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Wed Feb 27, 2013, 05:26 PM

Difficulty with job interviews.

I'm trying to find a new software development position but I'm finding that I'm losing out because of difficulties interviewing. I find it difficult to answer certain kinds of questions. I think I need to make a list of questions along with some canned answers.

I'll give an example. I had an interview today and heard back back from the recruiter that the company did not want to pursue anything with me any further because I seemed to have difficulty with certain questions. I knew this was a problem during the interview.

The question was something like "tell me about a task you had to accomplish that had a lot of details and how you handled those details".

I started to describe a somewhat complicated task that I accomplished at my last job then, while explaining the task, I realized that I have no idea how I handled the details. I'm not even sure what the question means.

I know that I don't seem to think like most people. I get things done, but I can't always explain how. Details are just something I handle as they come along, but I'm not really able to explain the process I go through. I know that I've often been told that I do a good or even superior job. Certainly that should be sufficient for any employer, but how can I convince a potential employer of that when they have a mindset that a person needs to be able to explain how they handle details?

Bullshit questions like this are unfair and eliminate potentially good or even superior employees simply because they don't fit into a mold.

I think I need some kind of canned answer, even if it's not an entirely true one, just to get past this roadblock. What's are some good answers to this kind of question?

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Arrow 36 replies Author Time Post
Reply Difficulty with job interviews. (Original post)
drm604 Feb 2013 OP
Turbineguy Feb 2013 #1
drm604 Feb 2013 #2
CherokeeDem Feb 2013 #3
DaveJ Mar 2013 #23
CherokeeDem Mar 2013 #25
DaveJ Mar 2013 #27
discntnt_irny_srcsm Feb 2013 #4
drm604 Feb 2013 #5
discntnt_irny_srcsm Feb 2013 #6
drm604 Feb 2013 #7
drm604 Feb 2013 #8
discntnt_irny_srcsm Feb 2013 #9
drm604 Feb 2013 #10
discntnt_irny_srcsm Feb 2013 #11
drm604 Feb 2013 #12
discntnt_irny_srcsm Feb 2013 #13
drm604 Feb 2013 #14
discntnt_irny_srcsm Feb 2013 #15
drm604 Feb 2013 #16
discntnt_irny_srcsm Feb 2013 #17
drm604 Feb 2013 #19
discntnt_irny_srcsm Feb 2013 #18
drm604 Feb 2013 #20
drm604 Feb 2013 #21
discntnt_irny_srcsm Feb 2013 #22
discntnt_irny_srcsm Mar 2013 #30
drm604 Mar 2013 #31
DaveJ Mar 2013 #24
drm604 Mar 2013 #26
DaveJ Mar 2013 #28
drm604 Mar 2013 #29
drm604 Mar 2013 #32
discntnt_irny_srcsm Mar 2013 #33
drm604 Mar 2013 #34
discntnt_irny_srcsm Mar 2013 #35
drm604 Mar 2013 #36

Response to drm604 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 05:41 PM

1. Maybe the answer is

that you don't really think about these sorts of things because you are focused on the outcome. When the problem is solved, you forget the details while keeping a vague, "Yeah, there was an interesting and complicated problem, I solved it. That means I can solve other problems." Myself for example, I tend to forget details that I have written down because it is an inefficient use of my brain to remember them since they are recorded.

It's said that Albert Einstein did not remember his phonenumber, he was listed in the phonebook and could look it up.

It's the knowledge that you have to pay attention to details that's important, not so much remembering the minutia of the details later.


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Response to Turbineguy (Reply #1)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 05:49 PM

2. They'd probably see that as evasive.

I think they want to know that I have some organized way of doing things. The problem is that I really don't. I figure things out as I go along. It's how I've always done things. I just seem to be built that way.

As an example: I know how to get to various places in the area I live: stores, friends homes, etc., but I find it difficult to give directions to other people. I know how to do it if I'm in the car driving, or navigating as a passenger, but I usually can't describe to someone how to get there.

