Monday, December 17, 2012

Why So Serious?

"Sometimes crazy is the best way to go."
- Urdnot Wrex, to Commander Shepard

So it's been a couple of months since my last interview and it's also been about that long since I've been meaning to post this. It's never the technical questions that get me stumped - in fact, I think those are the easy ones. I'm pretty sure I could answer such questions well, or bluff my way out of it. It's the HR-type questions that are often the most dangerous.

It's funny how I always make it a point to never prepare for these questions - maybe it's a good way of self-assessment in terms of my views (career-wise, of course).

Or maybe it's because the most honest answers are the ones we tend to make on the fly. After all, those answers have to come from somewhere.

As a quick side note, I once answered Force Mastery in an assessment interview when I was asked what skill I would like to learn to help in my career. It was sort of a mutual dare with some friends (where one answered culinary skills and the other said technical writing). I was half-hoping that hilarity would ensue but the interviewer didn't quite understand my answer (and I never explained it further) - and no, I didn't get in any trouble nor change my answer.

Anyway, while I've always had an idea on how to answer most of these questions seriously, there's always this one ubiquitous question that I've had trouble answering.

Where do you see yourself X years from now?

As I've written out so many times before, my answer to this has always been 'I don't really know'. I guess the most difficult part is figuring out how to say that without sounding silly. For posterity's sake, the last time I was asked this my response was something along the lines of:

I haven't really settled on what I'd want to do yet for the long term, which is why I'm pushing myself to learn as many things as I can while I still can. I will have a better idea sometime down the line, but I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

In retrospect, I know it sounds like a horrible answer, but I've always been under the impression that people appreciate these over canned answers. Mindless drones are a dime a dozen, and it's always nice to see that some people put a premium on out-of-the-box answers.

Are crazy answers risky? Of course they are. Will they help the potential employer single someone out from the crowd? Of course they will.

As a final side note, there was once this applicant who had to answer the same question above (and no, it isn't me). His reply? He said he hoped to occupy the interviewer's seat in sometime in the next X years.

Absolutely insane, and it absolutely worked - he got the job.

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