Why Do Want to Work Here? The Questions That Are slowly Poisoning Your Company And Creating The Zombies That Inhabit Your Cubicles

I found an old interview cheat sheet when I was doing a little clean up today. The interview questions are from a piece by Theodore Pettus that was in Savvy Magazine in 1981, long before the internet. Some things never change, though. But if you have a company and these questions are on your interview question sheet, they are the 21 questions that are slowly killing your company.

I thought I would answer the questions with obvious answers that you should never use.

1. “Why do you want to work here?”

You are going to pay me money.

That at least has the honest truth to it. The article says that you should answer that question with the usual “Your company is a leader!” or “You make great products!” Answers that may actually be true, but whose real function is to make the hiring manager feel comfortable.

2. “Why should we hire you?”

I’m going to make you money.

The piece suggest that you give a brief summary of your qualifications. Again this is to make the hiring manager feel comfortable that he’s not hiring a blithering idiot like himself.

3. “What interests you about this position?”

You are going to pay me money.

This is simply a repeat of question 1. The article suggests that you take advantage to talk about things like “the challenge” or “the competiveness” to prove you aren’t a slacker. And then go on to butter up the hiring manager with your enormous knowledge(wrong) of the company. Obviously my research was wrong because it told me this was a great place to work.

4. “Would you like to have your boss’s job?”

I don’t know, what’s the grief/money ratio.

The article says that you should answer that question with “yes.” I would want to know if the person sitting across the table is going to be your boss before is said yes or not. Just so that you were safe. Frankly I would want to be at a place for a while before moving into another slot. I also have to start thinking that this place is not a great place to work for after all.

5. “Are you willing to go where the company sends you?”

I don’t know, where would you send me? What’s the beer like?

The article suggests that you say yes to prove you slavish loyalty to a company you haven’t even started working for yet. I would be looking for a polite way to edge myself out of the bulding right about then, maybe.

6. “What kind of decisions are most difficult for you?”

Whether to bring the AK or the AR when I go postal on this crappy place.

The article suggests that you be human and admit to all sorts of stuff. I would suggest that you try to pick things that the hiring manager is not going to care about. And unless you are one step from true poverty, really start thinking about how you can get to the door.

7. “How do you feel about your progress to date?”

Crappy, I haven’t embezzled enough money to buy my island in the Bahamas yet.

The article suggests that you give the hiring manager hero stories to inspire confidence. I would say that you don’t think you where you want to be, which is why you are here. Then asking,”where’s the bathroom?” and hoping that the cube maze isn’t too hard to escape.

8. “How long will you stay with the company?”

As long as you keep paying me. Or nobody offers me more.

The article suggests that you answer with “as long as I continue to grow.” I would suggest treading lightly with this answer. You don’t want to give your future boss the idea that growth means moving into his office. Why are you wasting your time with this clown, did he say he would buy you lunch? Or you couldn’t find your way out of the maze and looped back to his office.

9. “Have you done the best work of which you are capable of?”

Obviously not, the building is still standing and I’m still talking to you.

The article suggest that you abase yourself and say that you will work for these people with energy and vigor. My answer would be to say that I think that, while I have done some incredible stuff I’m always looking for a new challenge. I’m also seeing if the windows open while you’re getting coffee. If the building is a high rise, suicide is starting to look attractive.

10. “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

On my private island in the Bahamas with my ill gotten gains from this rotten outfit.

The article suggests that you tread lightly and don’t reveal you career plans. Career plans for a company you haven’t even started at. I mean seriously, in this day and age, who has linear life and career plans. The best you can do is go with the flow, but more than likely making plans that have no foundation is pointless. Windows unbreakable?

11. “What training/qualifications do you have?”

Didn’t you read my F***ing resume, the one right in front of you?

The article suggests that you give a short summary of the stuff on your resume. I would add that you might take the opportunity to point out salient parts in the document that the person on the other side hasn’t bothered to read. Also bladder issues from drinking that gallon jug gives plenty of excuses to make repeat trips to the bathroom so that you can continue your exploratory expeditions. There is a way out, there has to be.

12. “Why do want to change jobs?”

Because I want more money

The article suggests that you have pat reasons for this. As I have never changed jobs without being force out, I really don’t have a good response to this. Frankly I would state that I was disastified with the climate at my current place of employment and leave it at that. I think the exit is there- next to the copy machine.

13. “Why do you want to change your field of work?”

Because I was bored and wanted out. And I didn’t feel like a high body count.

The article suggests that you spend an hour organizing on paper your reasons and memorizing them. I would think that if you are looking at alternative careers you would have a pretty good sense of the reasons. I also think that you are better off letting your enthusiasm for you new opportunity come through. After all, you are resetting because you wanted to. And if there are other reasons, such as job obsolescence you should explain. You should still go on your excursions. One good question doesn’t make all the bad ones go away. Like you should be.

14. “Why were you out of work so long?”

Since 2009, that’s an easy question to answer. I caught Obama depression. A lot of people have caught it. It’s called not being able to find work.

The article says that you have to have some sort of story that explains it. Honestly, unless they’ve been through long period of unemployment, they can’t understand it. For some people, the nice smooth plans they have just don’t work out. Like the plans to escape from this joint.