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Response to drm604 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 06:16 PM

3. Behavioral Interview Questions Can be Tough...

Helps to prepare some...you didn't mention that you had done any research, so here's a link to About.com...they are pretty thorough in the discussion and samples of these kinds of questions.

http://jobsearch.about.com/cs/interviews/a/behavioral.htm

Or just Google behavioral questions...these lots of sites.

FYI...I am an HR person...behavorial interviewing is actually the best kind of interviewing for positions...skill sets are one thing, but thought processes are another. Most of time when you get these questions the interviewers are looking to see how quick you think on your feet, can you reason, do you have processes that you go through. I agree these are subjective questions in many ways but they do serve a purpose.

I don't weigh the answers as much as I weigh how the applicant gets to the answer. I practice when I am going to interview for a job myself...and I would encourage you to do so. Look through these questions, figure out how you would answer them and practice. Will the same questions in an interview, most likely not identical but you should be better able to adapt to questions if you've done these exercise.

You aren't the lone ranger here...lots of people have issues with these questions because we are so in tuned with answering yes or no questions...behavorial questions are more editorial and subjective. This is definitely a trend in Human Resources right now, so it's better to prepare.

PM me if you have any questions you think I can answer for you.

Good luck!

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Response to CherokeeDem (Reply #3)

Mon Mar 4, 2013, 07:56 PM

23. Since you are an HR person, I have a few questions.

I'm terrible at interviews, but I feel that I have always been a great employee. In fact I've told my employer I wanted to quit a couple years ago, and they gave me a raise, and I since mentioned it again. Weirdly enough, it seems like since I'm good at my job, I'm stuck at my current position, and for that reason I am not moving up.

1) If the person doing the interviewing has a worse work ethic, and/or is less intelligence, how can that person be a fair judge of the applicant? I can say that I do not comprehend the thoughts of people more intelligent that me. If someone seems to know their stuff, I would not judge them based on having a personality that I do not understand.

2) When did this trend in interviewing start? I feel like in the past it was more about work ethic, someone who can put the good of the company first, being able to judge a good person who can be trusted, from a trickster. Today it seems to be more about trick questions. Questions that have nothing to do with the job, where there is no right or wrong answer, but really there is.

3) How do these behavioral questions determine who's best for a technical position? Technology is very regimented. It's about knowing the rules and how things connect. People can have great social skills, and do great at interviews, but know nothing about how technology works. (but know just enough to fool the interviewer) This is my main problem, as I've seen many I.T. directors who have liberal arts degrees, where the employees really are the ones teaching the director. Where the employees feel like they are swimming upstream against the backward current of supervisors who continually resist progress. Not to mention the disaster that happens when they hire someone who basically tricks them into hiring them, then a technical department is plagued by an incompetent person who is making mistakes, who constantly needs help, but who nevertheless is charismatic so the people in charge are never even aware of their problems they cause.

Anyway, I do not mean to sound bitter or anything. I just know what you are saying is true. I'm just trying to figure out the way the world works and hoping you can help me put some pieces to this puzzle together.

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Response to DaveJ (Reply #23)

Mon Mar 4, 2013, 09:24 PM

25. Ahh...

I just lost the entire reply to your question...which was quite lenghty. Sorry, I will answer this but at the moment, I have something else to do...promise to answer you tomorrow.

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Response to CherokeeDem (Reply #25)

Tue Mar 5, 2013, 08:35 AM

27. That's awful. It must have been great advice.

The best ideas are the ones that end up getting lost aren't they? I really appreciate it, and look forward to it.

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Response to drm604 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 06:54 PM

4. IMHO...

...asking that type of is looking for you to relate your ability to develop a systematic organization to handle details. Years ago upper management assembled people with complementary talents and got the job done. Some folks were valuable because they were very detail oriented while others had tremendous creativity. Everyone shared some basic level of many talents but often the team had stars in a few areas. Today what is valued is the ability of an employee to relate in words and writing the process by which they accomplish what it is they do. Establishing a set process gives management a better handle on judging progress.

