Honest Answers to Common Job Interview Questions
Tell me a little about yourself.
As you may have noticed, I’m quite short, I compulsively destroy my cuticles when I’m nervous, and I’m definitely not used to wearing heels, eyeliner or this pencil skirt. I like watching netflix while eating food that matches the show/movie I’m consuming (Downton Abbey=sandwiches I cut into crustless circles. Toddlers and Tiaras=pixie sticks). I say a lot of things on the internet that would kill my chances of getting this job if you ever find them. For awhile, I dated burly, farmy guys who I had nothing in common with, and then I dated wistful, creative guys who I had way too much in common with, and I now I don’t date anybody.
Why do you want to work here?
It pays more than my current job. Also, I have this weird co-worker who believes crystals are magical and leaves them all over the office, and writes on my facebook wall at like 4:15 in the morning about what this moon cycles means for my future, and who I highly suspect stole my kombucha tea culture out of the break room fridge.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself married to an average-looking, hilarious Jewish guy who knows how to make pierogis and has freaky sex game. I also see myself having a couple hundred more twitter followers than I do now, working here or someplace similar, and being able to afford furniture from IKEA that isn’t made of compressed sawdust coated in neon paint.
If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
Crawdad. This lackluster lobster is underrated and is an okay contributor to its ecosystem. Some can live up to 100 years as long as they don’t become a jambalaya ingredient. They’re also resilient—if a dude crawdad rips off another dude crawdad’s claw while fighting for a lady friend, no problem, it’ll just grow it back, bitch. They are polite to other lake inhabitants by naturally removing toxins from water. And, like me, crawdads have highly sensitive immune systems, and have taken this to a new level by developing their own special plague (crawdad plague).
Why are you the best person for this position?
Will I sometimes wear colors that are far too daring for my natural features, accidentally insult co-workers’ baby names, and order green printer ink instead of black just for fun? Yes. But despite these shortcomings, I am a relentless perfectionist who has, since childhood, fostered an unhealthy desire to succeed in this particular career, so I will try harder to do this job well than a meth addict will try to avoid an intervention. Also, I have no children, no husband, and am willing to work for pay that puts me only just above the poverty line.
Describe a stressful situation at work and how you handled it.
When a co-worker discovered “some weird bug” lurking in her cubicle, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to exterminate my massive fear of insects by putting it to death. I grabbed a flip-flop from my file cabinet (admit it, everyone stores shoes in their file cabinets) and approached the battle ground to discover a six-inch centipede with a bazillion feathery legs that I assumed were certainly poisonous. I switched my weapon to a large dictionary, which I hurled at the beast from a safe five-foot distance. It freaked out and started coming at me, so I shouted something like “jesus cunt freckle!” to the alarm of my middle-aged co-workers before sprinting across the building to my boss’s office. Sometimes when I’m upset I laugh and also cry, so I tearfully/giddily asked him if he had any raid or would be willing to “get a bug.” He promptly located and squashed it and told me I could go home and chill out for awhile if I wanted.
What is your biggest weakness?
Channing Tatum. But I guess that doesn’t count because I’ve never interacted with him in real life, and if I did, would he allow me to “be weak/give in,” to his charm? Probably not. He seems super devoted to his hot Step Up wife. She’s extremely beautiful and all but I imagine it would be pretty intimidating to be married to a man specimen whose physical attributes know no equal. God, and he’s such a good dancer, and seems so down-to-earth. I’m still pissed he didn’t take his shirt off once in 10 Years, which I watched yesterday.
Do you have any questions for me?
Which do you hate more: a brain freeze or a sleeping foot? If you had to spend the rest of your life on a deserted island with Courtney Love or Gary Busey, who would you pick? Does lipliner have a fighting chance for a comeback? Is Bob Dylan or Prince the best musical icon to spring from Minnesota’s chilly grasp? Dogs or cats? Gchat or Facebook chat? Religion or science? Ham or turkey? Allie Brosh or Jenna Marbles?
- Natalie Berkley
On Dodging the Nine-to-Five Life Indefinitely
Becky just wrote about the comforts of the nine-to-five life post-college, so I thought I’d weigh in from the perspective of someone who’s entirely avoided that life for almost 16 post-college years.
Yep, 16 years. I graduated from college in 1997, and decided to push straight on to grad school since (a) I didn’t want to go to work doing what I’d studied in college, which was being a preschool teacher; (b) my college roommate was also going to grad school in Boston, and I could live with him; (c) having grown up playing video games, I didn’t want to quit the academic game until I’d defeated the final boss.
