Ask The Headhunter online began publication a long time ago. The newsletter launched soon after. This Q&A column marks the 900th edition of the newsletter — that’s 900 weeks of free advice inspired by the best questions asked by the Ask The Headhunter community. To mark the occasion, I’m reprinting a column from 2003 about the best interview question ever. It has withstood the test of time, and it could not be more relevant or applicable today. I hope you find it as helpful as many others have.


What is the single best interview question ever — and the best answer?

Nick’s Reply

best interview questionThere used to be a book titled something like 2,800 Interview Questions & Answers. Even today, you can find books that will automate your job interviews with canned repartee. These books feature 701 interview questions (and “best answers), or 201, or 189, 101 — or, How many interview questions you got???

All the interview questions

I’ve always had a fantasy about these books. You walk into the interviewer’s office. You smile broadly and shake hands:

“Glad to meet you! Let’s get down to business and have an interview!”

Then you slide one of those babies across the desk.

“Here are all the questions you’re going to ask me… and the answers! Now you know what they are, and I know what they are, and we don’t need to waste our time. So we can do something useful, and talk about the work you need to have done!”

Instead of teaching job candidates and hiring managers to talk shop —  that is, about the job — career experts outdo themselves regurgitating job-interview scripts.

The silly answers they offer are rehashed and marinated in expired creative juices, and about as satisfying as a bolus coughed up by the last person who interviewed with the manager.

One Interview Question

Then there’s the “one, the only, the best interview question” designed to be so clever that you must think it’s also smart. The trouble is, these click-bait offerings have nothing to do with the job you’re interviewing for!

Lately, these include (on LinkedIn) Lou Adler’sWhat single project or task would you consider the most significant accomplishment in your career so far? and (on economist Tyler Cowen’s “What are the open tabs in your browser right now?” (We won’t even get into the perennial “What’s your greatest weakness?” or ” How many golf balls would fit in the Empire State Building?”)

In 2003, the editors of Fast Company magazine put together a cover story titled, “All The Right Moves: A guide for the perplexed exec.” It was a collection of 21 Q&As for managers covering everything from how to be a star at work, how to be an effective leader and how to dress for success.

Editor Bill Breen asked me to write a “memo” to managers about Question #16: What is the single best interview question ever — and the best answer?

The best interview question

Here’s the memo I sent to Breen as it appeared in the July 2003 edition of Fast Company. Almost 20 years later, I’ll still put this question up against any list of interview questions (whether it includes 50, 200, or 2,800), or against any other “best, most important question” anyone has ever come up with. I think proof of its power is that job candidates can — and should — raise the question themselves and answer it to prove they’re worth hiring.

Memo From: Nick Corcodilos
To: Hiring managers everywhere
Re: Reinventing the job interview

The purpose of any interview is simple: to determine whether the candidate can do the job profitably. A smart interview is not an interrogation. It’s not a series of canned questions or a set of scripted tests that have been ginned up by HR. An interview should be a roll-up-your-sleeves, hands-on meeting between you and the candidate, where all of the focus is on the job.

Think of the interview as the candidate’s first day at work, with the only question that matters being this:

“What’s your business plan for doing this job?”

To successfully answer that, the candidate must first demonstrate an understanding of the company’s problems, challenges, and goals — not an easy thing to do. But since you desperately want to make a great hire and get back to work, why don’t you help the best candidate succeed? Two weeks before the interview, call up the candidate and say the following:

“We want you to show us how you’re going to do this job. That’s going to take a lot of homework. I suggest that you read through these 10 pages on our Web site, review these publications from our marketing and investor-relations departments, and speak with these three people on my team. When you’re done, you should have something useful to tell us.”

This will eliminate 9 out of 10 candidates. Only those who really want the job will put in the effort to research the job.

At the interview, you should expect (or hope) to hear the most compelling question that any candidate can ask:

“Would you like me to show how your company will profit from hiring me?”