For the most part, if I was the answering the question, my answers would be a bit different if the details were mine to handle or were to be delegated to others. The basic steps common to both would be:
* Identify all of the major tasks and make a list of them including a status/condition/requirement that could be used as a criteria to judge the completeness of the task.
* Breakdown the tasks into minor tasks and prioritize them.
* Assign the tasks and make a schedule.
* Track progress and report issues and/or problems.

Mostly this procedure oriented approach is desirable for places that are involved with ISO or CMMI type standards.
Also, it's just a good idea to have a formal record of your diligence in accomplishing a goal or completing a project.
In the aerospace world there are standards that are targeted due outside regulation like: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DO-178B.
In the DoD world there is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IEEE_12207.

These documents are about organization and recording of the evidence of diligence.

I hope this helps.

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Response to drm604 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 07:11 PM

5. Over dinner I realized an answer I could have given.

I'm not sure if it's exactly what she was looking for or not but it was a task with a lot of details.

In my previous position, along with development, I was responsible for IT support. One of the things I had to do was prepare laptops and ship them out to new employees in the field. This involved a lot of details including creating an email account on Exchange, setting up a user account on the laptop, installing backup software, antivirus, and some proprietary software.

It also included setting up Outlook on the laptop so that it could access their email on the Exchange server. This involved knowing the name of a host and a server as well as various other parameters and entering all of this in the proper boxes when setting up Outlook.

I handled all of this by creating a check list which included all of the steps and all of the values I needed to setup a machine and then going down the list each time I did a setup.

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Response to drm604 (Reply #5)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 08:15 PM

6. IMHO...

...you've got the idea.

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Response to discntnt_irny_srcsm (Reply #6)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 08:19 PM

7. And if I had had that idea a few hours ago I might have a job.

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Response to drm604 (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 08:35 PM

8. I hate job hunting.

A few weeks ago I had an in person interview for a very good position at a company within easy commuting distance. The job was very much like what I was doing in my last postion; a combination of development and IT support. I interviewed with 4 high level people (all at once, in a conference room), including the IT director, and HR. If the CEO had been in that day, he would also have been in the meeting.

After I got home I called the recruiter and he told me that they told him that they loved me and that I was exactly what they were looking for. All that was needed was for me to meet with the CEO so that he could pass on me and that was probably just a formality. This all happened on a Friday and he said he would call me early the following week to give me a time for that meeeting.

So Wednesday comes and still nothing. Then the recruiter calls and asks if I'd be willing to accept contract-to-hire rather than direct hire. I said that was fine and he said he'd get right back to me. He didn't.

I called him a few days later to see what was happening and he said that they were still working on the contract. At this point I was getting concerned.

Finally, after a few more days I called the recruiter again. This time he told me that his contact at the company told him that "upper management" had said that they were not hiring anybody for any reason at this time.

WTF? Why were they even interviewing? What gives them the right to screw with people like that?

I hate job hunting.

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Response to drm604 (Reply #8)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 10:53 PM

9. Absolutely!

If I didn't get paid for it....

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Response to discntnt_irny_srcsm (Reply #9)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 11:05 PM

10. You get paid for job hunting?

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Response to drm604 (Reply #10)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 11:06 PM

11. Per se...

...I get paid once I get the job and start working.

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Response to discntnt_irny_srcsm (Reply #11)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 11:08 PM

12. True

It has to happen soon for me. I can't pay my expenses on just unemployment and I have a little less resources every month.

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Response to drm604 (Reply #12)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 12:00 AM

13. I have a friend living near Knoxville...

...he interviewed 4 times with company more than 100 miles from home, twice by phone and twice in person. Two weeks after the last interview they said no. He started at another place yesterday in Cleveland. He loves it and says it's the best money he ever made. He was out for a while and was getting desperate.

Remind me what kind of software you work with.

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Response to discntnt_irny_srcsm (Reply #13)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 12:07 AM

14. I don't think I've ever told you.

I've done a lot of different things over the years, but most recently it's been Web stuff; LAMP.

