Nerd Guru

Because technical people need good soft skills to get ahead.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Surviving engineering interviews: Part 5 - The Touchy-Feely Questions

What kind of tree would you be and why?

OK, maybe not THAT touchy-feely, but a big part of the interview process, especially the Live Interview, is for your perspective employer to estimate what it will be like for the existing parts of the team to work with you. While you can never get an honest answer to, “So, how big a jerk are you really?”, there are other types of things you will get asked along the lines of trying to determine your personality and how it will mesh with the established veterans of the group.

There are volumes of books written on this subject, but here are some favorites you should be prepared for:

• Why should I hire you?

• What is your best strength?

• What is your biggest weakness?

• What would you do if a teammate is slacking off, putting the whole project at risk?

• How might you act differently if you were the only remote member of your team?

A great resource for questions like this (and suggestions for answers) is at

There is a fine line some times between personal questions that are and are not legal to ask. Be prepared for those too, especially if you don’t happen to be a white heterosexual unmarried male with no children. People not in that narrow group may be justifiably sensitive to discrimination. If you were at a party, anybody could ask you “Do you have any kids?” and you wouldn’t take offense, but if that same question is asked at a job interview, it’s intentions are potentially not innocent. Maybe it is being asked because the person is trying to take an interest in you or maybe it’s because the interviewer is testing to see if long hours might bother you. Regardless, it’s an illegal question.

To answer or avoid, is the question when asked things like this. What you do depends a lot on the specific situation. For example, if you are asked the question about kids after you remarked about a picture on the desk of your interviewer with his or her family, it might be OK to answer it. But if you are in a room with a panel of interviewers, the situation is completely different. The point is, think about those sorts of questions you might be asked and under what circumstances you may or may not want to answer them.


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posted by Pete Johnson @ 1:43 PM   0 comments

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