Journalist Ann All at ITBusinessedge has uncovered a few challenging job interview questions that go beyond the standard, “Where do you see yourself in five years”. The first comes from a recent New York Times interview with VMWare CEO Paul Maritz, who commented that he likes to grill candidates on something they’ve done in the past, and then ask: “Thinking about it now, what would you have done differently? What did you learn from that?”
The question requires a bit more self-analysis than admitting some lame “weakness” that isn’t a weakness at all. And it can help employers determine whether the person would be a good fit. According to Maritz, who’s quoted in the Times article:
“… If they blame everything that happened during that period on somebody else, that tells you that the person is probably not thoughtful or self-aware. If they can talk in length about what was really going on, why they made the decisions they did and how they would perhaps make the decision differently now, that tells you that this person thinks deeply and is honest enough to really be objective, or as objective as they can be about themselves.”
This dovetails with what we learned from Meridee Moore, founder of hedge fund Watershed Asset Management, who was also interviewed earlier in the year by the Times. Moore also likes to talk to candidates about a setback in their lives, and what they did about it. In fact, during the interview process for Moore’s firm, they give candidates a two-hour test and purposely try to throw them off balance. As Moore explains it:
“We try to simulate a real office experience by giving them an investment idea and the raw material, the annual report, some documents, and then we tell them where the securities prices are. We say: “Here’s a calculator, a pencil and a sandwich. We’ll be back in two hours.” If an analyst comes in there and just attacks the project with relish, that’s a good sign.”
After the test, Moore likes to ask basic questions about the possible investment, seeking information about the company’s revenue model, its customers and its products. If interviewees avoid these questions and prefer to discuss their calculations, they may be “too rigid” for Watershed Asset Management’s culture.
Another question that Moore likes to ask is whether this person has ever been in a wedding party.
“If someone has asked them to stand next to him on the most important day of his life, at least one person thinks they are responsible. It means they’ve been able to establish and continue a relationship. These are good qualities in a person and a partner,” Moore says.
What’s the toughest question you’ve ever had to field in a hedge fund job interview? Do you have a pet question you like to use when grilling a candidate? Add your comments below.