My most recent position was a combination of supporting and maintaining a company website and doing IT support for both the corporate office (where I was located) and remote accounts all over the country.

Relocation would be difficult for me, but I'm in the Philly area so it's not like there's not lots of work around here, plus I've seen occasional telecommuting opportunities for Web developers.

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Response to drm604 (Reply #14)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 12:23 AM

15. I'm not sure what part of the area you're in but...

...if you're commutable to So. Jersey, Lockheed will likely have some kind of work:
http://www.defense.gov/contracts/contract.aspx?contractid=4974

I also found this at their KoP office:

Req ID 258199BR
Industry Job Title Software Engineer Sr - MDM System
Standard Job Code/Title E1073:Software Engineer Sr
Required skills Demonstrated successful professional experience with:

- Leading software development groups
- Designing interfaces between IT systems
- ASP.Net
- Programming in C# using XML within the .NET web services framework
- SQL Server
- Development in Visual Studio
- Effective communication skills (written, verbal and presentation)
- Ability to work independently with minimal oversight
Desired skills Demonstrated successful experience with:

- COTS configuration and setup (possibly Oracle DRM, Microsoft MDS, SSIS, etc.),
- Leading development of SQL Master Data Services
- Development within Informatica or similar data integration product
- Web services report development, prototyping and piloting
- Team Foundation Server (TFS)
- Agile Development
Specific Job Description This Lockheed Martin (LM)Enterprise Business Services (EBS) position is for the software lead of the Information Systems & Global Sustainment (IS&GS) CIO Refx project. The goal of Refx is to provide a Master Data Management (MDM) solution that will tie together key IS&GS applications (OTIS, Horizon, MARS/SWIFT, ECS, Foresight, Generation, Grid, etc.) so it will be easier/faster to assemble reports and analysis on data that relates to Lockheed Martin programs/contracts in each system.

Responsibilities of this position include, but are not limited to:

- COTS configuration and setup (possibly Oracle DRM, Microsoft MDS, SSIS, etc.)
- Leading development of SQL Master Data Services
- Development within Informatica or similar data integration product
- Configuration Management
- Technical oversight for development of interfaces in the other IS&GS applications
- Web services report development, prototyping and piloting
- Status Reporting for technical development to the Project Engineer

LOCATION FOR THIS POSITION MUST BE THE LOCKHEED MARTIN FACILITY IN KING OF PRUSSIA, PA.
Standard Job Description Plans, conducts, and coordinates software development activities. Designs, develops, documents, tests, and debugs software that contains logical and mathematical solutions to business/mission problems or questions in computer language for solutions by means of data processing equipment. Applies the appropriate standards, processes, procedures, and tools throughout the development life cycle. Applies knowledge of computer hardware and software, subject matter to be programmed in business/mission applications, information processing techniques used, and information gathered from system users to develop software. Corrects program errors, prepares operating instructions, compiles documentation of program development, and analyzes system capabilities to resolve questions of program intent, output requirements, input data acquisition, programming techniques, and controls. Ensures software standards are met.
Security Clearance None
Typical Minimums Bachelors degree from an accredited college in a related discipline, or equivalent experience/combined education, with 5 years of professional experience; or 3 years of professional experience with a related Masters degree. Considered career, or journey, level.
LMCareers Business Unit ESS2100 ENTERPRISE BUSINESS SERVICES
Business Area Enterprise Operations
Program ISGS/Refx
Department 50185:IS&GS/Space Systems Apps SC
Job Class Software Engineering
Job Category Experienced Professional
City King of Prussia
State Pennsylvania
Virtual No
Relocation Available No
Work Schedule FLEX-Non-Standard 40 hour week
Req Type Full-Time
Direct/Indirect Direct
Shift First

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Response to discntnt_irny_srcsm (Reply #15)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 12:32 AM

16. South Jersey really isn't doable.

I should have something soon (at least I keep thinking that). I think I may look for something part time to supplement the unemployment (you can do that in PA).

