Interview Questions: Tips on Answering the Odd Ones

In an internet article giving career advice for interviewing professionals (here), Justin Thompson gives advice on answering some of the oddest questions I’ve ever heard of in a professional interview.  I think he got it wrong.

Q: Do you believe in UFOS?

His answer: “While I may not believe in UFOs, I do believe that in business, you have to have an attitude that anything is possible. Whether it’s pursuing a lofty revenue goal or a potential client who has turned you down 10 times, you have to believe the extraordinary can happen.”

BOoOoOooring.  Correct answer.  “Well, I didn’t used to, but my cousin’s girlfriend’s mother’s brother swears he saw one out over the sand bar down Willie’s Creek, and then Joe Bob took out his camera and took a picture.  They put it on the board down at t’ general store and everything.  An’ then I sawr this picture down at the the-a-ter where they was makin’ drawrings and stuff of Devil’s Tower.  I hear tell it were a true story…what was it?  Close Encounters or somethin’ like that.”

Or, you could go with: “Of course!  And we have to band together to fight those little green devils before they enslave us all!” 

Q: Have you ever been the dumbest guy in the room?

His answer: “Let’s be honest – everyone has. And don’t try to pretend you’re not or lie. Go with it. Respond with, ‘Certainly. Everyone has strengths and talents to offer, and you are not always going to be the best or the smartest. Recognizing this is the best way to work effectively in a team, allowing each member to contribute in their area of expertise, for the best cumulative result possible.’ ”

Better answer:  “I might be the dumbest guy in the room right now!”

 The Dr. Sheldon Cooper totally honest answer: “No.”

Q: Can you drive in bad weather?

His answer: “Driving in bad weather is sometimes a necessity. It simply means you have to focus a little harder, be a little more cautious and exercise patience. It’s difficult, but not impossible, and you can always make it safely to your destination with a little calculated effort.”

Correct answer: “Of course I can.  I drive with the storm chasers down in the panhandle.  Why I drive the pickup 60-70 miles an hours, sometimes more, if those tornadoes take a turn and start running right at us.  And I really like driving in snow and ice.  I love to take the truck and spin a 360 right there on the Interstate.  Like, last winter?  When they shut down the government and sent everybody home and the roads was all packed?  I threw my truck into four wheel drive and drove down the medians and the ramps.  You betch, I can drive in bad weather.”

Or: “I am risk averse, so no.  I never drive in bad weather.  Statistically speaking…(make something up here).”

Q: Do you bake or buy?

His answer: “…explain the advantages of buying and baking and why you’d chose to do one or the other in certain situations. If you bake, you might want to say you enjoy compiling ingredients to create something others will enjoy or benefit from. If you buy, you might want to say you are a good delegator and always seeking ways to be more efficient with your time and resources.”

Although I could be forgiven for asking “Bake or buy what?”, let’s assume we know what the interviewer is asking about.  Maybe they want to know what you bring to the potluck table.  Or maybe, they really are after the (sigh) humdrum answer above, but I think a better answer is (especially if they have a vegetarian sticker on their wall): “I don’t do neither.  I hunt and I barbecue.  Elk, deer, quail, duck, even possum a time or two and that one time when I hit a cow…in my defense, it was a long way off and I though it was a really short, fat elk.”

Q: If I gave you a brick, what would you do with it?

His answer: “If you gave me a brick, I’d go out in search of more bricks, of all different sizes and colors, in order to build something spectacular.”

You’re talking about Legos, there, buddy.  Your five year old could have come up with that one.  Good answer: “I’d get a few more and some boards and built me a bookshelf, or iffen the brick is the right size, I’d use it to prop up the trailer.  It’s kinda leaning a bit.”  Or, you could take the brick (assuming she actually gave you one), open the door, set the brick down to hold the door open and spread your hands apart, palms up, while grinning and half bowing…you know, the non-verbal “Ta-da!”

Q: Are rules meant to be broken?

His answer: “It depends.” Rules are there for a reason typically: they ensure accountability and checks and balances and keep things running smoothly. But, once you adhere to the boundaries that are in place, you shouldn’t be afraid to say that when the time comes for critical thinking and innovative solutions to persistent problems, sometimes the rules need to be flexible.

Yawn.