My first graduate program led to a research assistantship, which led to a second graduate program, which occupied me right up until the year of my ten-year college reunion, when I successfully defended my dissertation and was presented by Princess Toadstool—or rather, by my advisor Jason Kaufman—with a doctoral hood. I’d gone to grad school more to go to grad school than to achieve any long-term career goals, so rather than take a seven-year tenure-track job in God-knows-where, I moved back home to St. Paul, Minnesota.
So there I was: in my early 30s, unemployed, single, and living with my parents in my old bedroom, glow-in-the-dark stars still intact on the ceiling. I took some writing jobs and ultimately landed a part-time position at a nonprofit news publication, later supplementing that with freelance writing jobs and college teaching gigs.
I’m now 37, living in Minneapolis, and working at two jobs plus occasionally writing freelance pieces and helping to run a blog (this one) that recently graduated from being a “personal project” to being an officially registered limited-liability corporation operating at a loss of $20 per month.
I have no 401k. I buy my own individual health insurance plan, with a $5,000 deductible. Since I only started paying my student loans in 2007 after letting interest accrue on them for a decade, I’m still almost $50,000 in debt. I live in a studio apartment. I drive a ten-year-old Ford Taurus that sometimes makes a weird clanking sound when I hit the brakes.
Will I ever work in a real office? Will I ever have a job with benefits? Will I ever be completely out of debt? If not, not, and not, is that a problem? I honestly don’t know. Becky’s been lucky to find a good nine-to-five job that she loves, but I’ve never had one of those, so it’s hard to know what it would be like. Having benefits would be nice, making more money would be nice, enjoying the day-to-day camaraderie of an office would be nice, and it would be nice to have it be someone else’s problem when my computer doesn’t work…but then, it would be hard to give up the perks of being a free agent.
When I want to take a break in the middle of the day and write a blog post, I can. No one’s looking over my shoulder. On most days, I work from home, so I can sleep until 9:00, open my laptop, and be at work at the same time as some other people who had to get up at 7:00. I can listen to whatever music I want to, all day long. If I feel like it I can take a day off, often without asking anyone or giving any notice, and make the time up over the weekend. I can plan trips without counting vacation days. My boss seriously says things like, “I’d love to have you at that meeting tomorrow, unless you have something more fun to do.”
Best of all, I can wake up every morning and actually look forward to my day at work. I don’t mind working at night or on weekends, because my jobs usually don’t even feel like work. My online journalism job often feels like an only slightly more structured version of the kind of putzing around online that a lot of people choose to spend all their leisure hours doing. My college teaching job involves reading and talking about media and society, and reading my students’ posts on Tumblr. Because both jobs are with nonprofits, I’m working to advance worthy missions—social equity, education, media access—instead of creating value for shareholders.
So nine-to-fives have undeniable benefits, while a looser (no, that’s not a typo) job situation has its own perks. Whichever path you take, here’s my advice:
1. Do what you love.
2. Work with people you respect, and who respect you.
3. Keep challenging yourself.
4. Whatever you do, never work at a job where you’re not allowed to swear on Twitter.
- Jay Gabler
Realities of Working From Home That I Refuse to Accept
Reality: There is a relationship between the amount I spend on a computer and how fast it is. What I prefer to believe: “RAM” is an imaginary thing dreamed up by computer manufacturers to steal money from us. If my applications are slow to load and my OS crashes, that probably has something to do with Russian spammers, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I can go ahead and spend that $300 on something else I want.
Reality: Using the Internet to complain about annoying things people do will not make people any less likely to do them. What I prefer to believe: If I tweet about people taking too many pictures of their food, none of my followers will ever take pictures of their food again—and they’ll spread the world to everyone else alive, so that takes care of that. Even if it doesn’t quite work that way, surely everyone will be amused by my tweet about people who take too many pictures of their food, or at least they’ll appreciate knowing what’s going on in my life.
Reality: I have to prioritize work tasks: I can’t just respond to e-mails in the order they were received. What I prefer to believe: That e-mail about investigating whether my company should have a Pinterest presence came three full days before the e-mail about my boss being locked out and needing someone to go to the office and let him in, so it’s obvious what the more urgent task is here.
Reality: If I don’t do anything about it, I will still be in my pajamas at 5 PM. What I prefer to believe: If I just wait long enough, at some point over the course of the day someone will come and build a Pee-Wee’s-Big-Adventure-style Rube Goldberg device to clothe, bathe, and feed me.
Reality: Blogging does not pay my rent. What I prefer to believe: This is my real job. My actual work tasks? Those are just favors I do for the people who choose to thank me twice a month by handing me checks.
- Jay Gabler