The candidate should be prepared to do the job in the interview. That means walking up to the whiteboard and outlining the steps that he or she would take to solve your company’s problems. The numbers don’t have to be right, but the candidate should be able to defend them intelligently. If the candidate demonstrates an understanding of your culture and competitors — and lays out a plan of attack for solving your problems and adding something to your bottom line — you have some awfully compelling reasons to make the hire.

But if you trust only a candidate’s past accomplishments, references, credentials, or test results, you still won’t know whether the candidate can do the job.

Recruiting is still — and always has been — about finding the best candidates. But the best candidate isn’t just the one who can answer that question. The best candidate is the person who brings it up and volunteers to answer it — and is ready to show you how they will do the job profitably.

Do the job in the interview

If you cannot do the job to win the job, then it doesn’t matter what tabs are open on your browser, what animal you’d be if you could be any animal, what your greatest accomplishment was, or where you see yourself in five years. There is certainly more to do in a job interview, and we can have a lot of fun with clever questions and rejoinders. But, if you cannot demonstrate, right there in the meeting, your business plan for how you will do the work, then you will not stand out — and you have no business in that job interview.

How Can I Change Careers? picks up where that Fast Company column leaves off. And it’s not just for career changers. It’s for anyone who wants to stand out in the job interview. The book explains why this “single best interview question ever” for hiring managers is also the single best question for candidates to bring up in the interview — and how to do it. (Fast Company says it’s “chock full of tips for the thorniest of job-hunting problems.”)

You be the judge of what counts in your job interviews: Does anything matter more than showing you can do the job? What are the best and worst questions you’ve asked or been asked?

Thanks to all in the Ask The Headhunter community for assembling here every week, and especially to those who have contributed questions and comments over the years! This website and the newsletter are successful because of the quality of discourse you bring every week! How long have you been a subscriber? If you don’t get the free weekly newsletter, please sign up for edition #901 and share this link with friends!

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  1. How about the worst? At a company I used to work for (that no longer exists), someone let a co-worker that had no (interviewing) experience interview a candidate. Their question was, “If you were offered a million dollars to tear the wings off of a butterfly, would you do it?”
    I can’t tell you how much I cringed when they told me that they asked this question. I felt so bad for the candidate. I believe we did hire the candidate, but not at all based on this fantastic question.

    • Maybe the person is interviewing for a job at a pest control company.

    • I think that is the most insensitive, cruel, ineffective, boorish, stupid, psychotic and plain DUMB interview question I’ve ever heard personally or read about.

      Says a lot about the person who is asking it. Maybe they are trying to weed out the Buddhists.

  2. Nick,

    The problem I see with your suggestion is that it requires people to work for free as part of the job interview. Only the most desperate job seekers would put in the time to follow through with evrything you ask, that’s why 9 of 10 would eliminate themselves.

    There has to be a happy medium between canned interview questions, and having to do a project that would justify the job seeker to ask to be compensated for the time spent preparing for the interview.

    If you are only talking about interviewing executive level candidates this way, I take back my response, but if you are talking about interviewing entry-level candidates this way as well, I stand by what I wrote.

    • Robert,

      You raise an interesting point. The sense I got from Nick’s memo for Fast Company is that it WAS, in fact, targeted primary for execs (which you acknowledge). I also got the sense that he was presenting a sample, not a cookie cutter application.

      I think that a less taxing method could be devised, depending on the job. Also, depending on the role, a hiring manager could have something ready in advance to suggest for candidates to read or prepare to discuss in advance of their interview.

      As a guideline, I would not want a front-line non-management employee to have to spend more than 4-6 hours of time either prepping for an interview, or doing a “test project” to get hired. I think some companies today expect a candidate to invest too many uncompensated hours to prove they can do the job.

      I could go on with lots of nuance, exceptions, etc… However, I’ll leave it with the notion that the amount of time investment a company should expect from the candidate should be commensurate with the position being offered and should be focused on ways to demonstrate that a candidate can “do the job”.

    • @Robert: Your points are well-taken. But I think there’s more to it. The fundamental error job seekers make is the same that employers make: They buy into the brainwashing (marketing) that more is better.

