I've been on the job hunt for quite a while and I have been serious for every interview. Sometimes, I interview with the floor supervisor or a direct superior to the position for which I am interviewing, but other times I find myself talking to a human resources person. The former is usually a better, more focused interview that concentrates more on specifics of the job since it's being conducted by somebody who, in most cases, understands the job. I have known many HR people and most were excellent at their core responsibilities, but were worthless when it comes to a job interview. My biggest problem is...THE QUESTIONS. Every HR person has "the list" of interview questions that range from awkwardly general to irrelevant. By the way, this list is real and the HR person who interviewed me had this list in front of her and was reading directly off of it. I want to go over some of these questions...
Tell me about yourself.
I don't like this request during an interview because it's too general. What is it, exactly, that this person wants to know? Does he/she want to watch as the interviewee/victim gropes around in the dark for an answer that is suitable? I see this question as a cop-out for the HR person so he/she doesn't have to read a resume in advance.
What motivates you?
So many times I want to answer this question with the truthful and succinct answer of, "MONEY!" Being in the workforce for more than twenty years, I have to say that money is my primary motivation for going to work, as it is with most people. Job satisfaction is a by-product and would not be achieved unless one is getting paid to get that satifaction. There is nothing wrong with being motivated by money, it's natural and it is almost required to live.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Another question I would love to answer truthfully with, "Probably looking for another job after you downsize me to improve your bottom line." Seriously though, it's not the same world as it was twenty years ago and many people seem to change jobs every five years or so. I have yet to stay at any company for five years which doesn't help me to answer this question with great confidence.
What is your greatest strength/weakness?
These are both tough questions to answer because naming a strength can make one look self-serving and egocentric. It's inevitible that this question will be asked in any interview and one answer to never give is, "intelligence." The weakness side of the coin can turn into a trap since acknowledging one means that one is aware of it and has done nothing to fix it.
How do you handle pressure on the job?
"I curl up in a ball and hide in the corner." How would any self-respecting HR person expect a candidate to answer this question? I would ask, "Oh, is this a high pressure, high-stress job? The ad didn't say anything about that." The truth is, this question is unanswerable/unbelievable when dealt with honestly.
Many years ago, when I entered the realm of the formal interview, the HR person asked questions face-to-face, they were not read off of a clipboard. One of the first HR people I interviewed with was a woman who had the ability to read people and this proved valuable. Once I entered the specialized field that I am currently in, I found fewer HR people even wanted to talk to me. Lately, however, I find myself talking to more HR people and they seem to possess none of those intuitive traits that make a good HR person. My ability to do the job that I am applying for is greater than the interviewer's ability to do his/her job. How am I supposed to take this person seriously if I'm being read to instead of talked to? Give me the list and I'll write out my answers and give it back to you. Better yet, throw the list away, I'll have more respect for you.