Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Ask the Administrator: Worst Interview Responses
[I]f you are asked "how has your teaching changed over the years" or "how has your
management of people changed over the years" or "how has your interaction with clients changed over the years" the wrong answer is "it hasn't"
The best professionals are continually evaluating their performance and making tweaks to improve - no improvement = no evaluation of past performance in my book.
I can't believe the number of candidates who tell us, with a straight face, that they teach the same way now that they did 15 years ago.
Then again, maybe I want to KNOW this up front, huh?
That is amazing. (Though I guess it could save money on professional development. If you’re already perfect, what’s to develop? Over the years, the savings could add up!) And it raises the question of worst interview responses.
Several years ago a colleague at another college told me the story of an incumbent lab technician who applied for a faculty position. During the interview, when asked why she wanted to move to faculty, she responded “I’m getting older, and I’d like to slow down. Summers off is really appealing.” She didn’t get the job.
Another fave: during the interview for a full-time staff position, the candidate asked about a reduced-hours schedule, since she, and I am not making this up, didn’t “want to work too hard.” No, we certainly wouldn’t want that...
Job interviews require a delicate balance. You want to show yourself in a positive light, and a certain amount of tooting your own horn is both accepted and expected. But there’s a line between showing your strengths and coming off as over-entitled.
One of my favorite interview questions is “tell us about a time you realized that something you were doing wasn’t working. What kind of adjustment did you make?” I’ve seen candidates trip over this, since in a few cases, it apparently never occurred to them that they had made mistakes. I don’t believe in perfect people; I’m looking for people who are capable of self-correction. That necessarily involves a certain degree of self-awareness. Sadly, self-awareness is not evenly distributed across the population.
Wise and worldly readers, what’s the worst response to an interview question you’ve ever heard?
Have a question? Ask the Administrator at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com.
there are 2 questions i hate: "what is your ideal job?", and "what have you done to mitigate conflict?"
rarely will the first question be addressed truthfully (it dives into people's fantasy worlds). and the second question is fluff. there's no way to know if they are telling the truth or not.
He then proceeded to say a bunch of stuff that might have qualified him as "not all that racist, compared to the KKK in 1920." Maybe. It was very "White Man's Burden" and he clearly thought that was what made him not-racist, his desire for educated white people to "take care of" the other races. It was appalling and incredibly awkward; people were looking at the table, the walls, anywhere but the speaker, except one older woman who fixed him with a steely-eyed stare of death through the whole answer.
He did not get the job, and he did not understand why not. Ow.
BTW, before he mentioned it, I had no idea he was racist and had heard nothing about his position on the topic.
The rest of the interview wasn't great, either, but that didn't help his cause.
We blackballed him.
When Dean Sloth was finally forced to retire, faculty members on the hiring committee wanted to replace him with a Dean who would do some work for a change--and get it done on time.
One internal candidate was from an, ahem, "underrepresented group." S/he turned in the paperwork late, and it was not only incomplete but also filled with misspellings and grammatical errors.
The committee wanted to reject him/her but was the district's Hiring Compliance Officer would not allow them to do so. In his/her interview the candidate was asked about how s/he'd run the department. Answer: "I will emulate Dean Sloth." That's a direct quote.
When the candidate didn't get the job, s/he filed a discrimination lawsuit against the district and won. S/he got a promotion to another administrative job where s/he has continued to do even less work for more money.
Interviewer: Why do you want to do labor law?
Applicant: I don't want to do labor law.
Interviewer: All we do is labor law.
(Seriously, I'd like to know what you all think is a GOOD answer to that question, though)
When I asked the standard "what's your biggest weakness" question, the response of "talking on the phone" truly surprised me. Was she not paying attention before?
Needless to say, she didn't get the job.