My biggest issue right now is medical coverage. I pay a ridiculous amount each month and it's the biggest single resource drain. If I could find some kind work, even something low wage, that included medical, I could buy some time. Of course, that would take time away from my job search and make it difficult to interview. It's hard to know want to do.

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Response to drm604 (Reply #16)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 12:42 AM

17. Medical is a bitch

I have a small business with 3 employees. Myself, I'm married, and have 2 single employees. I buy HMO coverage from IBX. It's almost $2300/month. It's insane. My cost is up $900/month over the last 5 years.

Have you looked for alternative medical?

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Response to discntnt_irny_srcsm (Reply #17)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 12:49 AM

19. What alternatives are available?

All I know of are plans with a high deductible. I have medical expenses each month that, if they weren't covered by the plan, would bring my costs right back up to what I'm paying now anyway.

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Response to drm604 (Reply #16)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 12:46 AM

18. It used to be that PA UIC allows for what they call...

...a partial benefit credit. That is the dollar amount ceiling that you can earn per week without a reduction in unemployment. Over that and they take $1 for every dollar you make.

Stay in touch
Good night and good luck

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Response to discntnt_irny_srcsm (Reply #18)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 12:51 AM

20. They still have the partial benefit credit.

Maybe I'll look for something part time. That would supplement the UC and still leave me time to job search and interview.

I hate being on UC. I know it was paid for, but I feel like some kind of parasite.

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Response to drm604 (Original post)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 10:14 PM

21. Today I applied online for a job at a local office of a large corporation.

I then checked Linkedin to see if I had any connections there. I found a software engineer who works there and is connected to my team leader from a previous job. The job I applied for requires Visual Basic experience and the previous job was writing Visual Basic.

I contacted my former team leader to see how well he knows the guy. It turns out that the guy is his brother in law! Maybe this will be the break I need. Linkedin is definitely a good resource.

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Response to drm604 (Reply #21)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 11:33 PM

22. Very cool

good luck

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Response to drm604 (Reply #21)

Wed Mar 6, 2013, 12:43 AM

30. Any news on this spot???

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Response to discntnt_irny_srcsm (Reply #30)

Wed Mar 6, 2013, 12:51 AM

31. Nope. No news.

The former coworker did say that I could use him for a reference, but he didn't offer to mention me to his brother-in-law, and I didn't want to impose on him to do that. He did say that he didn't know if the man has anything to do with interviewing.

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Response to drm604 (Original post)

Mon Mar 4, 2013, 08:10 PM

24. It seems like, it's not you, it's them.

Our field is very new. Most professions have existed for thousands of years, but application development is nothing like any other profession. I mean I can't think of any other profession like it. People in charge do not know much about it. People do not know how to interview or to setup businesses for developers in a way that makes sense.

Even most of the skilled professionals in our field are not the ones interviewing or making business decisions.

You're obviously smart, level headed, and work oriented. The BS questions they ask are just a way to get conversation started, IMO. Beyond that, I do not know how they can possibly apply to the work we do.

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Response to DaveJ (Reply #24)

Mon Mar 4, 2013, 09:46 PM

26. My problem is that I tend to choke up on those kinds of questions.

After the fact I can come up with an answer, but I choke up at the moment they're asked.

The hiring process ends up selecting for people who are good at interviewing rather than people who are good at the job.

They should have another IT employee ask some tech questions, and check your references. If they really aren't sure how to pick out the good people, they can always offer contract to hire. What better way to find the right person than to see if they can actually show up for work and do the job?

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Response to drm604 (Reply #26)

Tue Mar 5, 2013, 08:53 AM

28. This might be a side effect of the work we do.

I'm that way and I know someone else like that, who does great work, the best I've seen. He's actually more of a graphic artist, no server side stuff, but he does put the sites together.

Maybe it's because we focus on things that are wrong, fix them, then move on. Things that make sense we tend to nod silently then move on to our next goal. There is no reason for us to get intrigued by some question when we are intrigued by issues that need to be solved, and those issues are never solvable in 4 seconds. I've seen those Google interview questions like if you were stuck in a blender how would you get out? Yeah that's problem solving but not at all the mindset that developers need.

