Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Ten Worst Job Interview Questions Ever

What was the worst job interview question you were ever asked? Good interview questions can help employers judge the technical qualifications, people skills, problem solving approach, and team fit of prospective employees. Bad interview questions do none of those. Instead, they confuse, irk, or offend the applicant (often in combination). Our ten worst job interview questions exhibit one or more of the following characteristics:

Illegal - Ask about certain topics and it’s “Do not pass Go; do not collect your next paycheck.” Your employer has been advised to reduce its liabilities, and that means you.
Useless - questions test trivial knowledge that has no bearing on aptitude or generate pseudopsychological responses that Dr. Phil could bloviate on for an entire episode.
Hackneyed - There’s an old saying: “If you’re one in a million, you have 1,000 clones in the People’s Republic of China.” These questions were once original, but they’ve been asked so many times that everyone has memorized ‘pat’ answers to them.

Here are BusinessPundit’s ten worst job interview questions, along with the characteristics that got them on the list, and some possible rejoinders. Please note that being asked any of these questions should make you seriously consider whether you want to entrust your livelihood and sanity to this organization.

#10 - What interests you about our company?

“Um, I heard you were hiring?”

#9 - Have you ever brought a lawsuit against an employer?

You can’t ask about this or age, race, health/marital/personal/family issues, and arrests, among other things. You have a choice of responses to this one. You can use the old, boring “I don’t think that’s an appropriate question” line, or you can allow the interviewer to save face with something like “No, but I’m always open to new experiences”.

#8 - Why did you take the pen from me?

In this one, the interviewer picks up a pen and holds it out halfway between herself and the applicant, and then silently waits for a response. Eventually the person will ask “what are you doing”, or, more often, take the pen. I would recommend: “When I saw you holding out the pen, I knew what you were doing. Taking it was the fastest way to get the heck out of here. Good day!” If you want to stick around, you can always grab the pen with your thumb and forefinger just above the interviewer’s (ala the old sandlot baseball method for deciding who gets to bat first) and wait for her next move.

#7 - Can you work under pressure?

Who is going to say no? You could answer “I’ve been tested to 12 ft-lbs per square inch”, or if you can completely change the tenor of the conversation with “If I don’t get this job I’ll lose my house, my wife, and the eight third-world children I’ve been supporting will be doomed to starvation. How’m I doing so far?”

#6 - If you were a ‘Lost’ character, which one would you be?

Applicant: “Jack” Interviewer: (Raises eyebrow) “Jack?” Applicant: (Pauses and gazes upward as if in deep thought, and then looks interviewer directly in the eye) “Definitely. Jack. But what does that have to do with being an Accounts Payable Clerk 1?” This is a variant of the old “If you were an animal, which one would you be?” question. If asked that question, you might want to go with Sasquatch, noting that “I read that they are telepathic, and that would make this interview go a lot easier!”

#5 - How do you define sexual harrassment?

“You nailed it! Nice one.” Or if you’re ready to leave “Come closer and I’ll show you.”

#4 - What is the airspeed of an unladen swallow?

Upon further consideration, this could be a valid “team fit” question in certain technical disciplines.

#3 - Do you ever abuse alcohol or drugs?

“I didn’t realize I had to choose”, or the more tactful “You do realize that the people who test body fluid samples are part of the Teamster’s union? They don’t like people cutting in on their territory.”

#2 - What is your biggest weakness?

This question got serious consideration for the top spot, but it’s only the second most likely question to pop up in an interview. All the interviewing tactics books tell you to develop a response that actually demonstrates a strength. Don’t dignify an awful question with a thoughtful response. First, startle the interviewer by saying “I have two”, and then continue with “one, I have an aversion to kryptonite but it doesn’t normally affect my work, and two, you really don’t want me to work overtime during a full moon. Seriously.” You’ll be doing the parting handshake in no time.

#1 - Where do you see yourself in five years?

Possibly a Trifecta if family issues will effect your career planning! Undoubtedly you have either already heard it or you will in an upcoming interview. Depending upon how fast you want to get out of there you can go with: “In mirrors and on YouTube. Unless I’m undead; then only on YouTube.” Or the ever-popular: “Asking you this question as you ‘reinterview for your position’ “ (don’t forget the menacing air quotes). Rubbing your hands together and cackling works nicely, too.

