Poundstone (Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value, 2010, etc.) surveys today’s tough job-interview questions.
“We live in an age of desperation,” writes the author. “Never in living memory has the competition for job openings been more intense. Never have job interviews been tougher. This is the bitter fruit of the jobless recovery and the changing nature of work.” Job interviews have become not only personally invasive, but also intellectually diabolical. Behavioral questions and work samples are now supplemented by logic puzzles, and this isn’t just at Google and Microsoft, but at the local shoe store as personnel departments have caught the general drift that there are more bodies than jobs and talent goes begging. Despite the air of gloom, Poundstone keeps a jaunty tone as he gives advice on how to field the offbeat, odd-angle questions tossed by interviewers, often open-ended and with no definitive correct answer—in order to test mental flexibility, entrepreneurial potential and innovativeness. Google’s hiring process is the author’s standard, which sets the bar pretty high, but its practice is contagious: “Weird interview questions are a meme, like a joke or viral video. It’s catchiness, rather than proof of their effectiveness, that keeps them in circulation.” Hiring is still a game of chance, yet for the “zombie hordes of unemployed and underemployed [who] are willing to claw at anything that even looks like a job,” Poundstone offers dozens of teasers to tackle (answers included). These include insight questions and lateral-thinking puzzles, how to spot an algorithm question and how to dig below the cryptic surface. In perhaps the most inspired paragraphs, he explains the art of salvaging the southbound interview, but he notes that much of this is improvisation.
Serious ammunition to pack for your next job interview.