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Ask the Administrator: Worst Interview Response
March 28, 2011 - 9:50pm

I file this one under “instant classic.” A new correspondent writes:

[I]f you are asked "how has your teaching changed over the years" or "how has your management of people changed over the years" or "how has your interaction with clients changed over the years" the wrong answer is "it hasn't."

The best professionals are continually evaluating their performance and making tweaks to improve - no improvement = no evaluation of past performance in my book.

I can't believe the number of candidates who tell us, with a straight face, that they teach the same way now that they did 15 years ago.

Ugh.

Then again, maybe I want to KNOW this up front, huh?

That is amazing. (Though I guess it could save money on professional development. If you’re already perfect, what’s to develop? Over the years, the savings could add up!) And it raises the question of worst interview responses.

Several years ago a colleague at another college told me the story of an incumbent lab technician who applied for a faculty position. During the interview, when asked why she wanted to move to faculty, she responded “I’m getting older, and I’d like to slow down. Summers off is really appealing.” She didn’t get the job.

Another fave: during the interview for a full-time staff position, the candidate asked about a reduced-hours schedule, since she, and I am not making this up, didn’t “want to work too hard.” No, we certainly wouldn’t want that...

Job interviews require a delicate balance. You want to show yourself in a positive light, and a certain amount of tooting your own horn is both accepted and expected. But there’s a line between showing your strengths and coming off as over-entitled.

One of my favorite interview questions is “tell us about a time you realized that something you were doing wasn’t working. What kind of adjustment did you make?” I’ve seen candidates trip over this, since in a few cases, it apparently never occurred to them that they had made mistakes. I don’t believe in perfect people; I’m looking for people who are capable of self-correction. That necessarily involves a certain degree of self-awareness. Sadly, self-awareness is not evenly distributed across the population.

Wise and worldly readers, what’s the worst response to an interview question you’ve ever heard?

Have a question? Ask the Administrator at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com.

 

 

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