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How To Answer The 10 Most Dificult Interview Questions

Robert Troshynski
Greenhorn

Joined: Jan 11, 2002
Posts: 16
I'm not sure that posting a link to another job forum is kosher, but this thread is too good not to pass it on to other individuals.
The questions themselves are not Java-specific, but the answers given in the first post are very good and reliable in the sense that it matches what research I've done on these types of questions.
The link is:
http://boards.cramsession.com/boards/vbm.asp?rpg=1&wpg=1&sb=0&pvm=False&m=686358
Robert Troshynski


Robert Troshynski
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Links to other sites are always welcome. We value knowledge and information here, be it from our memebers/site or elsewhere.
--Mark
Matthew Phillips
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 09, 2001
Posts: 2676
There is one response I have seen recommended in several places, including this article, and it seems to me like a sure way to kill your chances.
I hope to eventually grow into a position of responsibility.

I have always tried to avoid this line because all positions in a company are positions of responsibility. What are your thoughts?
[ January 15, 2003: Message edited by: Matthew Phillips ]

Matthew Phillips
SJ Adnams
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 28, 2001
Posts: 925
I hope to eventually grow into a position of responsibility

I agree, but we could make it a little more convincing....
I'd like to be given the opportunities to assume more responsibility in the role.
The one I hate is
Where do you see yourself in 3 years time

My response is "As a developer, the routes are I guess (pretend to think on your feet) either to technical architecture or project management, my guess that project management roles arise more often. I wouldn't want to commit myself at this point, but both seem very interesting."
Manish Hatwalne
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 22, 2001
Posts: 2578

Originally posted by Simon Lee:

My response is "As a developer, the routes are I guess (pretend to think on your feet) either to technical architecture or project management, my guess that project management roles arise more often. I wouldn't want to commit myself at this point, but both seem very interesting."

Hey! I like that answer
- Manish
SJ Adnams
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 28, 2001
Posts: 925
do I get the job?
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
Where do you see yourself in 3 years time

I guess, "on a beach on some Carribean Island enjoying all the money I extorted" would be a less than perfect answer.


Associate Instructor - Hofstra University
Amazon Top 750 reviewer - Blog - Unresolved References - Book Review Blog
Melvin Menezes
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 03, 2002
Posts: 156
Where do you see yourself in 3 years time

"on a beach on some Carribean Island enjoying all the money I extorted" would be a less than perfect answer.


"sitting in your chair asking these dumb questions to the new interviewees (if i last that long)"
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037

Where do you see yourself in 3 years time

This question is more of an "elimination question." You'd be surprised how many people look blankly at you. I don't care if your answered is canned or spontaneous. That you have given some thought to your future says that you have direction and don't just wait for fate to knock on your door. This is often true when working on projects, too, and so this answers puts you above people with no answer.
(I'm not saying it isn't hokey, just that it does seem to correlate with useful skills.)
--Mark
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
All:
- Just taking this discussion about interviews in.
- Amazingly, 90% of the folks here concentrate their effort (what effort they have) into the technical side of the interview.
- Here is your basic, everyday managerial type interview question. Whammo!!! Fall on your face!!! Bye-Bye!!!
----
- I keep saying, this is where you score your points with the interviewer.
- You know damned well that you are going to be asked this type of a question. Why would you not prepare for it? Yet, as Mark states, 90% of the candidates go blank and just about wet themselves with fear.
- When I get asked this type of question?
1. Pause - and pretend to think.
2. This is an opportunity to sell myself?
2a. This is what I want to do?
2b. This is what I have done to prepare myself?
2c. Here is/are an example(s).
2d. This is what I am planning on doing?
2e. I understand (YOU DID RESEARCH THE COMPANY BEFORE THE INTERVIEW - DIDN'T YOU?) you are working on this type of project. This is why I am interested in working here. I believe that I can help you complete the project - and gain knowledge and reinforce my understanding of item #2A.
-----
Now I have thrown the interviewer off track. The ball is in MY court - I AM RUNNING THE SHOW/INTERVIEW NOW!!!
My Question To Interviewer:
- What other types of projects do you have in this arena ?
1. Interviewer stumbles ... and goes onto next question. But he knows he has a WINNER and won't press the remaining issues.
2. Interviewer has act together ... and rambles about projects. YOU make mental notes and possibly jog some down on paper. WHY? So you can refer to them in thank-you letter.
3. Interview gets technical team members. More than likely they will show you around the place. Instead of shanking hands and just putting on the dumb smile - you refer to your notes from above and start talking about project(s).
- People (especially programmers) love to show off their work.
- Ask about it. Get names. Get business cards.
- When you get home that night - fire off e-mails and thank-you letters. Play the game....
----
Imagine...who thought a stupid question like "Where do you want to be in 3 years?" could score you the big gig.
Sure beats reading the Java Specs and trying to jump through the tech interview.
I play the game this way in EVERY interview. And to be honest, if you can slam the managerial interview, 90% of the big boys out there won't give you a technical interview.
Let me re-iterate:
Lucent - No Tech Interview.
Qwest - No Tech Interview
HP - No Tech Interview (US $120K+ yr/ job).
EDS - No Tech Interview
Raytheon - No Tech Interview

