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'[OT]Annoying Questionsasked by prospective employe'
2009\01\08@034756 by cdb

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Yesterday I decided to apply for a job with HP.

Now their webbified (tm) application process is interesting as they
not only whisk your details away from the country of application and
store them in the US (not sure what happens if US law is incompatible
with the law of where one resides and works) and they reserve the
right to farm your details out to 3rd parties, but they ask the most
ridiculous questions - as do many job agencies.

:What makes you different to the other applicants? ".  Now I was asked
this question by Brisbane Council once, and they were not, and
probably HP will not be amused by my answer, which is always, " I
don't know, I've never met or worked with any of the other candidates.
"

For some reason the truthful and logical answer is not the one they
want.

It seems to me to be a lazy form of interviewing, but them I'm just
old fashioned.

Colin
--
cdb,  on 8/01/2009



2009\01\08@043431 by Vitaliy

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"cdb" wrote:
{Quote hidden}

Colin, we ask the same question almost verbatim during phone and
face-to-face interviews. It comes directly from an interviewing manual -- so
they must be doing it by the book. :)

The purpose of any job interview is twofold:

   1. To make sure you are qualified for the position.
   2. To find out what qualities make you different (better) from similar
candidates.

When I ask this question, I want the applicant to tell me what unique
abilities set them apart from the other folks who made it past two resume
sorting rounds. Preferably something relevant to the position, and not "I
work really hard, and I'm dependable, and I'm detail oriented". Often there
are hints in the "Not required, but a big plus" section of the job
description.

You haven't met the other candidates, but you can make reasonable
assumptions about what sets you apart. Substitute "an average engineer" for
"other candidates" if this makes it easier.

FWIW, I would only use these types of questions during a live interview. But
with the economy the way it is, employers make the rules.

Vitaliy

2009\01\08@050520 by cdb

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I am well aware of why the question is asked, however the question is
poorly formed, and people who insist on acting like a heard of sheep
are not worth my time, I actually prefer to be unemployed than go
against my principles or beliefs.

Think about it carefully, the question as asked is meaningless, and I
don't go around saying I am a wonderful person, when I used to
interview people, those who told me that they were really wonderful
saved 3 chickens lives when they were 3 and always pushed old ladies
in front of cars when asked - I branded as full of themselves and
arrogant and I was rarely interested in persuing their application any
further. That also goes for the 16 eyar old who didn't know what his
maiden name was.

Colin
--
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2009\01\08@051313 by Gerhard Fiedler

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On 2009-01-08 07:33:13, Vitaliy wrote:

> "cdb" wrote:
>> "What makes you different to the other applicants?" Now I was asked
>> this question by Brisbane Council once, and they were not, and
>> probably HP will not be amused by my answer, which is always, "I
>> don't know, I've never met or worked with any of the other
>> candidates. "
>>
>> For some reason the truthful and logical answer is not the one they
>> want.
>
> Colin, we ask the same question almost verbatim during phone and
> face-to-face interviews. It comes directly from an interviewing
> manual -- so they must be doing it by the book. :)

At least in this aspect, "the book" seems to miss a bit of, hm,
/something/ :)

> When I ask this question, I want the applicant to tell me what unique
> abilities set them apart from the other folks who made it past two
> resume sorting rounds.

If this is what you want to know, you have to give some information
about the other folks who made it... the applicant can't know this, and
one who can think and analyze a simple question knows this. The ones who
go ahead and just answer the question based on assumptions possibly are
the ones who then, on the job, also go ahead and work based on
assumptions rather than thinking about what is and what is not known --
which may then not be what you want. Can be expensive.

> You haven't met the other candidates, but you can make reasonable
> assumptions about what sets you apart. Substitute "an average
> engineer" for "other candidates" if this makes it easier.

One can of course start to make assumptions about what the hirer wants
to know, but then this would start with assuming that they aren't really
smart enough to ask what they want to know. If they want to know what
sets him apart from "an average engineer", this is what they should ask,
no?

Is there a problem with asking something that makes sense, like "what
sets you apart from other engineers in general?" or something the like?
Something a thinking person can answer without having to violate the
thinking part?

> But with the economy the way it is, employers make the rules.