Mine: “Heck yes! And I see you think the same thing, because there you are wearing white and it’s after Labor Day.  I think it’s even in the Bible, or something.  The verse says, “Rules are made to be broken.”  I even have it on a bumper sticker on my truck.”  Unless you are applying for a job in law enforcement. 

Q: Are you a pencil or a pen?

His answer: “…you could venture to say that as a pencil, the best work is always a process, and you enjoy having the ability to draft and redraft, erase and rethink the task at hand until it’s perfect. As a pen you might say you’re authoritative, bold and daring when appropriate.”

Mine:  “Okay, now you’re just screwing with me, right?  Am I on Candid Camera?”  or “Neither.  I’m a MacBook Air.  I’m super-fast, reliable and the best in my field.”

Q: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

His answer: “Be clever when responding. Whether it’s the ability to fly, see into the future or leap over tall buildings in a single bound, you should always make a connection to your professional contributions. The superpower you choose needs to relate back to an organization or how your skills would benefit others. For example, the ability to read someone’s mind can help you create better solutions for a client.”

Are you kidding me? Are you trying to prove you’re a suck-up?

Instead, give ’em something like the truth:  “Everything I touch would turn to gold.  Then I wouldn’t need this job.  Of course, then I would have turned YOU to gold when I shook your hand, so that doesn’t work…so maybe I’d like to be able to teleport.  I could live anywhere in the world I wanted and still be to work on time.  Or flying.  Flying is a great super-power.  So is healing.  I’d go into all the hospitals and heal everyone.  That would be super-cool.  Wouldn’t need Obama-care then, would we?”

Q: What do you do when you see a spider in your house?

His answer: “The employer is trying to get a feel for how you respond to situations. You can say you typically leave the spider alone because you don’t sweat the small stuff, or you can say that you ask someone else to take care of it because you delegate well while focusing on the bigger picture.”

My answer:  (Quake visibly.)  Please don’t mention spiders.  They freak me out.  Or ants.  Don’t mention ants either.  (Look around wildly.)  Do you have a bug problem in this office?  I really can’t work somewhere that has a bug problem.  (Reach for your purse/briefcase while doing a complete visual body inspection and then run from the building.)

I would love to do a series of posts with imagining different people’s answers to these questions.  Maybe another time.

Let the Pipers Play

Let the pipers play that song,

The one that causes tears to run

down the cheeks of all who hear it,

lifts the hearts and warms the spirit.

 

Let the drummers drum their slow sad best

as pall bearers lay me down to rest.

Cover me with flowers, then in dirt.

Bury me beneath the cold, dark earth.

 

Share stories of what I’ve done well,

If I’ve been kind, remember well.

If I’ve failed you, caused you pain,

I apologize to you, dear friend.

 

Do not carry ‘round your sorrows

Do not wear your angers long.

I’m but a wretched piece of dirt

That God once breathed upon.

 

In my heart I’ve loved more deeply

Than my tongue could ever tell,

Doubt it not, my dear ones

I have loved you, loved you well.

 

Let them play and let them drum.

Lift a glass and pour a round.

Pour another one for me

A toast to our shared history.

 

So play on pipers, loud and long,

and let drummers drum.

I have passed from death to life

And reached my heavenly home.

Waiting…

I need a serious break.  That is, I need a break in a serious way…or, perhaps, I need a break from the serious.  Whichever way…I need a break.  I am running on empty.  My heart, my soul, my spirit, my energy…all fairlydrained right now.  Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up on wings like eagles.  They shall walk and not grow weary, they shall run and not grow faint.  Isaiah 40:31  I’m waiting for the renewal.

Internal Logical Consistency

I can’t recall who said it, a writer who had been an investigator with the FBI or police, “People have an internal logical consistency.  Whatever they do conforms to that logical consistency.  If you can figure out what it is, you can understand what they do and why they do it, whether you agree with it or not.”   I have people in my life whose “internal logical consistency” is completely unfathomable to me.  I can guarantee they will say or do something horrible, but I often can’t anticipate what it will be and am repeatedly surprised by how incredibly awful they can be.  They seem to plumb new depths of awful, of inconsideration, of the incomprehensible.

I am fond of saying that you can’t reason with crazy.  That doesn’t stop me from trying to figure it out, to figure out the internal logical consistency by which these people operate.

Question for the Formerly Protestant turned Orthodox.

