Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Braving Interviews 面试

I go weak in the knees on interviews.  It is one of those life experiences that I would just as soon do without.  Especially given how little candidates get exposed to reasons behind decisions of whom to interview, what to ask, and whom to hire. 

Sometimes interviewers surprise me with the care they take to comfort the candidate.

"if you could be a doughnut of any kind, which kind would you be?"   He asked.

I was on my first "real" interview, in my first "real" business suit, feeling rather dumb to have gone to the trouble as no one who interviewed me had anything other than T-shirt and jeans.  The fellow before me had a jolly feel to him, and later I found out his nickname was "Mr. Bunny Slipper" (another story), which goes a way in explaining the oddly relaxed presence he projected, amidst the dozen or so computers he seem to be collecting on his desk, floor and book shelves.   Earlier in the day he had thrown  some real head scratching hard ball questions at me, none of which I could recall even the slightest today, as he would forever be carved into my memory as the one who asked the "doughnut" question.

Several friends had warned me.  They had interviewed with this company previously.  While they had done well by their account and my observations of the questions and answers, they had not received any callbacks.

"The interviews run all day",  they always gestured their hands to the widest expanse of their arms to depict this difficult concept.

"You will have to talk to eight different people at least, separately.  That's why it takes all day, it's exhausting and I couldn't think almost all afternoon. "   As I am fonder of people than machinery (which was the subject of my interview and career but that is another topic for another day), this was welcoming news as some of them are bond to be people persons like me, which could only increase my abysmal chance, I reckoned.

Yet facing the jolly "Mr Bunny Slipper" and the first "humanity" question of the day, I came to the realization that perhaps I am seeing a different side of the coin in the world of "people person".  I didn't know that I am as intelligent as required, I didn't know my chest was quite puffed up enough among these young geniuses, I didn't know I have quite the hardware collection close to what I saw today, truth be told, I had an account that enabled me email and a web address and that was the extent of my connection with the subject of my study, I didn't know if I was wearing the right chromosomes as I'd seen scantly a female beyond the front desk receptionist...

It was ten years and perhaps at least five jobs ago, somehow I never hardened though I had conducted my own interviews for the purpose of hiring others.   I still question my every breath, every move, double think every answer, triple check the nuances of every question, and withhold what I knew for fear of saying something so idiotic I would get thrown out instantly.   "Better to remain silent and be thought of a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt".  I had been told.  I don't know if it was meant to be used in interviews, as I have certainly seen people coming through with such enthusiasm and chattiness that it affected me, thinking how fun it would be to work with someone that could hold such interest in a terribly stressful and awkward conversation.  But I could hardly push through that screen of trepidation myself to answer a question.

So now I sit in the first interview of ten years, a friendly fellow who slightly reminded me of the jolly Mr Slipper guy, in that care that he took to ask questions of different angles and areas.  I was still surprised to hear the following coming at me towards the end:

"So do you have a hobby, like busting open the electrical of your car, and put it back together?"

In my most respectful composure, I sat across from him clasping my freshly manicured hands, crossing my equally freshly pedicured feet at the ankle, and returned his question with my most heartfelt "deer in the headlight" stare.


  1. OK - in suspense, just what kind of doughnut are you?

  2. @JoeinVegas - Thank you for asking. My answer for as to "what kind of donut would you be" was:
    "Chocolate, as I am bittersweet."




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