      Employer: “We have an important job to fill so we need more candidates!”

      Job seeker: “I need a job so I need to apply to as many as possible!”

      The employment industry loves this! But more is not better. This error in judgment is triggered in large part by the same marketing that employers and job seekers are subjected to. Job boards and applicant tracking systems are all designed and maintained by database jockeys who can do no better than match character strings. To them, more is not only better, it’s necessary. It takes thousands of applicants to approach even a near match to the tons of “search criteria” that employers are encouraged to gin up. HR departments subscribe to these systems and thus instruct job seekers to play the volume game, too.

      The companies behind this employment system make money not when you land a job or when a company fills a job, but when companies and job seekers alike keep returning to the keyword trough.

      So what’s this got to do with doing free work? When I suggest doing the job to win the job, it seems like free work because in the vast universe of all the jobs you can apply for, none of them are worth such an investment because you’d have to “do the job” for all of them. And you’re right, that’s just not possible, much less prudent!

      But everything changes if you just rid yourself of the idea that you need to apply for as many jobs as possible. If you do the real work on the front end and select only the right companies and jobs, you may have to “do the job” for maybe 3 or 4. Now we’re talking. Now you’re investing only in the few worthy opportunities.

      Doing the job to win the job is not working for free, it’s making an investment in your career. It’s not as difficult or unreasonable as it seems to invest the kind of time I’m talking about to show how you can do a job, if you’re pursuing just a few carefully selected companies. It’s impossible if you’re pursuing all the companies that the database says you can. (Employers have the same problem: They can’t fill a job because they’re looking for too many candidates rather than for a few right candidates.)

      You can land the best job if you do the work up front to decide which companies to go after. Then it’s worth the investment of time. Pursuing fewer companies also increases your level of motivation, which increases your accuracy and effectiveness in showing how you’ll do the job. In other words, your chances of a win are much higher because you’re pursuing fewer jobs at only right companies — and the investment no longer seems like free work.

      One note: I’ve seen the free work racket, too. It’s reprehensible. (See Steve Brouillard’s story!) Never do free work! But as Paul Forel points out, solid interview prep is not free work. It really is an investment in standing out. If the employer suggests you do real work before getting hired, quote them an hourly or daily rate! Offer to do the job until they can fill the position.

      Doing the job to win the job is not just for executives. It’s for everyone. I’ve seen production-line workers use this method to get hired and to get raises. If you subject yourself to the “more is better” model, none of all those jobs will seem worth the work it takes to get hired. The stand-out job seeker that does the job to win the job isn’t desperate. They’re 100% focused and investing in getting their next job.

      • Many years ago this was the fashion: How would you solve this problem / do this job? I spoke with about 43 people who had done this. The alarmimng fact was that, where 2 or 3 had this experiences at the same companies, they job descriptions varied to where it appeared the employer was actually seeking unpaid management consulting advice – it actually was “work for free,” but in a haphazard manner. I think the end result was to create confusion in the fraudulent companies. To repeat: it was indeed work for free.A major problem is that if you don’t happen to guess what approach(es) they will accept, you have just lost the offer. A lot of the “proper answers” are dependent on office politis!

        I feel that the best answer would be something like: “Lets review what I have done for current and previous employers. Such as where I obtained $10,000,000 return and deductions from the IRS that enabled the company to avoid impending bankruptcy and to become the best sawblade company in their market. Or showing the company how immediate deposit of receipts worldwide could result in savings / profits of $550,000,000 in the first year of operations. Or …” This demonstrates that I have the proven ability to avoid”terminal / fatal buiness results; to take advantage of horrible situations and turn them into ‘golden cows / cash cows;” to create cash profits out of unseen opportunities, or … I think this makes my point. But I could go on.” You, in your interview, do need to go on and on (and on and on and on …) until they beg you to stop – with a terrific offer. Get the fifteen year career committment, salaries, bonuses as % of cost savings and profits, and ALL of the etc.! HUGE SIGNON BONUS ALSO. ALL UPFRONT OR YOU WILL NEVER GET IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Hello. Doing job prep research is not ‘working for free’.