Right... for the ones who can't get a job elsewhere. It works the other
way 'round, too: if a hirer only wants to find the ones who can't allow
themselves to be picky, they can ask questions as stupid as they want.
If they however want the ones who do look as much for an intelligent
hiring process as the hirer (supposedly) does, then that's a two-way
street. Asking stupid questions isn't the best way to get started on
this. (Of course, there is the thing that with bigger companies, you
have less to deal with the HR department after you're in, so even a
thinking candidate may not put too much weight on this, but with smaller
companies, I think people really should work on their questions and make
sure they make sense if they want to hire good people.)

Gerhard

2009\01\08@054857 by Vitaliy

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"cdb" wrote:
>I am well aware of why the question is asked, however the question is
> poorly formed,

I don't think it is. :)


> and people who insist on acting like a heard of sheep
> are not worth my time,

HP is a large company, and the herd-minded HR administrator who decided that
a web-based interview would be a wonderful idea is likely not the same guy
you will be reporting to, or be working with.


> I actually prefer to be unemployed than go
> against my principles or beliefs.

Not sure what principles you would be violating by answering a simple,
relevant question.


> Think about it carefully, the question as asked is meaningless,

The question directly addresses one of two primary goals of an interview.
Why should I hire you, and not the other guy?


> and I
> don't go around saying I am a wonderful person, when I used to
> interview people, those who told me that they were really wonderful
> saved 3 chickens lives when they were 3 and always pushed old ladies
> in front of cars when asked - I branded as full of themselves and
> arrogant and I was rarely interested in persuing their application any
> further. That also goes for the 16 eyar old who didn't know what his
> maiden name was.

I don't see how this is relevant. :)

Seriously, I don't understand what the big deal is:

"
- You mention in your ad that experience with X is a plus, and I've been
using X on a daily basis, for 10 years. I can use X with my eyes closed.
- I speak Mandarin.
- I have an Network+ certificate. (relevant to this position, and a rare
thing)
- I'm very good at expressing my thoughts in writing. (most engineers
aren't)
- I have management experience.
- I'm an experienced conflict negotiator.
- I worked on the Mars Lander project.
"

Remember, I have never met you before. Give me some talking points, so I can
ask you more questions to help me decide whether we should hire you or Joe
Shmoe, whom I interviewed before lunch and whose resume is a carbon copy of
your resume.

"You say you can use X in your sleep? Great, so tell me -- what does
Shift-R-7 do? You also speak Chinese? Wow, our CEO told me this morning that
we need a go-between for our engineering department and the factory in
Shenzhen. When can you start?"

Vitaliy

2009\01\08@090532 by Byron Jeff

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On Thu, Jan 08, 2009 at 05:47:02AM -0500, Vitaliy wrote:
>  "cdb" wrote:
> >I am well aware of why the question is asked, however the question is
> > poorly formed,
>
> I don't think it is. :)

It is. To answer requires facts not in evidence: the qualifications of the
other (or average engineer) candidates.

Simply reforming the question to something like:

What other skills do you have that would enhance your ability to perform in
this position?

Would generate the list of answers you had without requiring a
comparision to others.

I'm pretty sure that's the point that Colin was trying (and I think
successfully) to make.

BAJ

2009\01\08@091148 by solarwind

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On Thu, Jan 8, 2009 at 5:04 AM, cdb <.....colinKILLspamspam@spam@btech-online.co.uk> wrote:
> I am well aware of why the question is asked, however the question is
> poorly formed, and people who insist on acting like a heard of sheep
> are not worth my time, I actually prefer to be unemployed than go
> against my principles or beliefs.
>
> Think about it carefully, the question as asked is meaningless, and I
> don't go around saying I am a wonderful person, when I used to
> interview people, those who told me that they were really wonderful
> saved 3 chickens lives when they were 3 and always pushed old ladies
> in front of cars when asked - I branded as full of themselves and
> arrogant and I was rarely interested in persuing their application any
> further. That also goes for the 16 eyar old who didn't know what his
> maiden name was.
>
> Colin

Amen.

--
solarwind

2009\01\08@095453 by Sean Breheny

face picon face
I have interviewed a considerable number of people over the last two
years and if I saw Colin's response to that question from one of our
candidates (i.e. "I don't know any of the other candidates.") I would
be amused and interested in meeting the person. He could either have a
great sense of humor or be a smart-a**. If he were the former, he
might be a good candidate for the job.

