Sunday, April 10, 2016

Top Ten Interview Questions

You are getting ready to graduate and the ever-dreaded job interview is coming up. Interview Success Formula lists the Top Ten Interview Questions You Must Know How to Answer and it would be a good idea for you to prepare some responses before you hit the halls. Interview Success goes into some detail about how to answer the Top 10 Questions and provides real-world examples.

Here's a brief preview:

Interview Question 1. "Tell me something about yourself?"
A. Don't go blathering on. List your top characteristics and motivations and then connect them to specific job strengths related to the open position.

Interview Question 2. "Walk me through your resume."
A. Umm, yeah, you should know every component of your resume and have something pithy to say about each position, job skill, and experience. Be sure to highlight the items related to the job you are seeking.

Interview Question 3: "What makes you better than other candidates?"
A. Ugh, a real brain drain. Nobody likes to talk bad about other people, but what makes you special? Why are your experiences and skills unique and something the company really, really needs. Think about something you think no other candidate has done and that will make you stand out from the pack.

Interview Question 4: "Where do you see yourself in five years?"
A. You better see yourself climbing the ladder at said interviewer's company, otherwise you can kiss that job goodbye. One way to look at this is what is your dream job at THIS company? Where do you think you can get in five years? How would your skills allow you to do that and why is it beneficial to the company?

Interview Question 5: "Why are you leaving/did you leave your current job?"
A. Don't talk trash--no matter how hard it is--about your boss, co-workers or the former company. A piece of advice from this former interviewer about your current position: it is way easier to find a new job when you have a job. For some reason companies just love to steal employees from one another and having a job signals that YOU are not a problem.

Interview Question 6: "What is your biggest weakness?"
A. I hated answering this question. I hated asking this question. It's that one that leads to awkward silences or way too much information about a topic you may not want to stress, but you began digging that hole and . . .  Interview Success lists a good strategy. Pull out a strength that can also be seen as a weakness. Begin by explaining how it's a weakness, then how it is also a strength, and then how that strength will lead to something great in said company's corporate environment.

Interview Question 7: "What do you do during your free time?"
A. Sometimes this sounds too personal, but it's really just a way to see if you will harmonize with other employees and the company culture and if you can schmooze. Yes, shmoozing is a valuable skill (look it up). I don't know if there are any "bullet" answers, but there certainly are bad answers.

Interview Question 8: "Why don't you give me your understanding of the position, and explain how your experience lines up?"
A. You should have read the personnel ad and then checked to see if you could find a job description somewhere if it wasn't readily available. If it's unavailable, when you are asked in for an interview, you should ask if a detailed job description is available. If not, look at how other companies define the position. You should be able to connect all of your talents, skills, and experience to the job somehow (this may take some creativity, but you can do it).

Interview Question 9: "Why this job, at this company?"
A. This should be a question you could answer off the top of your head, but you shouldn't. Think about it, why did you apply at Google and not Oracle? Do NOT say "because you were the first company to call me for an interview."

Interview Question 10: "Do you have any questions for us?"
A. Think about it, you are interviewing the company at the same time they are interviewing you. What do you want to know? It is a appropriate to ask about starting pay and benefits. It is not appropriate to harp on about vacation allowance, personal days off, etc.

Are you ready for your interview? What question were you not expecting? What question would you ask your potential employer?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Humanities' New Definition

Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? explores what it means to be human by looking at what it means to be an android. The big tell for androids; they can't empathize with each other, with humans or animals. To determine an andy from a human, there is the elaborate Voight Kampff test that measures empathetic response to a series of questions. Each question should elicit some kind of sympathetic response. If no dilation of the pupil or blush response, then you are dealing with an android.Seems pretty straight forward and since it's science fiction, we know it works (at least in the novel).

As humans empathy cues us to feed a crying child while an anguished look tells us to help out a pained friend and requires communication -- we can read both smiles (pleasure) and suffering (pain). It's more than just putting yourself in another's shoes, it's caring about what happens to the person in your sneakers.

At the University of Virginia, James Coan, psychology professor, "and his U.Va. colleagues conducted [a] study with 22 young adult participants who underwent fMRI scans of their brains during experiments to monitor brain activity while under threat of receiving mild electrical shocks to themselves or to a friend or stranger.

"The researchers found, as they expected, that regions of the brain responsible for threat response . . . became active under threat of shock to the self. In the case of threat of shock to a stranger, the brain in displayed little activity. However when the threat of shock was to a friend, the brain activity of the participant became essentially identical to the activity displayed under threat to the self.

“The correlation between self and friend was remarkably similar,” Coan said. “The finding shows the brain’s remarkable capacity to model self to others; that people close to us become a part of ourselves, and that is not just metaphor or poetry, it’s very real. Literally we are under threat when a friend is under threat. But not so when a stranger is under threat” (read the entire study).

But are we as empathetic as we were in the past? Are we weening ourselves away from empathy as we become more and more tech savvy?

Sherry Turkle's article, "Stop Googline. Let's Talk" (NYT 26 Sept. 2015) looked at that very phenomenon. "In 2010, a team at the University of Michigan led by the psychologist Sara Konrath put together the findings of 72 studies that were conducted over a 30-year period. They found a 40 percent decline in empathy among college students, with most of the decline taking place after 2000."

Turkle's not saying there are no empathetic conversations today, instead for the MIT researcher it's the idea that "we turn away from talking face to face to chat online. It’s that we don’t allow these conversations to happen in the first place because we keep our phones in the landscape." Does the rise of technology correlate to a decline in empathy? Do we care more about what's happening on our iPhone then we do about our friends? How many times have you gone out to lunch where everyone has one eye on their phones and one ear on the conversation?

Philip K. Dick may have been prescient about the human condition and empathy, or more strictly speaking, that as we lose empathy we lose part of what makes us human. Have we become the androids who dream of electric sheep?

Do you think your emoji response on Facebook is as meaningful to the receiver as a face-to-face "Congratulations"? When was the last time you truly engaged in a two-way, face-to-face conversation? What do you think it means if humans quit empathizing with each other? Would you suffer an electric shock for a friend?