Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Wrong Answer

I recently had to do a lot of phone screens for an entry-level position. The screening process included one particular question that seemed to trip up most candidates.

The question was:

Tell me about a time you had to multi-task.

When I would ask the question exactly as it was written, invariably the answer would come back too general. Rather than provide an example, per the question, the candidate would usually just give a kind of stock answer about how they "always" do that or "did it all the time."

And honestly, I don't really care, but this particular hiring manager was a stickler for the specific answer. Wanted the concrete example. So then I would have to ask the question again, and try to get them to describe one particular situation.

So in order to save time, rather than asking the question, getting the wrong style of answer, and then asking it again, I started saying this right off the bat:

Please tell me about a time you had to multi-task. I realize this might be a skill you had to use nearly every day in your previous position, but that's not what we are looking for with this question. Rather than a general sense of your skill in that area or what you did every day, we're really looking for a specific situation related to multi-tasking, like one project or particular period in time.

And 3 out of 5 times, the candidate's response to this was:

"Oh, that's something I had to do EVERYDAY."

They gave me the answer I JUST TOLD THEM was the wrong answer.

Look, despite this whole blog, I AM ON YOUR SIDE. I don't like to be rejected and I don't want to reject you. You want a job and I want to help you get a job. Work gives a person purpose, least for the first week until you realize how small your paycheck is and it's going to be six months till you get benefits and can get that tooth fixed and the department head is a mouthbreather and the whole damn system starts to eat at your soul.

But I want you to have that first good week! I want to pass your resume onto the hiring manager!

So please: work with me. If words are coming out of my mouth, make your best effort to listen to ALL of them.

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