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Why should we hire you?

Posted by Vivian Wong on July 23, 2009


Team Photo

Today’s article by CNN 43 weird things to say in job interviews was pretty funny. Here are some of my favorites:

“I would be a great asset to the events team because I party all the time.” – Bill McGowan, founder, Clarity Media Group

“I get angry easily and I went to jail for domestic violence. But I won’t get mad at you.” – Pechstein

Last week I interviewed an experienced software developer who made a long lasting impression on me.

First Impression

Me: What do you know about this position?

Mr. XYZ: Nothing. I spent no more than 3 minutes looking at the job description when I applied.

Are you a people person?

Five minutes later, sensing that Mr. XYZ may be difficult to work with:

Me: Have you ever had conflicts with others at work?

Mr. XYZ: Oh yeah. You can call them conflicts or disagreements – same thing.

Me:  Can you please give me an example? How did you resolve the issue?

Mr. XYZ: (shrug) They wouldn’t do what I said and I told them their designs were wrong. They were stubborn.

Collaborating in a Global Environment

Me: How do you feel about working with a global team?

Mr. XYZ:  There is just nothing good about working with teams in India. It takes twice as much time to communicate to get stuff done and then they are never done right. We have to deal with them. We have no choice.

Closing the deal

Me: Hmmm… Actually we have teams in India and we enjoy working with them. They can bring a lot of value to our projects….

Mr. XYZ: You are not hearing me right. You are just being an idealist. What I said is that it takes so much time to communicate with them and then you have to wait a long time for things to turn around and they don’t give you what you need. Global teams just don’t work.

At this point, I thanked him for his time and ended the interview. Frankly, I’d rather hire someone with no technical skills but has the “right” attitude and willing to learn than the other way round. It’s much easier to learn hard skills than soft skills.

Later when I compared my notes with other interviewers on my team,  it was clear that Mr. XYZ was most outspoken and least respectful to me. (We wondered whether he simply treated me differently because I was the only female interviewer?)

What were some of your most memorable experiences either as an interviewer or interviewee?

9 Responses to “Why should we hire you?”

  1. Noons said

    “It’s much easier to learn hard skills than soft skills.”

    Sorry Vivian but that is so wrong, at so many levels…

    Having said that, the example interview you gave is a classic!

  2. Meg Bear said

    Actually I’m with you Vivian on the soft skills thing but I think I’d say it differently to help Noons feel better about it. I think that you can learn skills (soft or hard) but behaviors are much harder to change and values often cannot be changed.

    If someone does not have good team behaviors it takes a lot of work to change them, if they do not value teams then you will probably not be able to change that. This is why the whole concept of “job fit” is complex and very important. Awesome post and what an attractive team in the photo😉.

  3. I’m with Noons.
    I’ve seen many very nice people, who worked very hard and really tried but simply could not do the technical work at the required level. Since they worked so hard, managers had tough time firing them and they simply moved from team to team for years.

    Whats worse is that when a person can’t perform at the right technical level, it also chips away at their soft skills – for example, when others constantly have to do your work for you, you may find yourself taking credit for work other people did – simply so you’ll look somewhat competent and avoid getting fired.

    I much prefer working with strong technical people who are rude and outspoken at times. Probably not as managers, but definitely as individual contributors.

    Of course, it is usually not an either-or situation. I work with plenty strong technical people who also have great interpersonal skills.

  4. Vivian Wong said

    @Noons Thanks for stopping by! Looks like Meg was in my head and knew what I meant.

    When someone behaves poorly with a lack of respect for others, even if this individual has strong technical skills and years of experience, there is a high probability that his behavior and bitterness would affect the morale of the entire team. The whole is greater than the sum of parts – https://talentedapps.wordpress.com/2008/08/09/the-whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts/

    To be clear, I wasn’t implying that I’d hire someone that is completely unskilled – having strong potential + strong interpersonal skills are as important as the technical skills and experiences. Here’s a great blog that resonates with me really well – enjoy: http://www.azzarellogroup.com/blog/2009/07/20/how-to-hire-a-star/

  5. It is possible that mr. xyz was a rock star working with a bunch of stubborn morons. I’m just saying. 😉 Nice topic and post.

  6. Noons said

    @Vivian

    The azarello post is indeed a good reference. Thanks for that, I can relate to its content very well.

    Having worked initially in environments full of folks fitting your description of “bitter behaviour” while being undoubtedly “masters”, I learned pretty early to filter off all that “bitter” stuff. Just noise, really.

    Personally, I don’t give a hoot if someone behaves in a bitter or offputting manner, provided they do their job well and I can respect their professional skills.

    Everyone is entitled to “dummy spits” as often as they like, as far as I’m concerned.

    The ones that have no skills other than “years-in-position” and still behave like prima-donas, those seriously rattle me.

    Coming back to hiring, I think folks nowadays are just too sensitive to behaviour at work and don’t look for the real jewells.

    Me, I’d love to be able to put together “perfect teams” full of group-hugging perfect masters.

    But I’ve lived and learned long enough to know we come across one of those once or twice in a lifetime.

    Meanwhile we have to do the best we can with what we got and stop waiting for perfection. That is indeed the true value of a good team builder, IMHO.

    Anyways, just to say I understand your point of view and thank you for the link to the Azarello post:
    definitely a “keeper”!

  7. Vivian Wong said

    @Chen @Noons Thank you both for sharing your thoughts- it’s always interesting to hear different perspectives!

    @Working girl Thank you for following our blog! I suspect Mr. XYZ thought I was a moron too😉

  8. Personally I think Mr XYZ’s most dumbass move was that he SAID OUTLOUD all those things. I can accept that he might be a great (technical) asset to the team and have this personality issue where he is impatient, intolerant, superior, etc. But he should at least have the sense to ACT otherwise when he is interviewing to get a job. Honesty has no place in a job interview.😉

  9. Vivian Wong said

    @Kathi – One would think interviewees would be on their best behaviors at job interviews.

    I actually do appreciate honesty at interviews- especially if they are able to discuss their past mistakes and talk about what they have learned from it – I think it shows character. It’s much better to have someone who has self-awareness vs someone who pretends to be (or to think) they are super stars when they are not.

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