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How can answers to personal behaviour questions be pre-defined?

Jaikiran Pai
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Joined: Jul 20, 2005
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Hi Arul,

I went through a couple of chapters of the preview pdf of your book. The book seems to be a combination of both technical questions that are asked in interviews and also questions that are asked to understand how good you adapt to situations at work.

Most of the times answers to technical questions is going to be similar irrespective of whom you ask it. However what i find interesting is how can one lay down answers to questions which are meant for understand a person's behaviour. For example, let's take the example of Q78:

Q: What do you like and/or dislike most about your current and/or last position?
A: Do not say anything like: You dislike overtime.


What if I really dislike overtime? I mean what if that's the actual reason (work overload, overtime, late-nights etc...) i am quitting my job? Shouldn't i be telling the interviewer this actual reason? What happens if i get this new job and land up in a place which expects me to do overtime (wouldn't it be useless blaming my new employers since i never told them my preference)? Shouldn't answers to questions like these be left to the individual?

P.S: I have almost zero experience of conducting interviews and have attended only 3 interviews so far.


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arulk pillai
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Well poited out and that is why I say it is a hint. It is up to you what you say. But one needs to be careful in saying something that can be misconstrued. If you really dislike overtime you could say that with a positive spin like "I am good at prioritizing my tasks and managing time so that I do not have to work overtime all the time and have a work life balance". It depends on how you put it.


For example Q78 reads as follows


Q 78:What do you like and/or dislike most about your current and/or last position? FAQ
A 78:[Hint]

The interviewer is trying to find the compatibility with the open position. So

Do not say anything like:

You dislike overtime.
You dislike management or co-workers etc.

It is safe to say:

You like challenges.
Opportunity to grow into design, architecture, performance tuning etc
Opportunity to learn and/or mentor junior developers..
You dislike frustrating situations like identifying a memory leak problem or a complex transactional or a concurrency issue. You want to get on top of it as soon as possible.


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Jaikiran Pai
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Joined: Jul 20, 2005
Posts: 10202
    
166

Originally posted by arulk pillai:

For example Q78 reads as follows


Q 78:What do you like and/or dislike most about your current and/or last position? FAQ
A 78:[Hint]

The interviewer is trying to find the compatibility with the open position. So

Do not say anything like:



Well, i actually thought that the "[Hint]" was a clue about why the question was being asked.

Originally posted by arulk pillai:
If you really dislike overtime you could say that with a positive spin like "I am good at prioritizing my tasks and managing time so that I do not have to work overtime all the time and have a work life balance". It depends on how you put it.


Makes sense. Thanks
Sue Pillai
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Joined: Nov 04, 2004
Posts: 89
Well I was in a similar situation during my last job hunt. There were a lot of production support offers coming up through and my consultant kept pushing me to these jobs. But I came outright with my situation and my inability to work odd hours and carrying a pager. This I did every time at the start of the interview, when they ask me about myself(as part of what kind of job I am looking at) so they can wind up the interview sooner if they really did want me to have this ability.

No matter how desperate you are to get a job, you do not want to end up in a position you'd later repent accepting.

So, absolutely this situation is subjective.


Sue

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Edvins Reisons
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Joined: Dec 11, 2006
Posts: 364
There is no "correct" answer to a question of this type, but there are "best practices" to follow, and one of them is to avoid sounding negative, even when the question attempts to provoke this. There is a difference between blaming one's supervisor for overtime and looking forward to a better work-life balance in one's next job
arulk pillai
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Edvins you are on the money. In my view IT is not meant be be 9am - 5pm job.
[ February 29, 2008: Message edited by: arulk pillai ]
Jesus Angeles
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Joined: Feb 26, 2005
Posts: 2057
It is part of the job application process, for you to determine what the job is about.

You are not a desperate slave begging for a job.

You need to ask what the job is about. There are a lot of ways on doing this including interviews, and asking people who know the job in that company, e.g. current employees who do exactly the same position as you are applying for.

After knowing what the job is, and they want you too, you can decide if you will accept the job.

Do not bad-mouth a previous employer during your interview. This tells the interviewer that you will bad-mouth them too later.
Henry Wong
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Joined: Sep 28, 2004
Posts: 18896
    
  40

Most of the times answers to technical questions is going to be similar irrespective of whom you ask it. However what i find interesting is how can one lay down answers to questions which are meant for understand a person's behaviour.


IMHO, I think the "person's behaviour" questions are more useful. Obviously, the answers are not as valuable, as the "actual" answers should be more personalized... but it can be personalized. And it gets the reader to have think about the topic -- so s/he can think about what to say, and what not to say.

On the other hand, I don't like the technical questions at all. If you are already technical, they are not useful, even as a refresher question. And if you don't know the subject, using it to "refresh" just means you will be detected with the followup question.

In my case, I keep asking followup questions until one of us is out of his/her element. Technical "refresh" questions/answers to help with interviewing is not very useful, IMO.

Henry


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Mark Herschberg
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I do think that while you can't have universal answers for this, there are themes to these questions as well as ideas what the answer might look like. I agree with Henry and find these questions much more valuable than technical questions.