I really struggle to understand the Orthodox teaching on salvation. It seems to me that the Orthodox Church teaches that Salvation comes by Faith, is a work of Grace by God through the work of His Son, Jesus, but that salvation is not complete. It requires a continual salvation, a continual “saving” if you will, in and through works. If I understand correctly a person may not know if they have a full salvation until death and that prior to that moment, salvation is up in the air.

Rather like a mortgage, I puzzle, where the bank guarantees the loan and the house is YOURS, you move in, you make all the repairs, you pay the taxes, you pay the insurance, you paint, landscape, water, mow…pay monthly payments for year after year after year, but you only THINK you own that house, as the bank can take that house from you even should you falter on the last payment.

If I can make this analogy, and I’m not sure it is completely accurate, Christ paid for our salvation, but we are required to make payments of our own through life, through feasts, fasts, prayers, good works, giving, faithfulness…but should we fail to make those payments…that salvation is foreclosed on.

Yes the analogy is weak, but I’m trying to understand this concept. I’m trying to wrap my mind around this.

In the Protestant mainline, the analogy would be that Christ buys you the house, all you must do is sign on the dotted line. That the signature is not about the house, but is an understanding of the price the Savior paid and an acknowledgement of his supremacy in this world and a pledge to follow him in love and obedience, but includes the “house” (Salvation) as a free gift upon signing is the point. That you are recognizing that you are in desperate need of this house (though even you do not understand how much you need this) is a given. It is part of the package you are signing. You are now the steward of this house, this salvation. It is your job to maintain and improve the place, but even in that, whenever you do the work, your Savior works with you, for you, through you. That He asks you to be kind to the poor homeless souls all around you, to help other homeowners with their repairs is, you figure, the least you can do in gratitude for this fine Salvation house. Should you falter, you still own the house. It is still yours to live in. Some Protestants would argue that you can abandon your house and walk away, but that no court, no person, could take this house FROM you, you have to give up what is yours.

Acknowledging the weakness of the analogy, I am still left puzzling about the Orthodox teaching on Salvation. For if the Holy Spirit in/by whom we are sealed (Eph. 1:13) is the deposit or guarantee of our inheritance (Eph. 1:14) how does He Seal and Guarantee that which we then must work toward obtaining?

*****

There is a verse that is running through my head, Matthew 7:7, where the translation (according to Greek scholars I have spoken to, listened to and whose writings I have read) is most often mis-translated as: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:”  However, the verb forms are the active present tense, so it should be more literally translated “Ask and keep on asking, and it shall be given you; Seek and keep on seeking and ye shall find; Knock and keep on knocking and it shall be opened unto you:”  It has got me thinking…perhaps this may help with my understanding.  Perhaps salvation is active present–like Save and Keep on Saving, according to Orthodox understanding.  Or perhaps it is like when you hit the Save button on a large computer document.  You hit the button (Save), the bar is moving from left to right as it actively is being saved (Saving) and then the bar hits the far right, the file is 100% complete and you are done (Saved.)   ????

But this is puzzling. So I’m asking for help with this one. And I do moderate this blog, so rude and nasty will not be tolerated. Gentle, thoughtful and helpful commentators are gratefully acknowledged and welcomed. The rest will go to that delightful little place, the internet trash bin.

***3/4/14***Update***

I re-read this again and am surprised at how much my understanding has changed since I wrote this on September 24, 2011.  Salvation is a free gift of God, utterly unearned by mankind. That being said, the works, the feasts, prayers, fasting, confession, baptism, good works, giving, sacrifice, holy eucharist, etc., all are part of becoming more like God. Deified, I believe some people call it.  This does not mean I become God, not at all. It means that I partake of Him, who is our life and our being, the immutable, invisible, only-wise, all-loving, compassionate and merciful God, who alone is Holy. Yet we are to be holy as He is holy.  Ah, it is a marvel too much for the mind to comprehend.

Orthodoxy is not a dogma or a doctrinal statement. It is a way of life, and I am learning that way of life. Salvation is not earned, but we cooperate with God in becoming more like Him, and we remain faithful, yes, through our deeds, for faith without works is dead.

It is like the famous Dr. Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory) who “learned to swim” from You Tube and has practiced on the floor of his apartment, having never donned a swimsuit and gotten wet! Can he swim?  Who knows?  Or like me, who, having read directions, watched how to videos and dream crocheted, did not actually crochet until I took a hook in one hand and yarn in the other and practiced it.  “Worked it out” as it were. This all makes sense to me, and yet it is more than I can comprehend or put into words.