    ‘Entry level’ applicants/candidates are not handed a five page copy of the Management & Operations pages from their Annual Report.

    What you may have missed is that by directly addressing job parameters, what needs doing, etc. THAT’S when you get to really see the candidate.

    Are they flowing or are they erratic, etc., etc. etc. They will show most all you need to know by how they present.

    That’s how you choose.

    • Paul,

      I didn’t see your reply, earlier, otherwise I would have included a reference to it then.

      Agreed, prep is not free work. It’s just that, prep. As I eluded to in my reply directly to Robert, however, some companies use the notion of “showing that you can do the job” as a pretext to either get free uncompensated labor (in the most extreme bad actor cases), or to push poorly constructed “test projects” on applicants that don’t actual mimic “the job” very well.

      I’ve worked in IT for over 35 years, in both infrastructure and software development roles. I’m currently working for a consultancy. The frequency with which either rote regurgitation tests, overly simplistic, or insanely overly complex projects are used to determine if the candidate can do the job is staggering.

      I actually had one occasion where the “test” clearly consisted of the solution to an actual problem that the company was having. The amount of actual code to write was very small, but the complexity of the problem involved hours of thought and testing of theories. I managed solved the problem. However, because it was clear that it was a real problem they were having (it related to the company’s public website), I modified the code very slightly to introduce a subtle bug that was easily reproduced. I included a comment in the code that there was a slight bug in the code without revealing what it was. I was ghosted. No response to emails, voicemails, nothing. However I was able to verify that the code, complete with the bug, was put into the website just days after I submitted it as part of the interview process. I was actually tempted to submit an invoice, but just took the “L” and was glad I dodged a bullet.

  4. Congratulations, Nick on 900 articles! I’ve been reading your posts for 22 years!

    • @Lucille: Thanks! You’re dating us both! The upside of that, of course, is that it makes us among “the last wo/men standing!”

  5. I subscribed via my current email address in March 2006 but I had subscribed with other email addresses long before that. I think it was 2003 when I first subscribed.

    I remember having a tough time finding a job back then after a long time in the military. I also recall scaring more than one recruiter and hiring manager when a much younger (and perhaps just a BIT more impetuous!) version of myself would quickly cut to the chase when I’d ask, “Can we talk about how I can help you get the job done instead of fussing over all these pointless details?”

    Wonder where I got that from? :)

    Thanks, Nick. It’s been almost 20 years now, and while I won’t need to worry about job interviews too much longer, I’ll stay subscribed if you don’t mind. I have kids who need your help!

    • Hey, Tom! Always good to hear from you down the years! “Whether you need it or not.” ;-)

  6. I’ve enjoyed reading the other comments and viewpoints given.

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: employers and interviewers will default to the pointless questions they are TOLD to ask. In my experience of working for 47 years, I can’t remember one interview that did not include ‘what’s your greatest weakness’ or ‘if confronted by a tacky problem or problem situation or employee, how would you react?’ Perhaps, because I’ve always been a non-management and non- C suite candidate, they understood that I would never improve their profit margins and therefore, they were looking for the least confrontational and most compliant candidate possible. Again, just my opinion based on my years as an insignificant pink collar worker.

    Secondly, now that we are in the period of “The Great Resignation” we see an even greater concern: supposedly more vacancies in the job market but GREATER ‘dissing’ of job candidates by employers. I have greater and greater concern that employers are fishing even more seriously for the cheapest help they can get, which means they are looking NOT for the best candidates for their jobs, but for the candidates that will least negative impact their bottom lines.

    • @Lynn: Please reconsider. Every job affects a company’s profits. It’s either contributing to revenues or to costs. Sales people, for example, can sell a lot of stuff at high margins to impact profits. A clerk can improve the efficiency of a process or boost customer satisfaction — which can effectively lower costs or increase revenues. In all cases, profit is affected. It’s just astonishing that most managers couldn’t tell you how a specific employee — or the manager themselves! — affects the bottom line! Something wrong with that.