All of the above companies made decent offers - I didn't take them all - but again, if you can slam the managerial interview - you can walk right into a half-decent job.
Just my opinion.
Gotta hack some code.
Latre,
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)


John Coxey
Evansville, Indiana, USA
chad stevens
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 20, 2002
Posts: 88
Geez John!
You are really on the ball there, good to know! So tell me, what answer would you give to the animal question, ie. If you were an animal, what animal would you be? Just curious
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
Chad:
1. This question has never come up at an interview - not in 8 yrs of playing this game - and about 50+ on-site interviews. But here goes.
1a. In this type of situation, where I don't have a grand-slam answer to the question - I try to both not fall on my face, and also try to give a standard generic answer.
Getting back to your question: What type of animal do I want to be:
2. I want to be an eagle.
2a. Why? Because people want to be eagles? They pervieve an eagle as being a winner - and that's what I want to be.
Ross Perot (founder of EDS) wrote in his book, "On Wings of Eagles":
- That he wanted to be an eagle not a turkey. Because turkeys flock together on the ground, while eagles soar high above everyone else. Ross says that eagles are leaders and that he wanted to be an eagle.
- We may not agree on Ross's politics, but I think we can agree that Ross was an effective leader - an Eagle.
- This is what I want to be.

I am hoping that the interviewer will ask a followup question - as to how have I prepared myself to be a winner. Or - how do I spearate my self from the other folks.
This will lead to some followup questions:
Now the interviewer has opened up the doors - and I can go several routes:
- Can mention school. How I paid for it, how I prepared myself for study, how I balanced work and school. How I used school as a springboard to get teaching assistanship(s). How I used school to get internship for OshKosh Children's Clothing. How I used school as a springboard to start my own Java w/Data Structures class.
- Can mention story of problem solving: Such as system craches over XMAS/New Years with EDS GMAC Mainframes.