I had been looking at this all wrong.  Salvation is not an accounting function or a judicial function, although it has aspects of that, or at least is explained as such, but it is so much more than that. We are BEING saved. It is an uncomfortable thing for this former Protestant, to weed out the beliefs of a lifetime and plant in what is taught by the One Holy and Apostolic Church, the holy Orthodox Church, but slowly and surely, this is what is happening. Some of this is by experience. We learn and then we practice and come to knowledge that cannot be learned by mere words or teaching. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Lessons in Past Loss

I remember learning of my brother and sister-in-law’s struggles losing baby after baby to miscarriage. Loss piled upon loss, each one breaking my heart. I so longed to be an aunt to my brother’s children, and I so wanted them to hold those precious little one’s. The only one of his children my brother ever held was stillborn. My own grief is insignificant in light of their own, yet I grieved alone. I knew nothing about how to deal with another’s trouble. My family tends to be awkward or worse in the face of the pain of others. Silence. That is what I gave my brother. Not a call, Perhaps a card.

My tears wet my pillow, the ache in my heart I have learned to live with. Why this struggle? Why do so many of us deal so poorly with grief? Why are we so dumb when it comes to expressing sympathy?

It pains me to think that I kept silent for fear that I would make the pain worse, or that my expression of love and sympathy would be unwanted.

I have expressed this to my brother and been forgiven, but I can’t shake the sorrow and sadness, knowing how poorly I have handled this.

With this in the back of my mind, I got the call from my other brother that his baby, my niece Tiffany, had died. First, I am grateful that he called. I’m glad he let me know, that he reached out. This opening lets me know I am welcomed into this experience with him, I feel freer to express my heart. In some ways, my failure with one brother has taught me how to handle this new grief, this new loss. I love that he calls her his baby. At 15, kids think they are so grown up, but we know, we parents know that our kids will always be our babies. In those grown up faces will always remain the infant we cherished.

I wish there had been a service for each of the babies my older brother lost. Shouldn’t there be some formal recognition of the loss? Instead it is spoken of in hushed whispers, or not spoken of at all. I know better now. I would create my own sense of occasion and would, knowing what I do now, send flowers, a card, and would follow up later, to let them know I’m still thinking about them, that I still care.

That I was part of the reason for the intense loneliness that accompanied the many griefs of my older brother still makes me sad. That I can do nothing to lessen my younger brother’s grief is a fact, but at least I can let them know that I care, that I’m here, that I am grieving for them, with them.

It makes me re-think the nature of life and the meaning of life and death. My faith is not shaken, but I am re-evaluating some of my beliefs about life in general and our existence. What place grief? What place loss? What expectations do I have of a life without such? Why?

Foggy

I am surprised by the physical manifestations of the experience of my niece’s death and the emotional reaction, for lack of a better description.  I am exhausted.  Physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally.  Simply and overwhelmingly exhausted.  I feel as if I am swimming in a fog, but a fog with a density and weight that I have never known.  Every movement feels heavy and strained.  Every word I read a difficulty, every fact impossible to grasp.  Questions in the text make no sense, and my assignments are unfathomable.  May as well have been written in a foreign language.  Oh, it’s a language I studied once and so I can decipher the meaning upon careful and intense reading and re-reading, but once the translation is done, there is the herculean task of gathering together the resources to answer the question.  Was that in the book or the lab manual?  Which chapter?  Which figure?  Everything is ten or twelve times more difficult than usual.  The math comes painfully after working the problem over and over and over.  Am I stupid?  Am I an emotional wreck?  Am I somehow unsuited for managing what looks so easy for others?

I feel ashamed of my weakness.  Embarrassed by my frailty.  I’m behind by nearly a week.  At this rate I will have to drop the course and loose $1000.  I have to catch up.  I have to clear my mind.  Compartmentalize.  Think, think, think.  But I need sleep instead.  No, that has to wait.  I am determined to catch up today.  But it’s already noon and I have spent hours doing minutes worth of work.  Sigh.

Back to it.  Maybe some coffee will help.  I think I will ask my husband to head to Starbucks for me.  I’m out of creamer and so far my attempts to make a suitable cup of coffee without it have failed miserably.