test a few years after you'd passed, because of all the habits you would have picked up while driving - picking your nose, drinking, shaving, rummaging for cassette tapes in the glove compartment while doing 90 down the hard shoulder of the motorway, leaning out of the window of your car to bellow obscenities at passing Toyota Priuses, etc. So it's a real blessing we don't reinterview for our jobs on a regular basis.)


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