Thursday, April 07, 2005

Management Training, Anyone?

(Following Lillian's format)

I've been looking around for work for the past few weeks. Now that I'm done (I found a nice meaty project where I can walk to the main office, only have to cross the bridge for meetings, and will work primarily at home) I wanted to share five unbelievable things that people said to me as I sat in their guest chairs while they scribbled notes on my resume.

5. Oh, I never meet my deadlines. I'm always totally scrambling at the last minute. (Way to set an example, team lead!)

4. Our team never completes anything on time. Seems like they always move the target right at the end and we're tied up until Thanksgiving. (Your upper management rules!)

3. This is the worst building I've ever worked in. We all say that the feng shui here is totally messed up. Look at it, it's all pointy and slanty and bad. (I can hardly wait to spend 8 hours a day here!)

2. I like to do spot checks on my employee's work so I can see what they're up to. Also, I like to keep them close where I can see them. (It's nice that we're all grown-up professionals that trust each other to do their jobs, isn't it?)

And the #1 interview busting remark:

1. I can't promise I won't micromanage you. (Wow. I'm speechless!)

As an aside, I understand that you might not have a lot of time to read my resume, and also, that many resumes do not tell you what that person has done. Mine, however, is quite specific on what I've done and what I know how to do. If you point to my resume and ask "Tell me about what you did at XYZ Co.", that is an excellent indicator that you have not read my resume. In which case, why are you interviewing me?

Also, can anyone please elaborate on the thinking behind those "Tell me about a time..." and "How do you respond to..." and "Give me three words that describe..." questions. Because during my entire working life, I have never, ever, ever been asked to do any of those things.

I didn't used to hate looking for work.


Lillian said...

My favorite thing about interviewing folks at work is actually two things; first, I'm usually the only person telling the candidate about the job details and so am usually the only one who has folks fleeing on a count of what we want people to do (evil grin) and secondly, after a bunch of interview training classes, I don't have to ask "If you were building a shower for Francois Mitterand, how would you start" or "If a shadow on a building in downtown Manhattan is covering the first 13 floors and all you have to measure is a hoop, a garbage bag & the sun, how would you...". The other questions that you mention, Pam, are to see if someone can actually describe their own process.

Another note: at the last interview I conducted, I sent the person on to my boss' office for the next interview. The candidate asked what my boss did at work & he told her "I'm the boss of Lillian". What a hoot!

Pam said...

Here's what I don't get, and this might be because I'm me. Why don't they just ASK about your process? Why don't they say this: We need to do this thing. How would you go about doing this thing?

I didn't object at all to the question about how, when handed a big old assignment and a list of resources, I'd go about tackling the project, or how I'd prioritize things, or. I object to the stuff you mentioned (a shower for Francois Mitterand! You kill me!) or the really fuzzy things like "How would other people describe you?" Is that relevant? (My answer: depends on who you ask. Context is everything.)

Lillian said...

Good points all - for the record, someone asked me the shower question - to see if I would ask Mssr. Mitterand what he wanted in a shower as a first step.


Drew said...

I'm weighing in here as a journalist, rather than as a job interview-er.

*Many* (I daresay most) people have difficulty expressing abstractions about themselves like, "tell me about your process." You are likely to get a lot of "well, I'm detail oriented and conscientious"; words that don't really illustrate much of anything.

If the question is "tell me about a time that circumstances required you to adjust your process," I might actually get an answer that's useful.

To sum up: asking an abstract question often produces an abstract answer.

As a side note...forget where I was reading this but a guy who would interview candidates by meeting them, apologizing and saying he had forgotten that all the furniture in office A had to be relocated to office B; would the candidate mind giving him a hand and they could talk while moving? The point of course was to assess how someone DOES something (useful information) vs. how someone describes themselves doing something (often much less useful information).

Pam said...

The furniture moving thing is BRILLIANT. You find out right away if they're the kind of person to pitch in, if they're a whiner, if they're willing to be flexi, etc...BRILLIANT.

Plus, the whole "walk with me" thing really deformalizes the process. And you have to think on your feet, literally.

Jason B said...

When I interviewed at Real, I was very excited. They wanted me to be an editorial guy for music and video. I had been doing that previously at Microsoft, but hadn't had as much interest in coming up with just the right headline to promote Britney's 2nd album as I was to just work at a Seattle media/technology company OTHER than Microsoft.

The questioning of my qualifications lasted about 5 minutes of each individual interviews. I then asked what they thought about their team and how it fit into the overall vision that Real had.

Each person told me (in their own way, depending on link location in the food chain) that there was no vision, all of these jobs were merely ways for upper management to fight with one another for product development territory, and don't expect to do what's in the job description. Suddenly, Redmond didn't seem like such a bad place to work. I turned down the job and stayed on unemployment for another two months, wondering in retrospect whether they were trying to preserve the position for someone else they wanted to hire.