      I agree that it’s an odd pairing: loads of vacant jobs and lots of dissing of job seekers by employers. I think what sanctions the latter is the marketing by job boards, ATS companies and all the value-sucking services that “convince” employers “the perfect candidate at the lowest price is out there — if you’ll just keep looking and paying to use our data dumpster!”

  7. Hi Nick! Congratulations on your 900th newsletter! Just a couple of anecdotes.

    Nick and I worked together at an IT company. During an interview, the CFO of the company asked Ken C. the dreaded “What is your greatest weakness” question. Without missing a beat, Ken C. answered “Chocolate Pudding”! Luckily for Ken C., a sense of humor was a big plus at this company and Ken C. was hired and excelled.

    My career started 38 years ago when I applied for a job at a computer store (remember those?). I had just graduated from college and the job market was awful. I told the owner I would work for free, but if I sold anything I would expect a commission. He hired me and that was the start of a long career in the computer industry.

  8. Incredibly stupid interview questions–I’ve heard more than my share.

    I tried the white board approach with a couple of jobs and it fell flat. Based on the job description and what I read about the company, I outlined what I planned to accomplish in 3 months, 6 months, 9 months and one year. Absolutely no one was impressed with the thought that went into thinking about the job and how I planned to approach it.

    About job descriptions–they all sound the same, written by the same person, using the same verbiage.

    One question I always ask an interviewer is this: If you were to distill this job to three brief bullet points, what would be the most important things you want the person who fills this role to do? I had one manager who gave a decent answer. The rest stammered as he/she tried to think of an answer. This tells me most people don’t even know what they are hiring for and why the job even exists in the company, other than to fill it with a warm body as cheaply as possible.

    • @Dee: I know this sounds like sour grapes, but in my experience any manager that doesn’t “get” what you attempted to do triggers the “Run!” response. And don’t look back.

      Also for what it’s worth, I’ve known very few managers that are able to conduct a decent job interview.

  9. Hi Nick,
    Been here awhile too. Thank you for what you do.
    You made a great interview question. I think that the weak link is hoping the the person on the receiving end is bright enough to appreciate it.

    • @Tony: You’re one of the originals around here! Thanks for your kind words and long-time support!

  10. Nick,
    I am a huge fan of your newsletter and have been a subscriber for 15+ years now. I have had the privilege of sitting on both sides of the table numerous times, including interviewing candidates for R&D positions, mostly with advanced degrees.

    My company has a fairly structured interview process which includes both a number of canned behavioral questions as well as plenty of opportunities that the candidate can do the job. A question like Lou Adler’s “What single project or task would you consider the most significant accomplishment in your career so far?” is actually a neat example of probing whether a candidate has some of the skills to do the job. What I am looking for is much less whether the candidate provides a story about an impressive project. Moreover, I am looking at things like:

    -Can and do they adequately explain the motivation for this project?
    -Can they explain a complex topic (most of the time I am not too familiar) in a comprehensible fashion, e.g. without using too much jargon?
    -Can they explain the value that their work created?

    To me, communication about a complex topic, including the why? and so what? is a key part of doing the job. One can practice for this kind of question, you would be surprised how many candidates fail this assessment.

    And yes, there are a lot more aspects to doing the job.

  11. I searched my email archives for newletter registration and nothing accurate appeared but hey, still being on AOL mail indicates it’s been awhile… and have a dog eared 1st edition of ATHH. Always enjoy reading and thank you Nick for sharing your knowledge.

    As for interviewing, I always followed Nick’s advise. Targeted a company and did deep dive research to prepare. Reading the company newsletter (House Organ) was most insightful. My goal was to understand a day in the life (DILO), culture, leadership and company vocabulary (important to speak in their vernacular).

    I was told more than once I was intimidating (in a good way), confident and overqualified.

    In the end, I always landed the job I ‘thought’ I wanted… sometimes soon after starting, I realized I wasn’t going to retire from here.

