When my boss asked,
"What's your greatest disappointment?"
I didn't expect the guy being interviewed to say,
"The size of my penis!".
But that's exactly what he said. This interview was during my first job in IT, when I was invited to sit in a couple interviews my boss was conducting.
It was my first time to appreciate what life was like on the other side of the fence, that is being one of the interviewers and not the person being interviewed.
Whilst my input was little, well nothing actually, I just observed and listened, I was given a glimpse of how the interview process works.
Some of these interviews have become the most striking of any of the interviews I've ever been privy to since. The interview format consisted of,
• my boss providing a brief overview of the organisation,
• what the particular role entailed,
• asking a series of technical questions,
• asking a series of personal questions and then finally,
• answering any questions the person being interviewed may have.
The interviews were pretty straightforward until this particular candidate was interviewed. After he'd answered the technical questions, my boss started asking him the personal type questions. Starting off with,
"What is your greatest achievement?"
The candidate after a brief pause, replied back,
"The birth of my daughter is my greatest achievement".
"Not a bad answer" I thought and then the candidate elaborated a little by saying how his outlook on life had changed since the birth of his daughter and this event changed him as a person too.
I think my boss liked his answer and his elaboration too. My bosses next question was,
"What's your greatest disappointment?"
After a pause, as the candidate thought about what to say, he finally blurted out,
"The size of my penis!".
I nearly choked on my drink when I heard what he'd said. My bosses face went bright red, again not exactly something he'd expect in an interview either.
For the next few minutes, my boss shuffled his papers in a sort of mild panic, not really knowing what to say, then one of the other interviewers interjected in with,
"Well thanks for coming today, as you'll be aware we have a few other people to see and we'll get back to you as quickly as we can. I'll show you out".
For the next few days everyone in the office pestered me to find out what this guy had said in the interview was actually true.
Whilst it may seem to have been a comical statement to make, it was wholly inappropriate and not fitting for an interview.
If I was the one being interviewed, I would have answered it along the line of,
"My greatest disappointment is not getting into IT earlier on in my career and basically playing catch up ever since".
It's vitally important to be very professional in interviews and project yourself as capable. You don't want to look like a clown and as such be treated as one with rejection.
Many years later, I conducted an interview where I asked the prospective candidate what was their weaknesses. Again another ploy on the negative type question, 'What is your greatest disappointment?'
I was amazed at the response back,
"Well, I find it difficult to get up in the morning to go to work, I find it hard to motivate myself, I lack confidence and I'm not very good with learning new stuff".
My first thought was,
"Don't call us, we'll call you.... Well we won't call you at all!"
Unfortunately, I had to carry on the interview as planned, otherwise the candidate could have said that I'd not given them a fair chance without giving them the full interview.
I can't believe how incredibly naive someone was with their answers. I understand there's being truthful but being downright stupid with your answers, is just incredible.
If I'd been asked the same question I'd have concentrated on my technical weaknesses in my answers back, saying something along the lines of,
"I haven't had much exposure to technology X but I've used a similar technology, which might make the transition easier to this technology."
I've not only put forward a weakness, that is not knowing a particular technology but I've also put forward how I'm going to deal with this weakness, giving reassurance to the interviewer.
One of the first organisations I worked as a freelancer, were in dire need of someone with Novell Netware experience. In the rush to get someone in quickly, the usual due diligence wasn't taken and one of the manager hired a candidate based on their CV (resume) only.
When the person started, my boss asked me to take the new starter for a coffee and give them a 'heads up' on what was going on. Looking back now this was sort of their interview, even though they'd been hired.
So I asked a few questions about what they'd done and told them what was involved in during my daily undertakings at the IT department, adding what their role would encompass. When I asked them whether they had any questions, they replied,
"Actually, I need to get something from my car, I'll be back quickly".
I never saw them again, they just never came back. Their agency phoned a few days later and said this person felt out of their depth and had decided to quit. So my sort of interviewing had scared them off, if only they'd been honest and said,
"I'm a bit rusty with this technology, so it will take a few days to get on my feet".
Instead they just disappeared into the ether. Yes, they should have been interviewed before they started but that's a mistake management made.
At another place I worked at, I did the interviewing when my employers were looking for a server engineer. This role required someone to come in and install the large computers known as servers. They would also have to configure them including installing the operating system and associated software.
I remember asking one of the candidates,
"What experience do you have of racking and building Compaq servers?", they replied,
"Well, servers are like women, you have to be gentle with them and caress them, otherwise they just won't do what you want from them".
Not exactly what I was expecting and then there was more,
"I talk to all the servers I install, each one of them has its own personality and you just got to learn how to deal with them".
Don't get me wrong this person wasn't totally cuckoo, he just had no clue about interviews. All I cared about was whether we could get the right person to come in and install servers and I couldn't care less if they talked to the servers in the process. But this person just didn't think before they blurted out their answers.
I've also seen interview candidates answer incorrectly the classic,
"Where do you want to be in 5 years' time?", with,
"Well I want your job" and wait for it,
"I want to be your boss".
Yes, nothing better than giving the job interviewer a little insecurity about their job, when advocating, you want to be their boss or take their job.
Whilst I have no qualms about tattoos and even have a few discreet ones myself. I'm amazed by some people's attitudes to the workplace environment, especially if it's a professional services company.
At one interview when I asked whether the candidate had any further questions, they replied,
"I'm getting a tattoo done on my neck and want to wear t-shirts, jeans and trainers, is this ok?"
Of course it isn't, this is a professional services company for sake. How would the customers appreciate sending someone over looking as if they've just walked off the street to carry out consulting?
At the end of an interview, the candidate is usually asked,
"Have you got any questions?"
Like many interviewers, I hate it when candidates respond,
"Yes, just one, have I got the job then?"
It's such a pretentious reply, it makes me think, what gives you the right to ask such a question?
Interviewers do things their way and upsetting the way they do this, such as making their decisions, just leads to them deciding against hiring you.
Just ask a real question such as along the lines of career progression opportunities or tell the interviewer, you have no further questions.