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Sunday, May 31, 2015

8 Stealth Interview Questions

INC has an article titled "8 Stealth Interview Questions That Will Reveal True Character".

Let's see how we might deal with these from the point of view of an analytics job.

1. What's your favorite restaurant?


A true analytical type will eat at their desk a lot.  They might be inventive cooks at home, but probably not the type to be able to compare McCormack and Schmich with Ruth's Chris.

2. What's your spirit animal? 

Honey badger is probably a safe answer.

3. So, (insert name here,) what's your story?

How lazy is this interviewer?

You can reverse this. I once sat down as an interviewee, with the interviewer (a senior vice president) sitting at his desk. I decided to start off with "So, (name), how do you justify your existence here at (name of company)?"  I did get the job (and worked there for a couple of decades), but probably in spite of this interview.

4. Tell me a joke.


As an interview question, this looks a bit desperate. I would assume this meant the interview was supposed to last 30 minutes, but the interviewer is out of material and getting desperate to fill the time. Not a good sign if you are the uninteresting interviewee.   

Statistician Andrew Gelman has a blog post on 'worst jokes'. Some of these will surely finish off your job chances.

5. What would you do if you woke up and found an elephant in your backyard? 

This question is "provides an interesting insight as to how they view themselves within seemingly safe parameters and gives you an idea of how creative they are".   To me, this sounds like what the interviewer would ask if they still had time after asking question #4. The wrong answer is probably "Is it pink?"  Slightly better is "Go back to sleep and let HR handle it."  Still better is "I'd call Corporate Communications and ask if they need more elephant shit."

6. Have you ever played a sport? If so, which one and what position?


The comment in INC is interesting. "I'm looking for people who don't want to be goalies. I want people who want to be in the action and do everything they can to get in front of the ball,"  That's fine for, say, rainmakers.  In analytics, I would be happy to have goalies. Goalies handle stress well, and do crisis management well. In a crisis, goalies will direct the defense because they have the best view of the situation, but do so without demanding a lot of credit. Goalies can live with a job that has more potential for downside and scapegoating than upside. Goalies can take one in the face and keep standing.  Yes, I played some goalie.

7. If you opened your own business, what type of company would it be and why?

If I have an elephant in the backyard I'd take advantage of the situation and start selling elephant rides.  Or selling the elephant shit to Corporate Communications.

8. "I'm sorry, but I just don't think this is the right fit for you."

The comment in INC for this one is even more interesting.
"Telling applicants that they didn't get the job--even when Kang thinks they are actually a great fit--will motivate superstar employees to go the extra mile and prove that they're worth it.
The rest, he says, will fold under pressure. "
The purpose of an interview is to assess skills and to assess fit. I don't believe in lying to a candidate. And any candidate who took my honest appraisal as to their fit as an invitation to launch into hard-core selling of themselves is even more definitely not going to get the job.