  12. Nick –

    900th edition, wow! Thank you for providing consistently thought-provoking insights for so many years. As a hiring manager, staffing agency owner, and CEO, I read your publications to help keep me honest in how I approach hiring and my businesses. I have referred so many people to your newsletters and printed materials.

    Very early in my career, the hot question was, “If you could be any sort of tree, what would it be?” I’m generally an easy-going person, but for some reason that question (and similar ones about animals, desserts, etc) made me angry and I always refused to answer. Not sure if it had an adverse impact on me, but I felt so much better when I learned I wasn’t alone in thinking this was stupid. :)

    Congratulations again!

  13. Congratulations Nick on your 900th post! And thank you for all of the great advice over the years. It has made a big difference in how I approach job hunting and interviews.

    I think I’ve heard every stupid interview question. You would think that employers would welcome candidates who want to talk turkey instead of playing games. I’ve learned that those who insist on asking me stupid questions aren’t worth it, and/or they’re not serious about hiring the best person for the job, whatever that job is.

  14. Just heard this week that Wells Fargo is under investigation for falsifying records re applicants interviewed to beef up their numbers even tho job was already filled. This company just doesn’t get it after their previous $$$$$ fines re other in-your-face infractions. Apparently, deceit pays well :( Plus, no dumb questions required.

  15. Congrats on the milestone. I think I joined the community in 2004 when I retooled myself into a recruiter after eons of life in IT R&D & related.

    I confess as a hiring manager & later as a recruiter I had some favorite questions. They provided a baseline positioning me to compare candidates. But I didn’t ask most of them, as I didn’t like Q&A interrogations. I liked conversations.& in the course of a discussion most of my questions were answered without me having to ask them.
    Of course I’m going ask some questions relative to a resume. 1st because it’s beyond tacky to not read them or discuss what’s on them. Having been a job hunter myself, I have an appreciation for the time/effort one puts into them. Ditto cover letters. I read & discuss those. I considered my best questions are those that open the door to a conversation(s) e.g “Is there anything you’d like me to know about you that hasn’t come up in our talk?”

    Or one a colleague used “Tell me what’s not on your resume?” And as I’ve mentioned before, when it’s come up the hated “Tell me about yourself” question is only pointless/dumb if you let it be. When I asked those questions they served as an open invitation to the candidate to get in the driver’s seat…well positioning you to talk shop.

    I didn’t realize it myself until I started getting ATH newsletters and picking up the insights about “talking shop”.

    When I was running a “shop” it was easy. As an agency recruiter not so easy because I didn’t have a shop anymore and I dealt indirectly with hundreds of them, crossing professions. I don’t know hundreds of things.

    Then I shifted to being an inside recruiter in a small company with part of my role to set up a recruiting process. Now I had an empty canvass to incorporate the concept. Minus the laborious details, here’s some of the things we instituted beyond the usual meet & greet, resume reviews, interviews,

    a) Executives/Sr Managers. Set up a “staff meeting” with potential boss/owner, peers & subordinates/Subject matter experts with whom they’d be working. Generally their deliverable would be to present their personal onboard plans for the 1st 6 months or so, and addressing some real issue(s). Just as if they were already on board. Prior to that we’d give them briefing material that would provide info they’d have if they were aboard (org charts, staffing etc.
    We, nor they, considered it free labor. As it primarily addressed “what” content, not “how” in any detail. It was implicit, if we wanted the details of how, we’d have to hire you. This is how we brought aboard a Sales VP.

    b) Engineering. Most of the recruiting need was for drafters, which leans heavily into drafting software. When a candidate looked promising, we’d bring them in for a day. Provide them with the exact working environment their peers live station, hardware, software, and representative job. It was representative because it was a completed project done by a peer past or present. So again not free.

    c) Manufacturing: lathes, grinders, polishers assembly. We couldn’t do hands on in this situation..(think safety & insurance) But what we developed is where we’d turn prospects over to the Manufacturing Manager & he’d conduct a walking/talking tour through the plant. The floor was always open & an applicant(s) could jump in and start talking about the wonderful world of lathes

    In all the above, the means & ability to talk shop was wide open. Centering around the actual work. Prior recruiting, interviewing took place, but it was more about context and determining mutual interest. And it provided something the traditional Q&A stuff didn’t. To the best of our ability we gave people clarity on what it would be like to work there, for who, for what (comp & intangibles) the small company environment.