I wholeheartedly disagree with Arulk. If there is something you don't like, pussyfooting around it isn't going to help you. If you don't like overtime you can spin it however you want about being organized, but if this job requires a lot of overtime your spin better be reality or you're going to wind up unhappy. At my companies we typically work about 50-55 hours a week. I am upfront about this and if someone does like that I'm ok with it; I don't think less of that person I just think this job isn't a fit because that person will not be happy here.

I also think it's ok to say something negative, but be careful how you do it. If you say "my last company was full of idiots, I hate working with them" yes, it's too negative. It is ok to say something like, "my old boss left and my new boss and I just aren't connecting, that's why I'm leaving;" you need to go into more details than this, but my point is you can say something mildly negative. Any decent manager knows not everybody gets along and sometimes even two good employees just together won't work out. It's not a reflection on capability, but on personality and style.

Above all be honest in your interviews--both candidates and hiring managers. Misleading or hiding something important will only lead to frustration later.

--Mark
arulk pillai
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Mark you have a very valid point there. But not all candidates are seasoned and lucky enough to choose what he/she needs/like. Getting a foot in the door is a struggle for some. Some candidates need to give into or be flexible enough to adapt to employer's requirements. Most places I have worked 45-50 hours is a norm and some companies expect 50+ hours. Once you prove yourself as a valuable team memeber with good technical ability then can negotiate with your manager for more flexible and alternative arrangements. I have even negotiated working part-time from home. Once someone is more employable then one can pick and choose a job based on what suits him/her best.

The Q&A in the personal section should be taken as a guide only.

[ March 01, 2008: Message edited by: arulk pillai ]
[ March 01, 2008: Message edited by: arulk pillai ]
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Originally posted by arulk pillai:
Most places I have worked 45-50 hours is a norm and some companies expect 50+ hours. Once you prove yourself as a valuable team memeber with good technical ability then can negotiate with your manager for more flexible and alternative arrangements

If a company expects 50+ hours and measures productivity in terms of hours (rather than work accomplished), I can't see how they would be receptive to working less hours. By definition, they care about the hours. They may be ok with more flexible arrangements, but less hours goes against the culture too much.

And I agree with Mark. If this is going to be an issue, it's better for both sides to know upfront. There are many companies that have less than a routine 50 hour work week. Personally, I think you vote by where you choose to work. (At least if you are a strong/marketable techie.) And I would rather work someplace that has a culture I m more comfortable with. Some people prefer the startup/we work really long hours culture and would be a better fit for that company.

Note that I'm not saying overtime is bad. I understand the need for extra hours for a problem or some deadlines. If a 50 hour week is routine, what happens when there is a problem? Do you work 70 hours? There is no right and wrong here. I just don't think being misleading at an interview to get a job where you won't fit in and will likely dislike it, is a good thing.

But not all candidates are seasoned and lucky enough to choose what he/she needs/like. Getting a foot in the door is a struggle for some.

Needs and like are two different things. If someone isn't strong (and doesn't have much room for negotiation), sacrificing what one likes is doable. However, sacrificing what one needs often isn't feasible. If someone needs to leave work by 6pm to pick up a child, saying he needs to work 8-7 isn't something he can agree to. I saw this happen to someone at work and the person had to leave the dept. How does it help to not address this earlier on.


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Dmitri Christo
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Joined: Jan 19, 2007
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Jobs Discussion is one of my favorite forums in the Saloon to browse. As an observer I just want to say that I find Mark's arguments and remarks in this conversation to also prove his point in another thread:

quote riginally posted by S. Palanigounder:
Are you still telling your kids to learn computer science and engineering?


Absolutely! the vast majority of those foreign workers are not threat to good, US trained engineers. (I'm not going to get into this yet again, you can search for my reasons in this forum.)

--Mark
Suresh Kumar
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Joined: Oct 07, 2007
Posts: 14
Most of the people say that don�t be negative, I strongly believe we are leaving some job due to a strong negative efforts (exception for some people who leave due to the locations and other personal reasons).If we are not going say that in the interview then we may get the same environment again right?.
I my current company I was not recognized because of personal politics with my manager, can I say this to my next company..If I am not going to say this then I am not HONEST to myself...
Henry Wong
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Joined: Sep 28, 2004
Posts: 18896
    
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I my current company I was not recognized because of personal politics with my manager, can I say this to my next company..If I am not going to say this then I am not HONEST to myself...


Think of it this way. It is very likely that you will be interviewed by your new manager (assuming you get the job). If you were the manager, would you hire someone that just trashed his previous manager?

No-one is suggesting that you lie. We are just suggesting that you put it in context. Someone who can be so negative about something, is generally someone who has experience being negative about something. Now the question is, where is all this experience coming from -- is it because this person is constantly defending himself?

Henry
[ March 02, 2008: Message edited by: Henry Wong ]
Edvins Reisons
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Posts: 364
Irrationally enough, the impression that you create at an interview is determined by exchange of emotions no less than by exchange of texts. So, the theory goes, in order to end up in the best position for an agreement, put what you have to say in as positive terms as you can, and feel positive about it when you say it.
 
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subject: How can answers to personal behaviour questions be pre-defined?