15. “Why have you changed jobs so frequently?”

Because I got tired of working for clowns. The other guys offered me more money, but turned out to be jerks.

The article says that an unsatisfactory answer will kill the interview. The person across the table wants to believe that you are making a commitment to them. Just like the last person across the table did and then laid you off when things got tough. There are a lot of reasons for job hopping. Just like there are lots of reasons for not being able to find work. In my experience it’s far easier to lose a job than to get one. Almost always the reason for losing a job has nothing to do with your performance. Which, like my mapping skills can be pretty poor sometimes. I’m still here, in this dump.

16. “Have you ever hired or fired anyone?”

I prefer the .357 termination, along the woodchipper out back. Seriously read the f***ing resume. If I had a managerial role it would be on there.

The article says that they are asking that question to determine the you level of experience and whether you can perform hiring or firing. Obviously they need you to do the hiring because they keep asking you to repeat stuff on the resume. Of course if they give you firing authority, you know where to start. In the meantime, let’s take an office tour toward the door.

17.”How have you helped sale/profits/cost reductions?”

I lined up management and shot the lot. You should see the bonus check I got from the stockholders for that.

The article suggests to have your hero stories ready. but you should always be using your hero stories. It’s called doing your job. Haven’t gotten to the door yet? Didn’t we just pass that palm again?

18. “Why aren’t you earning more at your age?”

The CEO’s kid and wife got to the accounts receivables first. They also got ten to twenty.

The article suggest that you say that you are sacrificing youself nobly for the cause. Frankly they shouldn’t be able to ask that question because they shouldn’t have any salary information to base it on. The important thing is what are they willig to offer. And the way this interview has gone, it should be huge.

19. “How many people Have you supervised?”

I was the slave driver at the seventh pit of hell at my last company with millions of minions to do my every bidding. Honestly, did you even look at the resume?

The article suggest that you just tell a story and not exaggerate. This question, when asked tells me that the company is looking for chiefs when they should be looking for indians. Haven’t found the exit yet?

20. “What are the reasons for your success?”

Because I could smash my enemies, grind their entrails for grease in the treads of my tank. I smashed my opponents and made their puppies cry. I am a true monster.

The article says that you should downplay your successes and answer with things like, “I work hard.” I can go with that. If you haven’t figured out by this point that working for this outfit is going to be your penance in purgatory for sins you haven’t even committed yet by now you are truly stupid. Look, there’s a map on the wall!!!

21. “What kind of experience do you have for this job?”

I’ve laid waste to entire countries. I’ve watched towns burn and laughed. I’ve worked with mad genius’s and built things that made the sky melt. I’ve done things you can’t even imagine. Honestly, did you even look at the resume?

The article suggests that you summarize for the interviewer five or six areas of relevent experience. I would say at this point, bug out politely. You are never going to achieve anything in that company through your own efforts. If they are asking this kind of questions, the place is emphasizing the functioning and growth of it’s bureaucracy and not the growth of the business. If you are doer, rather than a talker, you will not do well there. You’ve got the way out, you’ve shaken the person’s hand, now leave. And check off that place as a place to only work as a last resort.

If the interview is a screening process, a company should ask what it’s screening for? I’ve gotten these questions in most of the interviews I’ve had over the years. They’ve been pretty effective in screening me out of companies. Which was their loss, if my track record when I’m working is any indication. I’m going to say that many of the creative and able people I’ve known have expressed the same kind of frustration. So if it’s not screening for smart creative types, what is the template screening for?

These questions are the type of stuff that people looking to hire brown nosers and backstabbers ask. The people doing the interviewing didn’t bother to read your resume because actual experience and ability doesn’t really matter to them. Frankly real competence at a job is a liability to the incompetent people doing the interviewing. The mere fact that they are asking these kinds of questions means that the organization is looking more to it’s existence than to it’s function. Pournelle’s iron law has taken over the company. Which is not good for the people working there or for the people with equity.

The fact they are asking the questions this way sort of tells you what kind of organizations these companies are. These are place that have evolved a fear based culture rather than an action based culture. Every word here in this template oozes fear. The candidate is on the spot, but it’s the people in the company who are afraid. Treating the interview as an interrogation rather than a meet and greet. Subjecting the candidate to verbal torture, and make no mistake, that’s what this is, to see if he can withstand abuse.

As important as what the interview screens out, is what it’s screening for. Do you really want a company full of tortured victims and victimizers? Is that a healthy environment to actually get the work that the company is supposed to be doing in? Does anybody think that the people there are going to be doing their best work?

The fact that these questions are coming up in just about every interview says that there are serious issues in corporate America. You can see echoes in pieces and articles  where executives are wondering where company loyalty and engaged workers went. Asking what happened to all the creative and innovative. Well here’s part of the problem. Your interview process weeds them out. That is if they get that far. These days, the ATS system makes sure that only the right kind of people get interviewed at all. And all of us creative types are left wondering why we never get answers to the resumes we send in. Well it’s the company’s and the country’s loss.


The author note in the magazine has Theodore Pettus as a freelance writer after working in many of the best advertising agencies. So I guess that he wasn’t able to keep jobs and get a job after his last layoff/firing. So we can take his interview guide for what it’s worth.


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