December 12, 2000, 10:30 AM — Blame it on the Internet, says Jason Warner, who leads the recruiting team at
Bellevue, Wash.-based ECS Integrated Technology Solutions, an Oracle software
consulting business unit of Computer Sciences Corporation. Warner cautions that
information available on the Web makes today's candidates the most prepared job
applicants in history and can tilt the interview process in their favor. "Organizations
that, to some degree, relied on a combination of standardized interview questions and
aptitude tests to determine technical skills can no longer rely on those items today to
adequately assess candidates," says the former recruiter for Starbucks and
Web research allows a candidate an advance peek into the applicant screening
process. A sharp candidate might click to a site listing specific interview questions,
technical assessments, and other tactics commonly used during the interview process. To
level the playing field, Warner says recruiters must refine their arsenal of questions
and interviewing techniques in order to stay effective and hire the best qualified
Warner and others have done just that. InfoWorld asked a number of executive
recruiters and hiring managers for their toughest questions and the responses that
cause them to sit up and take notice. Here are some of the cage-rattling questions and
analyses of possible responses.
InfoWorld: Describe your last mistake. What was the situation and what did do you
to rectify the problem?
-- Patrick Burke, director of worldwide staffing at StorageNetworks, a network
storage provider and consultancy in Waltham, Mass.
Ideal response: "I got careless. I failed to close the loop on something. So I went
directly to the client to apologize and tell him what I was doing to clean up the
Inferior response: "I was able to take care of the problem on my own without
bothering the end-user."
Two elements are found in Burke's ideal response. First, if the problem impacted an
end-user, the staffing director wants to know if the candidate resolved it directly
with that end-user, as opposed to going to an intermediary. Direct interaction with the
end-user tells Burke that the candidate knows what is important.
Burke also wants a sense of the candidate's candor and thought process. "I'm
impressed by candidates who realize they made a mistake, clean it up, figure out a best
practice, and talk about it within the organization so other people learn from the