Monday, July 13, 2009

Job Search and Interviews

I was watching a Tamil TV show called “Senthoora Poove”. The star of the show goes for a job interview and was denied the position because he was overqualified.

Due to the current economic climate in the world, there are many people applying for jobs that are below their qualifications. They are willing to take a lower salary in the hopes of getting a paycheck. However, if the applicants put their real qualifications in the resume, such as a Masters Degree or their real job title at the previous company (Senior Manager), those people will not even get an interview. No employer wants to hire an overqualified person. The employer is afraid that he/she may quit this job when the right opportunity comes along to them.

If someone does get an interview, they have to go through the whole crazy process of answering questions again and again. Many times it’s the same thing and at some point you’ll run into interviewers who are jerks.

Once upon a time, interviewers used to ask for the candidate’s age. If it was a female candidate, they asked if she is pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Nowadays, there are other questions which are considered standard and regularly accepted but they are still somewhat silly questions. Why do you want to work for us? What makes you think you are qualified for this job? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? Are you a team player? Please tell us your strengths and weaknesses.

In an article, the HR guru Mr. Mark McNulty wrote about other unusual and weird questions that are being asked in interviews. Some of them are: If you were a fruit, what kind would you be…and why? Which movie star do you think would make the best employee? What color describes your personality?

There are books and online articles available to prepare for these types of questions. Answers to these anticipated questions must be rehearsed at home. However it must be recited, during the interview, sounding as natural as possible.

However, running into jerks can go both ways. Sometimes candidates behave like jerks and ask the dumbest questions at the wrong time. For example, during the interview candidates have asked the following: When can I transfer to another job? When will I get an increase in salary? Will you perform a background check on me? Do you do drug testing here?

One HR manager told me the most unlikely and bizarre answer a candidate wrote on his job application form. Name: He wrote his name. Address: He wrote his address. Sex: He should have written “Male”. Instead he wrote “occasionally”.

I cannot end this blog without telling about my own personal experience.
My first job in the USA was a first line Manager supervising 14 non-management employees who prepare financial reports. During the interview my potential boss asked me if I had any supervisory experience. I said yes. Knowing that I was new to the USA, he asked me if I had ever supervised Americans before. My immediate reaction was to say NO, however I held back. I thought about giving a well worded answer for 30 seconds. I was looking at him straight in the eyes while I was coming up with the right words. Those 30 seconds of silence felt like 30 hours. Finally I answered his question with a question back to him.

I said, why are you asking me this question? Are Americans very difficult to supervise? The guy burst into uncontrollable laughter. Then said: You’re hired.

I was about to post this blog but then I came across an article in an Indian magazine. This is a real story and I wanted to share it in this blog. A divorced girl went for a job interview. The interviewers asked the following questions: You did not give your husband’s name in your bio data. Why? What is he doing now? Did you see him after your divorce? Will you both live together again? The interviewers were smiling and enjoying the moment. The girl came home in tears.


  1. Sex? Occasionally? You may think he is stupid. He is not a traditional thinker. He is an "Out of the Box" thinker. I would hire an "Out of the Box" thinker any day.

  2. Thanks for your comments Vivek. I know someone who thinks out of the box. A girl went to kindergarten for admission. The teacher asked her some questions to make sure where to place her. The teacher asked: When do you eat breakfast. The teacher expected: In the morning. The girl said: Whenever my mom cooks. Is she an "out of the box" thinker or what?

  3. I liked your presence of mind. A NO for an answer is really really negative and at the same time, sitting in front of your probable manager and searching for an apt answer...Phew!

    I was still in college when I attended my first interview for a fortune 50 company. My hiring manager asked me "Are you good at communication?" It was amusing as I thought the person should have by now gauged my communication skills and what was expected out of me for such a question?
    Would I say no?

    I was hired anyways and the manager was best :-)

    Most times as you mentioned, weird questions are put forth and the candidate is in dilemma. Very true on hiring females.
    Is it the organization or few individuals? The general thought is at least in India - married women cant put in extra hours at work and son on.. Sad.

  4. Very often, your cover letter will be the first thing that a recruiter looks at when he sits down to do that all-important first sift. It is your first opportunity to leave a lasting and favorable impression and as such it should work every bit as hard as your resume, if not more so, to convince him that you are the best match for the job. Remember, the employer is looking for a really outstanding candidate and if your cover letter is in any way sub-standard or does nothing to tempt him into reading your resume, then he will not waste any further time on your application.

  5. Thanks for your comments Insignia. I think it is the few individuals. Organizations do not tell these individuals to ask such stupid questions.

  6. Thanks for your comments ICT. And, welcome to my blog. You are absolutely right. Since the employer reads many resumes in a day, your cover letter must catch his/her attention. As you said, otherwise he/she will not waste any further time.

    I am also told by some professionals that it is better to send your cover letter and resume to the 'hiring manager' instead of to the 'HR'.

  7. I don't care what day of the week it is when I let someone go from my company. Also, I only have two words to say when I'm letting someone go from my company...


    Donald Trump

  8. Thanks Donald. At least, you personally tell your employees that they are fired. You do not hide behind your HR people. Your response gave me a new topic for my next blog. Thanks.

  9. When my DH was being interviewed for his first job after college, the hiring manager really wanted to catch my DH off-guard. He said, "tell me a story about a bear." My DH didn't know what to say. But whatever he said must have worked because he was hired. He became really good friends with that hiring manager.

    Years later my DH said the same thing to me when we were first dating. I just stared blankly at him and asked if he was serious. He was. So I made up a story about a bear. We got married a year later!

    And that hiring manager? He's still one of our dearest friends.

    SG, can you tell us a story about a bear?

  10. Thanks for your comments JaGo. I know only one bear story. It is a sad story. It is about the current stock market situation. This story's title is aptly called "The Bear Market".

  11. Nice write up and neat answer :) its tough times right now...Many friends are in the over-qualified category and out of a job...hoping things get better

  12. Thanks. Welcome to my blog. I also hope things will get better. Please read my next blog on Saturday. Will be continued about how people get fired.

  13. Nice post...its so true that a person goes through all this in an interview!! Things are nearly the same its just they are making it complicated, i mean the content is same only the layout has been changed. Many stupid questions are asked which have no relevance to the job!!
    HR's forget that they are the face of the organization to the candidates when they first come in contact with the organization. First impression is the last impression...questions should be based on the job specifications and description.

    Nice blog and well written....n ya SG stands for???

  14. I was touched with the girl story its a wake up callto open their mouths and speak up when such situation arises because women can say more than what they can expect to hear

  15. Thanks Nazish. Welcome to my blog. You are absolutely right. Questions should be based on job specifications and descriiption.

  16. Thanks Shilpa. I was very much disturbed after I read that girl's story in a weekly magazine. This happened in Madurai. Yes, women should speak up.

  17. Aah you have a great brain to question the interviewer and that makes me think I should be glad at least for this one reason to be an H4....lolz

    Thanks for dropping by my blog and am trying to recall in Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, and Tamil what they say for Go in the Garage ....ROFL

  18. Thanks for your comments Sakshi. Welcome to my blog. I was lucky enough to hold back my impulsive answer.

  19. Smart of you to have come up with a witty retort instantly! As far as 'out-of-the-box' thinking goes, I guess all interviewers try to gauge it. I was asked to draw everything I'd observed about the office from the moment I'd stepped in during one of my interviews (since I said I love to paint)

    Nice post SG :)