On Thu, Jan 8, 2009 at 5:08 AM, Byron Jeff <byronjeffspamKILLspamclayton.edu> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

> -

2009\01\08@100632 by Alan B. Pearce

face picon face
>> I don't think it is. :)
>
>It is. To answer requires facts not in evidence: the
>qualifications of the other (or average engineer) candidates.
>
>Simply reforming the question to something like:
>
>What other skills do you have that would enhance
>your ability to perform in this position?

I would agree it is a not well formed question.

Another alternative might be: -
'What skills do you have that you believe would make you stand out from
other applicants for this position'

2009\01\08@104746 by William \Chops\ Westfield

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On Jan 8, 2009, at 2:08 AM, Byron Jeff wrote:

>>> I am well aware of why the question is asked, however the question  
>>> is
>>> poorly formed,
>>
>> I don't think it is. :)
>
> It is. To answer requires facts not in evidence: the qualifications  
> of the
> other (or average engineer) candidates.

Gimme a break.  If you can't extrapolate "compare yourself to other  
candidates" to "compare yourself to other engineers in general", I  
don't think I want to hire you.  That probably goes double if you're  
the sort of person who likes to get all hissy over a minor  
technicality in wording.

I would EXACTLY read the question as "what qualifications do you have  
beyond the minimum requirements mentioned in the job posting for the  
position you're applying for."  (gets a bit difficult if you're just  
throwing the resume into a big pool of jobs, but...)

You're free to do whatever your personal integrity dictates, of  
course.  You don't NEED me to hire you, right?

BillW

2009\01\08@105858 by William \Chops\ Westfield

face picon face

On Jan 8, 2009, at 6:17 AM, Sean Breheny wrote:

> if I saw Colin's response to that question from one of our
> candidates (i.e. "I don't know any of the other candidates.") I would
> be amused and interested in meeting the person. He could either have a
> great sense of humor or be a smart-a**.

I'm in general agreement, for that specific response (notwithstanding  
my earlier and grumpier message.)  But would the resume get past the  
droids in HR and etc for an actual engineering manager to see it in  
the first place?

It's a tough job; your resume has to be "standard" enough to get past  
software and HR people, and "special" enough to attract attention from  
actual hiring managers.

BillW

2009\01\08@110853 by M. Adam Davis

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On Thu, Jan 8, 2009 at 3:47 AM, cdb <.....colinKILLspamspam.....btech-online.co.uk> wrote:
> :What makes you different to the other applicants? "

Should be "What makes you unique among your peers in this field?" or
more specifically, "

Communication is a tricky issue.  You can either answer the question
you think they should be asking (works for politicians), or you can
answer the question as asked (and possibly be seen as snarky/hard to
work with).

Engineers value preciseness, but unless I'm talking to another
engineer who I know is capable of thinking about the question before
they ask it I'll ask a follow up question before answering theirs to
make sure both of us understand what is being communicated.

In the case of an interview and this particular question, I wouldn't
bother to follow up - it's a common interview question and it would
distract from the interview to answer it exactly.

I'd rather reply by re-phrasing the question, "A few of the things
that set me apart from my peers are..." and respond with answers
specific to this position and company.

Besides, many interviewers don't enjoy interviewing, and often don't
feel they do a great job at it.  Those that give such questions as the
example you gave are sometimes reading from a script because they're
insecure about interviewing.  Calling them on this is going to be very
negative for them.  I'm not saying you gave a wrong answer, or that it
was inappropriate - in many cases and for many people this is good.
You may not want to work for a company that has poor interveiwers, or
poor critical thinking skills.  But you should at least understand the
possible outcome of this response so you can decide when to employ it,
and when to translate transparently.

It may also be a (poor) test to see how a candidate responds to poor
communication.

-Adam

--
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mypic32.com/web/guest/profiles?profileID=50331

2009\01\08@120331 by Peter Loron

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Exactly.

On Jan 8, 2009, at 6:17 AM, Sean Breheny wrote:

{Quote hidden}

>> --

2009\01\08@132035 by Michael Rigby-Jones

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> -----Original Message-----
> From: piclist-bouncesspamspam_OUTmit.edu [@spam@piclist-bouncesKILLspamspammit.edu] On
Behalf
{Quote hidden}

Agree totally about the stupid HR questions, if the HR drones had any
intelligence themselves they would realise how silly the questions were.