I don't think they should not call anyone into interviews, unless they are totally prepared to hire that person, rather than doing these blanket 'audition style' interviews.

We are not actors. Acting skill has no benefit to our job whatsoever, and in fact, might be an impediment, since in our field we need to know the truth, not hide the truth, which actors do.

Anyway, yeah contract to hire is great, I think that might be the solution, as long as the business is seriously prepared to hire. I'd prefer it though if they would develop a better way to fit people into the right positions on their first try though.

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Response to DaveJ (Reply #28)

Tue Mar 5, 2013, 10:08 PM

29. The other thing I'm running into right now is the long laundry list of experience requirements.

I apply anyway, because they're not likely to find anyone who has experience with the dozen or more things they list. The problem is that you then get blocked by either a recruiter or the HR person because you haven't used some specific code editor or whatever.

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Response to drm604 (Original post)

Thu Mar 21, 2013, 06:25 PM

32. Another interview today.

It went great with the first two guys, and I think I aced the written Javascript test.

Then this other guy comes in and he wants to know what my goals are. He says something like "I hate questions like where do you see yourself in 5 years, so just tell me what your goals are".

Isn't that basically the same damn question? What can I say, that I just want to earn a good salary so I can sock some of it away for when I retire in 10 years? Of course I can't say that. I tried saying that I wanted to do development work, but that wasn't good enough and this asshole just kept pushing.

He says: "It's all well and good to say that you want to do development work, but what about when you've done the same thing a dozen times and you're tire of it and want to do something else"?

WTF? First off, it's not the same thing, if I'm writing it then it's new, otherwise I wouldn't be writing it, and anyway, if I'm good at it and like it and am paid well for it and all of that makes me happy then why do you care?

But of course I can't say any of that. I have to show ambition. I have to want to take over the company or something.

I'm not a very good liar but I had no choice, so I lied and said that I'd like to be a team leader (in software development you often work in teams, with each having a leader). That wasn't good enough. He had to poke and prod. "What does that mean? What would you like about being a team leader?"

Are these guys just sadists? Don't they know the game? Why keep pushing and pushing and never just accept an answer as it stands? I almost wanted to tell him to go fuck himself and just walk out of the interview, but of course you can't do that.

Goddammit I hate job hunting!

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Response to drm604 (Reply #32)

Sat Mar 23, 2013, 05:23 PM

33. What department does...

...let's call him goal man, work for?

I find that most folks asking interview question that are very open-ended are being more conversational than technical. Psychologically such a question (especially if you are pursued the way you were) way be more about seeing how you respond than the actual answer.

Since we all have lots of goals ranging from small and immediate to lifelong, (I would) ask a question back to narrow the focus. My overall goals range from getting another cup of coffee to become the all-being master of time, space and dimensions. You can start with expressing that you believe goal man is asking about your professional goals. Ask if he is refering to short, mid or long term goals.

Just a few examples:
Short term: get hired
Mid term: engage in successful carreer at this company and explore directions for growth
long term: depends a lot on which direction the mid term goals take

How's it going?

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Response to discntnt_irny_srcsm (Reply #33)

Sun Mar 24, 2013, 02:39 PM

34. Two interviews last week, on Wednesday and Thursday.

No feedback so far.

Goal man worked for IT. He's some sort of manager.

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Response to drm604 (Reply #34)

Sun Mar 24, 2013, 04:37 PM

35. As far as goals are concerned...

...the goal of every business is to make money. Business not interested in profit are called "non-profits".

IMHO, the goal of all those who work for a company is (or should be) to help the company make money and get paid the effort.

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Response to discntnt_irny_srcsm (Reply #35)

Sun Mar 24, 2013, 04:43 PM

36. Certainly, but that is NOT the answer they're looking for.

Anyway, I'm hoping to hear something early next week from one or both of them. The other one was the one I mentioned in another thread; the one with the recruiter weirdness. I actually have pretty high hopes for that one.

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