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Ask A Career Coach - Interviewing Fundamentals Are Back


At The Frontier Group, our Atlanta and Charlotte career coach team work with hundreds of professionals every year on how to prepare and perform better during interviews.

In our preparation, we work on the basics like “Tell Me About Yourself” and how to sell value using the SAR (Situation/Action/Results) technique. This prep work is practical, straight forward and helps our clients develop a strong narrative that will position them as an excellent choice for the hiring manager.

In the course of working on these important interviewing fundamentals, our career coaching clients will also ask us about the dreaded open ended brain teaser questions. These are the types of questions that have been made popular by Google and have now been emulated by many other firms. Here is a sample of some of the questions:

  • How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?
  • Why are manhole covers round?
  • How many piano tuners are there in the entire world?
  • How many vacuums are made per year in USA?
  • You find yourself in the bottom of a giant martini glass. What do you do?

These type of questions routinely send shivers down the spines of our clients who worry that they will look foolish by not being able to harness a Mensa quality detailed analysis on the spot. The interesting fact about these questions though is that have proven to not be effective. Lazlo Bock, Senior VP of People Operations at Google was quoted in a New York Times article saying:

“On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart. Instead, what works well are structured behavioral interviews, where you have a consistent rubric for how you assess people, rather than having each interviewer just make stuff up.

Behavioral interviewing also works — where you’re not giving someone a hypothetical, but you’re starting with a question like, “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.” The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience, and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable “meta” information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.”

Which gets us back to the basics.

A structured behavioral interview – where interviewers will ask for examples of your past accomplishments in order to learn more about what you have done – is still the best screening and selection tool for organizations who are looking to hire smart.

Learn how to sell you value by sharing examples of Situations where you took a series of Actions that lead to specific and measurable Results (SAR) will help you interview well and secure the offers you deserve.