However, a "maiden name" is usualy the preserve of a married woman (as
the phrase itself suggests), so it's not overly surprising a 16 year old
male didn't have one.

Regards

Mike

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2009\01\08@141102 by cdb

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:: However, a "maiden name" is usualy the preserve of a married woman
:: (as
:: the phrase itself suggests), so it's not overly surprising a 16
:: year old
:: male didn't have one.

That was the point. He came across the question in the application
form, which if I recall said ' if applicable maiden name ', though on
reflection (all 17 years of it) at least he did ask rather than guess
so I suppose a brownie point should be awarded.

At that time that would have been a standard question on most
application forms in the UK.

Colin
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2009\01\08@153832 by solarwind

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I agree with everything Colin (cdb) is saying. This is really a
pathetic question. Think about it, ANYONE can brag and lie about
themselves as much as the next guy. This question has no real merit or
integrity in assessing the qualification of a person for any given
job.

I could say that I'm very detail oriented, very good at multitasking,
responsible, always on time and there when I'm needed and an endless
list of more nonsense. In what way can one possibly answer this
question while maintaining credibility and integrity? If I was
responsible for hiring, I would discard every last idiot's resume who
has written an endless list of garbage for this question.

However, a possible eye catching answer could most certainly be "I
don't know, I've never met or worked with any of the other
candidates." because it shows that you're not quick to assume that
you're better than the next applicant especially when you don't even
know them.

2009\01\08@181014 by Forrest W Christian

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cdb wrote:
> Now I was asked
> this question by Brisbane Council once, and they were not, and
> probably HP will not be amused by my answer, which is always, " I
> don't know, I've never met or worked with any of the other candidates.
> "
>  
Actually, that is one of the most impressive answers to that question,
I've heard...

And pointedly, it tells me a lot about your attitudes.   Assuming that I
take it the way I read it, it tells me that you're not prone to jump to
conclusions and are willing to answer in a way that might not be in your
fiscal best interest, just because you think the employer wants it that
way.   Which is exactly what I like in employees.  In fact, I'd be more
willing to hire someone who answered truthfully in that manner.

Having been on both sides of the table (both looking for a job and
looking for an employee), I think I'd rather be on the looking for the
job side of the equation.   Unless you have had the experience of
looking for an employee and trying to separate the wheat from chaff, you
don't appreciate how hard it is.   You have people you talk to, and you
realize that some of the best employees don't interview well, and your
trying to find the best fit for not only the job but personality-wise as
well.   It is *not* an easy thing, and as much as each person who
interviews stresses about it, I can say that there is at least as much
stressing going on on the other side of the table.

Now, the fact that this question is on the application.... well, that's
a whole different issue.   Personally, I treat the resume and/or
application more as a "feature list" than anything else ... just because
a feature isn't on the resume, doesn't mean it doesn't exist and vice
versa....  and if you are looking for a job which requires skills which
resembles the job of making a resume look nice - well, you're resume
and/or cover letter is actually treated as a sample work product.  
Somehow the "tell me what is different about you" doesn't belong in this
category.

-forrest



-forrest

2009\01\09@043724 by Alan B. Pearce

face picon face
>I agree with everything Colin (cdb) is saying. This is really a
>pathetic question. Think about it, ANYONE can brag and lie about
>themselves as much as the next guy. This question has no real merit
>or integrity in assessing the qualification of a person for any
>given job.

However it is the sort of question to which I might have put an answer that
helped me get my current job, as one of the points I put down was "over 30
years of experience with a wide variety of equipment", and this was picked
up on in the interview. Then in the interview I was able to enumerate the
experience with lasers, microwaves, radio in general, analogue electronics,
digital electronics, computer serving to chip level ... etc ...

As of either this week or next week (cannot remember the exact date) it
becomes 40 years since I started my apprenticeship.

2009\01\09@050722 by cdb

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:: it
:: becomes 40 years since I started my apprenticeship.

Wow, that is one of the longest apprenticeships going :) .
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2009\01\09@054859 by Alan B. Pearce

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>:: it becomes 40 years since I started my apprenticeship.
>
>Wow, that is one of the longest apprenticeships going :) .

<VBG> Some of us get to the end of life, and are still learning ... ;))

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