I've spent the last 18 years as a professional software developer. I've had loads of jobs, both as a 'permie' and as a freelancer/contractor. I reckon I must have read over a thousand job ads which I've looked into, that is I'd had more information about the job from sources other than the advert or the agency that published it. I've learned one thing: to read between the lines. IT recruiters speak a different language to us, a language rich with subtlety and innuendo, a language which might seem simple at first but hides deeper meaning. As a service to the community I now present a handy translator from IT-recruiter-ish to common English. Make sure you look it up next time you see the job-advert of your dreams.
PS: this is work in progress. If there's something I missed feel free to comment here and I'll add it to the list.
Here's a scene: you're in the interview room at a really exciting company, being interviewed for your dream job. You've already aced the technical interview and really hit it off with the team leader and the other team members. You can already imagine yourself happily working there. But just before you start visualising your first 'employee of the year' award, another person walks in the room. (S)he introduces him/her self as the HR manager and asks if you mind being asked some more questions. 'So, Fred', goes the first one 'what is your biggest weakness?' 'Ermm..' you fumble, '..Ben & Jerry's, I suppose'. 'No', the HR person goes, 'I meant as a professional developer'. 'Why didn't you say so', says you, 'in that case it has to be Herman Miller chairs. I'd sell my own grandmother for an Embody full mesh'. 'No, no, that's not what I meant' (s)he says, 'I meant a weakness in your abilities as a professional developer'. 'Why would I tell you that' you reply, 'I'm trying to sell myself here, not bury myself'. At that point all the positive vibes you've built up have evaporated, your self-confidence is shaken and you're beginning to wonder if this really is the right company for you. Yes, you've fallen victim to the....CURSE OF POINTLESS INTERVIEW QUESTIONS (ta-dah-dah).
I mean, what's the bloody point? Does anyone seriously believe that someone talking about how well they work in a team gives any kind of insight into that person's abilities as a team player?! The only thing I learn from asking such a question is whether or not the person can bullshit or not. And I don't care either way. No, the real reasons behind these questions is simply office politics. Power plays and self-importance are the motives here, not adding value to the hiring process. Certain people / departments want to feel that they affect the recruitment process in a meaningful way. After all, they have to justify their existence somehow and what better way to do it than pretend to be able to discern suitable candidates for positions that they don't fully understand or appreciate?
I don't know if it's just me getting older and crankier but I've lost all patience with this sort of questions. Not only that, I now tend to actively avoid companies that ask such questions. I mean, why would I want to get involved with a company that considers my ability to bullshit, brown-nose and lie as an important selection criterion ?!?
Here are some of my favourites (and I use the term ironically):
So, employers: please, please stop asking your interviewees meaningless, misleading, disingenuous, template-based trivia. Not only it doesn't help pick out the best candidates, it may even drive good candidates away from you. Because, after all, who'd want to work for a company that asks stupid questions?