    In doing this over the years, I’ve observed/learned some things to the point of this newsletter. I think in passing Nick or others have mentioned them .

    1. Recruiting to determine if someone can do a job as well as being a good addition to the company by talking shop, is not done like what I’ll call the “traditional” rules of engagement dependent on Q&A

    2. You have to set the scene for talking shop. Talking/having a conversation is the Optimum word. Other than their place in normal conversation the questions aren’t the keys to a job. They’re not generic super questions and answers.

    3. What is important then? Stories. Work Stories. As a manager & recruiter I loved to hear people’s stories. Yeah your resume says you accomplished such & such. Useful info to be sure. But..what’s more useful and way more interesting are the stories behind it. the context. You did that. But what’s not there is that you did it single handedly, no budget, impossible deadline, starting with a fraction of the know how needed, it was a shit job no one else wanted & your boss stuck you with it, that you had to get extraordinary creative, invented a new tool, developed some software, wrestled ornery ego invested subject matter experts to the ground to get info, slept under your desk, lived on peanuts and coffee from the machine. In short you didn’t just do a job, you pulled something off. Which leads to MY favorite question. “Did you ever pull anything off?”

    4. talking shop is so much better than the traditional system. If the traditional model is all you do, you may pass over a freakin genius who sucks at interviewing or accept a BS artist who’s best skill is interviewing.

    5. You learn that on both sides of the table, people are so conditioned to the traditional path, they literally don’t know any other way, nor will accept any other way. Hence @Dee’s experience with white boarding, and some of what I saw when setting up working sessions. Hiring managers think their job is to conduct interviews, not find good new hires. It’s a matter of emphasis. And most hate to interview, it’s time consuming, repetitious and boring. Most applicants I’ve come across can’t deal with it either, and/or are totally unprepared when the opportunity arises. They’re read the book on Q&As, haunted the internet, locked & loaded with “right” answers ,but are thrown off when they don’t get those cute Questions.

    So the moral of the story: Don’t waste your time with gazillions of others, rooting through the manure pile of interviews looking for the Golden Answer. there isn’t one. Instead root through your life looking for stories. Those stories will be yours only. No competition. And be prepared to tell some hiring manager how you pulled off the impossible. Because I’ve never met one who at some time isn’t laying awake at night faced with their own character building challenges & will love to have someone aboard that has been there & done that.

    If you find yourself sitting across from people who don’t/can’t get this, & they don’t salute, don’t feel bad, you’ve dodged a bullet. There’s a good chance thatif you worked there & tried to pitch an innovative idea. Same results. Move on

  16. Nick,

    I’m late to the party here, so will just say congratulations on Issue 900. I have no idea when I first saw your column in (the print edition – whatever that is – of) EE Times. But it had to be the 90s or before.

    I’ve had and conducted all kinds of interviews over the years, and a lot of them have been pointless for the reasons you and the other readers state. At two years from retirement, I am thankful I will never sit through that again.

    On to issue 901!

    • Thanks, Larry! The first EE Times columns would have been in 1997, maybe 1996. They were on the website then appeared in print. Remember The Work Circuit? That’s when we started the hugely popular Mentors feature where we invited engineers to answer questions and give advice to engineering students. That was inspired genius, the work of editor Tim Moran. I think I first appeared in EET print when the late Bob Bellinger (who wrote the People feature) reviewed my self-published book, The New Interview Instruction Book. CMP licensed ATH features for many years until UBM bought them out and turned it into a blog operated by ad salespeople that thought editorial content could be produced for free. But who’s counting?

      Thanks for some historical confirmation about the methods we discuss here, and best wishes for retirement!