John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
P.S. -> Do a search under my last name in this forum. I posted some lengthy notes about job interviewing about a year or so ago.
latre
Chad McGowan
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 10, 2001
Posts: 265
Why are manhole covers round?
Is this a common interview question? Just curious because it is a standard one at the last company I worked for.
chad stevens
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 20, 2002
Posts: 88
John and Chad...
John: I would have said eagle first choice, but decided on cheetah. Wouldn't an employer classify you more as a manager than a developer if you said eagle? Or someone that is not a team player, perhaps someone that may be a disturber in the team to backstab others in order to get on top? Some people may perceive it as that, just as they would probably perceive a cheetah as aggressive and a cat as sly and lazy and a dog as playful yet always independant on others, etc.
Chad: The manhole question, my friend told me he was asked that question on an interview, he was in sales. He blanked out. I would have said that it's easier to stamp a round hole on the ground?? I don't know the answer to the manhole question really but probably because a circle is the easiest shape for a human to crawl down into?? I don't know.
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
Chad Stevens:
- I don't think it matters whether you want to be an eagle or a cheetah.
- The point here - is to think about what the interviewer is really asking. In my opinion, they are asking you to demonstrate leadership capabilities. But, they are asking it in such a way as to add more stress or pressure to the interview.
- Could be testing how you react in panic situations. The interviewer doesn't care what type of animal you are. He wants to see your interview preparation and thinking capabilities.
- I have to belive it's the old: "Tell me about your strengths" question.
- What you don't want to do is mention that you want to be a cheetah or an eagle and then justify your answer by saying "they are neat animals".
-------------
- Regarding manhole covers.
- Not sure what the interviewer is asking for.
- I would go with "round" - and then ask the interviewer straight out what his opinion was. My goal being to get the interviewer to open up and start talking.
If all I get is a 2 sentence answer back from the interviewer - then I know the interview is over (my chances that is).
But, the decision to hire or not hire me was not based on this question - but happened even before we got to this question.
I really doubt this is a make or break it question.
The worse thing (I can see right now) is that you go off into some story about how your uncle used to work the sewer lines back in Bedrock, Kansas or somesuch.
---
- Getting back to the manhole question.
- If the interviewer talks for 4 or 5 minutes and mentions a specific project, then I am going to press on about that project.
- Then I am going to mention my skillset and preparation as relatd to that project.
- If he mentions Model-View-Controller (classic design pattern), then I can mention some of the web projects I have worked on. Perhaps, I may ask the interviewer if he would like more detail on MVC. Then, the game is now in MY court and I can go to the whiteboard and do a quick 5 min tutorial on MVC. YOU DID BRING WHITEBOARD MARKERS TO THE INTERVIEW DIDN'T YOU??? (HINT!!)
- Then, I leave the MVC drawing on the board, and when the next interviewer walks in - that will immediately be our focus of discussion. BINGO!!! I am in control of interview #2 - and he hasn't even asked his first question.
------------
- Of course. Once in awhile you get lucky, and show up in a dark suite, white shirt, decent tie, good leather black wing-tip shoes, black socks - and they make the offer on the spot.
- I have to believe (at least with corporate America management - not the techie grunts in the trenches), the major portion of the go/no go decision is made within the first 15 seconds of walking in the door.
- Reason why dressing the part is so important.
-------
- Well, it's another Sunday morning here is Evansville, Indiana - about 8 degrees (Farenheight) ourside. Brrrrrrrrrrr!!!
To cold to go fishing.
Latre,
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
Chad McGowan
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 10, 2001
Posts: 265
Actually, The question "Why are manhole covers round" is asked to see how someone thinks on their feet. The question is rarely answered correctly, but the interviewer is able to listen to the person think through the answer.
The wrong answer is to quickly dismiss the question without thinking about it. "I don't know" is not the right answer. They want to see you think.
And there is a correct answer.
This is from coolquiz.com
The reason for the circular construction of these covers is, quite simply, that covers of any other shape would fall through the manholes by virtue of their varying diameters. Circular manhole covers do not vary in width, or in diameter, as is the case with these other shapes, thus remaining in place despite the street traffic running roughshod over them.
[ January 19, 2003: Message edited by: Chad McGowan ]
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
The manhole question is a terrible one. As John pointed out, the wrong answer on any question is "I don't know." They want to see how you think. I ask logic puzzles in interviews. I don't care if they get the right answer (most don't, often I probably woulnd't either, because sometimes you just "need that burst of inspiration" which can be hard to get in the pressure of an interview), but I do care how they try to solve it. The right thing to do is start talking about what thoughts come to mind, and start write out notes.
The manhole question isn't good, because unlike a math puzzle, it's hard to reason through it. 99% of the people either know it or they don't. The right thing to do (if you don't have the answer) is to say,
"Well, we need to consider the factors which influence it. The are manufacturing factors, for example. Perhaps the materials and process used to make it are such that sharp corners are difficult to produce. There's also the operating environment. Maybe it has something to do with cars driving over it. Or maybe in places with great temperature variations (e.g. Chicago, -40F to 100F) the round shape can best handle the expansion/contraction it will undergo. Or maybe there are historical/legacy reasons; we certainly see plenty of that motivation in software..."
It shows the interviewer how you think, and in the case above, shows an ability to consider many different types of factors.

--Mark
Chad McGowan
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 10, 2001
Posts: 265
Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
The manhole question is a terrible one.

You're right, I think it is a terrible question too. I think this company knows that it is a terrible question, but they want to see how you react to it.
Do you get angry and say, I don't see how that question relates to this job.
Do you laugh and say, beats the hell out of me!
I think I have had at least one "terrible" question in every interview I have had. How you handle the terrible ones is just as important as how you handle the good ones.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Chad McGowan:

You're right, I think it is a terrible question too. I think this company knows that it is a terrible question, but they want to see how you react to it.

A good question is one which shows you how someone thinks and seperates people by ability.
I think you can ask seemingly irrevant questions which lead to good questioning sitations. Given the number of people I've seen (including good people) who can't answer it well, I don't think it's a good question.

