"You know how I interview electrical contractors?" Colin Jaques of Canzam Electric said to me over margaritas one day. "I give them a pipe and I tell them to bend it." Suddenly I pictured a Hulk Hogan—type man heaving as he bends a pipe with his bare hands. He can't be serious?
"No, no. It's not about strength." Colin reassured me. "It's about how they answer. Do they ask where you want it bent and at what angle, or do they just bend it? You see, we can't have contractors running around bending things at random with no idea what you—or the client—wants." He hada point.
Like this interview question, many interview questions are not what they seem. Too many candidates stress getting the right answer, as though there's always one, single correct answer (in which case, we'd just give candidates tests—think of the time we'd save!). Rather, interview questions are about the process one takes. Do you check your assumptions? Do you think through all possible cases? How do you break down the problem?
Erin, a recruiting coordinator from Microsoft, reminds us that "whatever you're asked, you're always answering the question, 'Why should we hire you?' It is the thesis of your interview."
As you're answering questions, think about your personal thesis. What do you bring to the table? Is it your creativity? Your versatile skill set? Your communication and social skills? While it's tempting to say "yes!" to all of these, you'll more effectively communicate ...