Any suggestion that the candidate covered up the mistake or simply solved it and
moved on doesn't make the grade with Burke. Nor do candidates that cannot admit to ever
making a mistake. Of these candidates Burke thinks, "If you're that perfect, how come
you are looking for a job?"
InfoWorld: Why are manhole covers circular?
-- Jason Warner, ECS senior technical recruiter and president of the Northwest
Recruiters Association (www.nwrecruit.org), a
nonprofit association for recruitment-related professionals in the greater Seattle
Ideal response: "Because only a circular shape prevents the manhole cover from
falling into the hole it was designed to seal."
Inferior response: "How am I supposed to know?"
The question gauges the candidate's core problem-solving ability, creativity, and
overall level of smarts. Warner also gauges the candidate's humility and his or her
willingness to engage in an abstract discussion: Does the candidate attempt to solve
the problem, or does he or she dismiss it as irrelevant? Does the applicant get excited
by trying to solve the problem or laugh it off as being beneath his or her position?
"It's all very telling of a candidate. I often use this question on more junior IT
professionals, but it's also particularly interesting to pose the questions good-
naturedly to a seasoned veteran and see how they respond," Warner says.
InfoWorld: Tell me your life story going all the way back to when and where you
-- Doug Brown, COO, PrimeSearch, a Dallas-based consultancy specializing in
disaster recovery and business continuity planning.
"I can get a lot of insight into a person's self-image and emotional maturity as I
listen to how they respond to this question," Brown says. As candidates tackle the
question, Brown finds that they eventually start talking about their career. "At that
point, I start asking specific questions about events and achievements that stand out
for them. Since I have a technical background, I can always probe into those areas as
they talk about the key accomplishments they've achieved in their careers and the
things that motivated them the most."
InfoWorld: What did you like most/least about your former boss?
-- Doug Brown
The COO believes this question allows a peek into the candidate's interpersonal
skills, adaptability, flexibility, and the likelihood that he or she will be a good fit
with the corporate culture.