--Mark
chad stevens
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 20, 2002
Posts: 88
Hello to all.
A worse question is the golden bar question, where you have an employee who works for you for 7 days and you have to pay him 1/7 of that bar each day but you can only cut that bar twice. I know the answer to this one, but I am tempted to just say to the interviewer, "When you pay your employees, you pay them biweekly but never before they complete the week, so to that 7 day worker I would say sorry pal, after you complete your week you get the whole gold bar, no cutting required!" So how is that for an answer!
By the way Robert concerning interview website, tech questions, resumes, tips on presentation, and how to answer personality questions, go to www.acetheinterview.com
Hope it will help you.
Ps About the Cheetah and Eagle, I guess you are right John, it's the way you justify yourself that matters most.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by chad stevens:

A worse question is the golden bar question, where you have an employee who works for you for 7 days and you have to pay him 1/7 of that bar each day but you can only cut that bar twice.

Why is it worse, it's a math problem. At least I'm assuming it is. Here's my shot.
Cut it into 3 lengths: 1, 2, 4
Day 1: give him the 1
Day 2: take back the 1 and give him the 2
Day 3: give him the 1 back
Day 4: take the 1 and 2, and give him the 4
Day 5: give them the 1
Day 6: take bakc the 1, and give him the 2
Day 7: give him the 1
What are some of the wrong tracks people get into? If there are some interesting paths that show you how the candidate thinks, then it's a fine question.

--Mark

PS BTW, we had talked about a forum for questions like this, but it never seemed to get started.
[ January 19, 2003: Message edited by: Mark Herschberg ]
Manish Hatwalne
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 22, 2001
Posts: 2578

I guess the manhole covers are round because it is easier to roll them on floor/road, they are quite heavy to carry otherwise. Seems logical....
- Manish
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
Speaking of manhole covers.
The city of Vail, Colorado had problems with college kids taking them home after skiing vacations. They have the name of the city on them plus some kind of picture of a mountain and skier on them. Kids want them as souveniers.
So the city decided to get some made up just for the purpose of selling them to the public.
Mind you, these are solid iron and weigh around 70 to 80lbs.
I guess the city asked $300/piece and sold their entire supply in a few weeks.
Article was on CNN awhile back.
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
All:
Getting back to a candidate's thought process during an interview.
When I interviewed with Lutron Lighting (Coopersburg, PA), they had what they call a "situational role-playing interview".
You sit at table with two interviewers. The interviewers will assume the role of different people in the company as well as outside vendors, customers, and the general public.
The situation lasts 1 to 2 hours.
Here is how it works:
Interviewer says that he is your boss - and he is going to be at very important meetings all day. He knows its your first day on the job - but has a super major problem. Can you help?
The problem - they are having problems with the lighting controls at the White House. Find the problem, Find the solution.
Manager says he will be at meetings all day.
Bye.
-----
Note: Once you say bye to the manager - he is GONE forever. Can't get back to him.
-----
So what do you do?
-- You start a paper trail of contacts.
-- You start by talking with co-worker in cube next to you. He gives you a secretary phone number.
-- You call secretary. She gives you another phone number.
-- You call that number. Operator says it's disconnected.
-- You call information - AT&T operator says that person does not exist.
-- You try to talk with buddy in cube next door -- but he is out for lunch.
-- You call operator at your company (you talked to her before). She says you can try to call guys wife.
-- You try to call guys wife - but get instructions to call pager.
-- You call pager - leave phone number. But shit!! it's your first day on job - you don't have a phone number yet. You have a phone - but no number.
-- You go to buddy's cube next to you - he is still out to lunch - so you grab his phone number.
-- Leave sticky note on buddy's phone stating you are expecting phone call.
-- Place page with wife.
-- She calls back.
-------
- Making a long story short. This game/role playing goes on and on -- as you keep encountering problem after problem in trying to track down people.
- In the meantime, you keep a list of contacts - as you may need to go back to them.
----
- Final solution to problem:
- Secret Service was waving metal detectors at wall switches for lighting and these caused the circuit boards to die.
- As the clincher. You had to order replacement parts. Which required a purchase order. Which required you go to the secretary who knew the ropes and could get you an emergency one. This you gave to supplier who delivered the new switches to White House.
SIMULATION OVER.
------
- That sure beats the hell out of manhole covers.
- Was a hell of a lot of fun.
- Interviewer says 3/4 of candidates can't coordinate their thoughts or maintain a paper trail of what they did. Paper trail needed so that you know who to contact in case you have problems and need to find another way around situation.
-----
- Lutron Lighting was the only place I ever saw it done.
- Thing is, this is how the real-world operates. Certainly saw it a lot at EDS - where you had to go through 10-15 folks sometimes in order to get a problem solved.
Gotta run,
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
Chad McGowan
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 10, 2001
Posts: 265
Wow, that makes manhole covers look as boring as... well, manhole covers.
chad stevens
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 20, 2002
Posts: 88
Incredible John, you actually stayed 2 hours for that interview? I wonder how much they were paying! Did you take the job?
Paul Keohan
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 15, 2000
Posts: 411
I would be a cat - so I could just laze around all day doing nothing. Is that a good answer?
Originally posted by chad stevens:
Geez John!
You are really on the ball there, good to know! So tell me, what answer would you give to the animal question, ie. If you were an animal, what animal would you be? Just curious
chad stevens
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 20, 2002
Posts: 88
Paul,
That would be ideal! Ha! Ha! So you are applying for a manager position?
jerry vn
Greenhorn