Do you have a worse interview question? A better answer to one of these? Come on! Everyone has a job interview horror story. Let us hear it in the comments section!

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Analysts see 200,000 banking industry layoffs

NEW YORK - The U.S. financial industry has been shedding jobs at a record clip, and some analysts predict the pace will only accelerate over the next year-and-a-half as banks cut costs in the face of the housing market slump and the weak economy.

Analysts at the financial research firm Celent LLC said in a report Tuesday that it expects the U.S. commercial banking industry — essentially, all companies that lend or collect deposits — to lose 200,000 of its 2 million jobs over the next 12 to 18 months.

An annual loss of 200,000 jobs at the nation's commercial banks would be an unprecedented number.

In 2007, the entire financial services sector — which consists of mostly commercial banks — announced job cuts that totaled a record 153,000, according to the job placement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. More than half of those cuts were in the mortgage-lending business, and occurred all over the country, particularly in New York and California.

Octavio Marenzi, the head of Celent's financial consultancy unit, said more layoffs are inevitable as the subprime crisis hits other parts of the banking industry and spreads beyond mortgages to mortgage-related products, such as home-equity loans, and other types of lending, such as credit cards.

"The banking industry over the past 40 years has never seen a downturn in its revenue growth," Marenzi said. "In 2008, it looks like it will decrease for the first time in living memory. They're going to have to respond with severe cost cutting. It's not an environment they're entirely used to."

The credit crisis began in earnest last summer when the markets tightened up at the sight of spiking subprime mortgage defaults.

"There's no horizon yet that anybody can see," said John Challenger, who runs Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "New events keep rolling out ... suggesting that there's more to come."

Financial services companies announced in January that they were cutting 16,000 U.S. jobs, and companies said in February they were trimming 6,000 more, Challenger said. Those figures are below last year's peak in August when companies announced they were cutting nearly 36,000 jobs, but analysts expect further bloodletting in the coming months.

Many banks that have reported huge losses have so far not announced significant layoffs outside the mortgage area, Challenger added. Just Tuesday, Swiss bank UBS AG — which has a big portion of its staff in the United States — said it lost more than $12 billion in the first quarter.

And Celent's estimate does not include the securities industry, which currently employs some 800,000 people — more than it ever has, after a multiyear hiring spree, Marenzi said.

The investment bank Bear Stearns Cos. has 14,000 staffers, and JPMorgan Chase & Co., the company buying the investment bank, has not yet announced how much of that staff it intends to keep. Meanwhile, Citigroup Inc. officially announced in January it was cutting 4,200 jobs globally, mostly in its investment banking business, but said there are more layoffs to come.

"What we haven't seen are big mega-layoffs — tens of thousands of people in a large company," Challenger said. "It just feels to me there are big ones coming."

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The New Designs Revealed

The new designs have been chosen via an open competition which was widely publicised in the national media in August 2005 and attracted 4,000 entries. The winning designer is 26-year-old Matthew Dent, originally from Bangor who now lives and works in London as a graphic designer.

After exploring a number of different options, Matthew Dent finally developed the heraldic theme, taking the greatest heraldic device ever used on coinage – the Royal Arms.

The New Coin Designs in FormationAs you can see in the image to the right, the Shield of the Royal Arms has been given a contemporary treatment and its whole has been cleverly split among all six denominations from the 1p to the 50p, with the £1 coin displaying the heraldic element in its entirety. This is the first time that a single design has been used across a range of United Kingdom coins.

The new designs will enter circulation gradually throughout the year. It is normal practice for banks to order coins from the Royal Mint to satisfy public demand, which fluctuates over the course of the year. The current coin designs will remain in circulation and as legal tender for the foreseeable future.

To mark this major numismatic milestone, the Royal Mint is offering a range of magnificent limited-edition collections produced to Proof quality.

Platinum Collection

Gold Collection

Silver Collection

The Base Metal Collection

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