A memorable job interview

As part of WordPress.com’s post-a-day challenge, The Daily Post is offering daily topics that can be used as inspiration. So far this year, I have not used them; preferring instead to write about my own things. I thought it might be a nice idea however to follow pre-defined topic suggestions every once in a while, in order to force a bit of creative writing on specific subjects. Therefore, every Wednesday on this blog is now ‘write-about-a specific-topic-chosen-by-someone-else-day’. Hooray! Based upon the result of this poll, I will either write about the topic featured on The Daily Post the previous Wednesday, about any one of the seven daily topics featured in the previous week or about the first topic suggested in the comments the previous week.

Ok, onwards to this week’s topic.

Before I decided to do a PhD, I applied for quite a few different jobs (bet you can tell which way this is going to go!). One of them was at GlaxoSmithKline, a pharmaceutical company. After being successful with the application I was invited to take a telephone interview. I was informed that the interview would be split into two parts, a personal interview and a technical interview.

Prior to my scheduled interview time, I covered the desk in my room with all manner of papers featuring answers of questions I expected to be asked. On one sheet of paper for example was some answers to questions such as “why do you want the job” that I expected to be asked in the personal interview. On another sheet of paper was answers to questions such as “when have you demonstrated problem solving skills” that I expected to be asked in the technical interview.

The first part of the interview went well, I felt that I competently answered all of the questions. My only slight nagging concern was the fact that all the sorts of questions I expected to form the technical interview had been asked in the personal interview. It turned out that this concern was very valid. The first question in the technical interview was along the line of “If a type HT35-b service fan duct shows signs of restricted air flow, what measures should you take to diagnose the cause of the problem”. Now, if I had 5 years worth of experience in this industry, I might have had some kind of idea what they were on about. Unfortunately, I didn’t and I hadn’t. Instead of not saying anything (because prolonged periods of silence are not particularly comfortable during telephone interviews), I asked the interviewer to repeat the question, giving me time to make up an answer.

The remaining questions didn’t get any better, all featuring specific problems with specific equipment used in a specific industry. If I remember correctly, I asked the interviewer to repeat every one of those questions. I never head back from them.


13 thoughts on “A memorable job interview

  1. Ouch! I HATE interviews.. I find it’s really hard to prepare for them.. I can chat and talk with them in person, and once they see me work, they’ll know how competent I am, but I don’t do well with those “usual” questions.
    I had a phone interview once and they asked me if I knew V-Lookups on Excel. I actually was JUST learning it, and I explained how I’m very computer savvy, and will pick it up quickly. The response I got was “It’s not a program you pick up.” I’m aware of that, but how do you even continue the interview with that kind of an attitude?? it was rough.. lol

  2. Do you mean to say that they never told you what their industry was? Did you do some research beforehand? Or was the interviewer deliberately straying from the correct field (or maybe accidentally got the wrong list of questions)? I have never heard of such a thing when you apply for one job (I’m assuming you had your masters degree in an entirely different field?).

    Anyhow, good for you for keeping your cool and not showing the interview “attitude.” I’m afraid I would have, albeit in a joking manner.

  3. oh nos! that sounds like such a hard interview! i never really had one like that before! i wonder if my future interviews will be like that X) asking all those technical stuff. i dont think im very good at asnwering those questions on the spot. i would have panicked. but i guess thats a good experience! you know how other future interviews may be like :D?

  4. Job interviews can be so tricky, especially since at a certain stage they also depend a lot on who your competition is: if they do horrible, you can still stand out (it has happened to me!). So why did you go for the PhD in the end?

  5. Pingback: What made me decide to start a blog? | Michael's Blog

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