Joined: Jun 30, 2010
Posts: 8
John Coxey wrote:All:
Getting back to a candidate's thought process during an interview.
When I interviewed with Lutron Lighting (Coopersburg, PA), they had what they call a "situational role-playing interview".
You sit at table with two interviewers. The interviewers will assume the role of different people in the company as well as outside vendors, customers, and the general public.
The situation lasts 1 to 2 hours.
Here is how it works:
Interviewer says that he is your boss - and he is going to be at very important meetings all day. He knows its your first day on the job - but has a super major problem. Can you help?
The problem - they are having problems with the lighting controls at the White House. Find the problem, Find the solution.
Manager says he will be at meetings all day.
Bye.
-----
Note: Once you say bye to the manager - he is GONE forever. Can't get back to him.
-----
So what do you do?
-- You start a paper trail of contacts.
-- You start by talking with co-worker in cube next to you. He gives you a secretary phone number.
-- You call secretary. She gives you another phone number.
-- You call that number. Operator says it's disconnected.
-- You call information - AT&T operator says that person does not exist.
-- You try to talk with buddy in cube next door -- but he is out for lunch.
-- You call operator at your company (you talked to her before). She says you can try to call guys wife.
-- You try to call guys wife - but get instructions to call pager.
-- You call pager - leave phone number. But shit!! it's your first day on job - you don't have a phone number yet. You have a phone - but no number.
-- You go to buddy's cube next to you - he is still out to lunch - so you grab his phone number.
-- Leave sticky note on buddy's phone stating you are expecting phone call.
-- Place page with wife.
-- She calls back.
-------
- Making a long story short. This game/role playing goes on and on -- as you keep encountering problem after problem in trying to track down people.
- In the meantime, you keep a list of contacts - as you may need to go back to them.
----
- Final solution to problem:
- Secret Service was waving metal detectors at wall switches for lighting and these caused the circuit boards to die.
- As the clincher. You had to order replacement parts. Which required a purchase order. Which required you go to the secretary who knew the ropes and could get you an emergency one. This you gave to supplier who delivered the new switches to White House.
SIMULATION OVER.
------
- That sure beats the hell out of manhole covers.
- Was a hell of a lot of fun.
- Interviewer says 3/4 of candidates can't coordinate their thoughts or maintain a paper trail of what they did. Paper trail needed so that you know who to contact in case you have problems and need to find another way around situation.
-----
- Lutron Lighting was the only place I ever saw it done.
- Thing is, this is how the real-world operates. Certainly saw it a lot at EDS - where you had to go through 10-15 folks sometimes in order to get a problem solved.
Gotta run,
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)


Hi,

I do not agreed with you. Any way, your ideal make me thinking about some thing for my project.

Please try to keep posting. Tks and best regards
Rohan kanade
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 22, 2009
Posts: 106
Chad McGowan wrote:Why are manhole covers round?
Is this a common interview question? Just curious because it is a standard one at the last company I worked for.


when we drill something, most of the times it is a circular hole, and guessing that sewer systems in most cities have been around for ages, they had no other option but to cover the hole with a circular plate. And when you are using circular plates to cover something, you can also give it threads so that they can lock in the hole, which is not possible with a square plate or rectangular plate.


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