Feb 10, 2009

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Bad Questions Lead To Bad Results

       Last week I wrote about bad answers to good questions.  So let’s address the fodder of lazy interviewers: the bad question.

Almost everyone has squirmed at the question, “What is your greatest weakness?”

Or there’s the offshoots “What are you not good at, or what do you not like to do?” Common sentiment amongst interview coaches is that the wrong answer is to respond that you like everything about yourself or there is nothing you don’t like to do.  Those answers smack of insincerity and arrogance.

Wrong answers also include: “I am a perfectionist.”  “I’m a workaholic.”  “I have no weaknesses.” “I am impatient with incompetent people.” Or the cheeky, “I can’t tolerate trite interview questions like this one.”

The perfectionist answer may seem like a good one, but some interviewers may interpret it to mean that the job-seeker is incapable of delegating work. Flip answers are also can pose a problem because chances are the interviewer thought it was a good and probing question.

Equally lazy is “Where do you see yourself in five years?”  What makes these questions so bad and lazy is that they take a short cut that obviates the need for the interviewer to really pay attention to the interviewee. 

The best interviews are dialogues.  The questioner should be able to discover something about themselves and the perception of the thing that is being sought after.  It is not just a series of check lists with right and wrong answers.  It should be an opportunity for self exploration and for both parties to take a hard look at what they know to be true.

So when I am asked the “what’s your biggest weakness?” question I do what I used to do in college.  If I didn’t like an essay question, I’d reframe it into a context I could work with.  So for the weakness question, I simply respond, “tell me who is defining the weakness?”  Is it my boss’ perception?  My co-worker?  My wife?  I want the interviewer to get the importance of context and to realize I consider myself multi dimensional.

The reason I’m dwelling on lazy questions is the news of this past weekend concerning Alex Rodriquez and his use of steroids.  It turned out A-Rod gave an interview a few years back on 60 Minutes and of course there was the lazy question, “Have you ever done steroids?”  What made it lazy was the knowledge that the answer had to be “no”.  No baseball player has ever admitted to using steroids without being caught first.  Even then most will deny, deny — see Roger Clemens.   Which begs the question, what was A-Rod thinking?  He had to know the question was coming.  How could he not be prepared for it?  More to the point, knowing the question was coming how does he justify lying?  The guy was paid for the interview. If he was not prepared to be truthful, don’t take the money.  Nobody obligated him to sit for the camera.  It was his choice.  Just like it was his choice to throw his integrity out the window when he chose to lie.  So to me the crime is not doing steroids, it’s not being man enough to honor the truth.

  1. Brad LESLIE - BorisRHINO YMAW says:

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