10 Executives Discuss What They Want When They Interview

Reply Sun 23 Mar, 2003 10:13 am
Ten Executives Discuss What They're Looking for When They Interview Candidates

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I found this to be an interesting article, giving some insights into the inner workings of execs as they interview candidates. However, I found one of the responses disturbing.

John Helding, lecturer, Stanford Business School, and former senior director of Worldwide Recruitment for Booz Allen Hamilton said, "My favorite and most frequently asked question of MBAs is, 'What's the best practical joke you've pulled off, and why?' In that question I am looking a sense of creativity, a willingness to have fun, and at a deeper level an ease with others that's made evident by a willingness to joke around and take some risks. Moreover, the question breaks down some of the seriousness and tension in the interviewing room. And as a bonus, I've gotten a more than a few good ideas for my own practical joke endeavors!"

Ugh. That totally turned me off - why would anyone want to work in a place where practical jokes were so considered the norm that the okay for them came from that far up the managerial chain? And, not to put too fine a point on it, in my years as an attorney and in Law School, I read a number of Workers' Compensation claims wherein persons were injured while on the job, due to horseplay. This didn't just happen in factories and at auto mechanics', it also happened at white-collar jobs - I'm talking about bones being broken when chairs were yanked out, etc. I'm sorry if I look like I don't have a "willingness to have fun" or "take some risks", but I'm not pleased when people can be really hurt. I'm funny that way. Also, there's a difference, IMHO, between risks that are meaningful and will potentially lead to a positive outcome, and risks that are meaningless and are taken simply for the sake of shaking things up and have a low chance of any sort of positive benefit. Isn't the ability to perform a risk-benefit analysis a good trait for an employee to have?

I must be missing something here. I guess work is a playground to this guy. That's nice. Count me out.

What do you think?
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Reply Wed 2 Apr, 2003 12:29 pm
I think the article makes him sound childish ... "And as a bonus, I've gotten a more than a few good ideas for my own practical joke endeavors!" but I am wondering if another intent is rather to shake up the interview by jumping to a topic such as this in order to see the reaction of the person and how they handle a question from out of left-field. Can they retain composure, respond in a professional manner while opening up to the jocularity offered to them, and successfully control the situation? It might be telling of a few of their abilities including the testing of potential employees on ethics - would they reveal something embarassing about a former company, boss, etc? This is one I'd be very careful about. Practical jokes can sound nasty and give a terrible impression if someone got hurt by it.

On reading this, I was reminded of a situation where I worked as a florist. A colleague of mine was commenting on how beautiful a girl was who was standing near our shop. I encouraged him to speak to her but he was bashful, so I wrapped a red rose in paper, wrote his name on one of our shop cards and ran out to give it to her as she was preparing to catch the bus. Our phone number was on the card and sure enough, an hour later, he received a call from her. Would that suffice as a practical joke?
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Reply Wed 2 Apr, 2003 12:39 pm
So it's assumed that MBAs are practical jokers? Now I wonder what to take from that. (Is the difference between MTV's "Jackass" and an MBA only one of scale and degree?)
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cicerone imposter
Reply Wed 2 Apr, 2003 02:13 pm
It just goes to show that even a good school like Stanford can have lecturers who's idea of a good interview leaves the pros with big question marks. I'd fire him on the spot, because he doesn't understand what's important. Wink c.i.
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Reply Wed 2 Apr, 2003 02:24 pm
By the way, a practical jokes doesn't have to be mean. It's just one that is acted out, rather than being told as as set joke.

Like, you take a long airline flight with a string hanging out of your mouth. You'll get some looks, but likely no questions. Have a good answer ready, anyway.
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Reply Wed 2 Apr, 2003 02:27 pm
Oh! What they are really looking for is someone who looks, dresses, and talks the way they do.
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Reply Wed 2 Apr, 2003 04:12 pm
Usually. Someday I'll be interviewed for a very good job by a mumbling slob who speaks largely in nonsequiters and hates false cheer and paperwork.

You don't run a company by any chance, do you rog?
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Reply Wed 2 Apr, 2003 04:24 pm

Heeven, you're probably right that the intent may have been to see how people would react to the question, but the crack about getting ideas for jokes just irked me to no end. I've studied many cases of people getting pretty badly hurt through horseplay on the job, and Workers' Comp. doesn't always cover it. Plus, how close are practical jokes to harrassment, sexual and otherwise?

When I was practicing law, my secretary was a very beautiful (and well-built) young woman who wore short skirts to work nearly every day. Does she deserve to be the butt (no pun intended) of actions designed to make her bend over? "Oops, J____, I dropped my pencil. Can you pick it up?"
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Reply Wed 2 Apr, 2003 04:39 pm
There is no excuse these days for work-place pranks that get out of control and that is really where good management and supervisors stepping in to regain some semblance of professionalism is required.
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cicerone imposter
Reply Wed 2 Apr, 2003 04:47 pm
Heeven, You're absolutely correct. Work is no place for horse-play or practical jokes. There are many ways to enjoy your work associates without resorting to these kind of jokes. c.i.
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Reply Wed 2 Apr, 2003 05:38 pm
Well, we did have a whole several different running jokes at my center. One was a rubber snake I had -- no idea how it started, but it became our little mascot and would show up all over. Draped over the restroom mirror, on the secretary's keyboard, in the supply cabinet, etc. Whomever found it put it in the next place, and the joking was utterly democratic. I was the target more than anyone else, probably (I was the founder and director of the center), and nobody was SCARED, but there were often little jumps and then throwing the (soft) plastic snake at whoever laughed. Very Happy

We also were very elaborate about surprise birthday parties for staff. Lots of things along those lines.

The work was stressful -- lots of intense personal issues (unwanted pregnancy, abusive relationships, gang involvement, desperate poverty) -- and I think that kind of joking around really helped us keep up morale and stay cohesive as a unit.

This does strike me as different from overgrown frat boy types doing practical jokes on each other, but wanted to put a word in for workplace goofiness.
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Reply Wed 2 Apr, 2003 05:52 pm
The guy from Stanford is an idiot, but let me tell y'all a story...
When a was a 20-year old in Vietnam with the 101st, I was interviewed by a board considering my promotion to Sgt (E-5). At that level, the Sgt is the Assistant Squad Leader to an E-6 who might lead the squad of 10 men but, given the shortage of NCO's, it was common for an E-5 to end up leading a squad.

Anyway, here were two quick questions from a black officer and a white officer:

What's the racial make-up of your squad (white, black, hispanic etc)

How many children do the men in your squad have?

You have 10 seconds to think about your answer before you respond. No more.
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Reply Wed 12 Sep, 2012 03:22 am
there are some thing you really should pay attention on them.
Common mistakes that really notice by interviewer
1 Your Resume and Job/Professional References
2 Improve Your Interview Technique
3 Dressing Inappropriately
4 Arriving Late
5 Bringing a Drink With You
6 Your Phone During the Interview
7 Not Knowing Anything About the Company
8 Fuzzy Resume Facts
9 Not Paying Attention
10 Talking Too Much
11 Not Being Prepared to Answer Questions
12 Badmouthing Past Employers
13 Take the Time to Say Thank You

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