19 Replies Latest reply on Dec 6, 2019 9:18 AM by gustavovelascoh

    Interview questions bombed or big bang


      Do you recall a question you were presented with during a job interview that you bombed (i.e. failed to answer)? Got a question you think would make a big bang interview question?


      I thought with the level of experience the members of this site have, it might be a informative to share an experience or provide a question with an appropriate answer. I also like hearing stories.



      I was sitting an interview for a IT Security position. The question was “What is the Security Triad?” I drew a blank. I had never heard the term Triad. I had extensive computer experience but I was trying to get into IT Security.


      Before I could respond an emergency vehicle passed the building, drowning out all sounds in the room. When I could be heard I said, “I think that was my ride. I’m about ready to die drawing a blank on such a simple question.”

      The panel laughed and the interview proceeded.


      Later ,I discovered I had the answer but I didn’t realize that was the question to match it.


        • Re: Interview questions bombed or big bang

          This wasn't for a job, but I definitely wanted an interview do-over:


          Year's ago, a neighbor convinced me to lead a neighborhood society - not an HOA since it was an apartment complex.  So, my soon to be wife and I walked around flyers and got everyone together and we did nice neighborly stuff.


          One day, the newspaper somehow got my number and called me at work.  (Shows you how long ago it was).  They asked me a bunch of questions - I was a little preoccupied in thought being that I was at work on the phone while on the clock.  I was giving very quick, brief, and uninspiring blowoff answers to the guy's questions not thinking about where it was heading.


          Then the guy asked "Why the passion?".  Suddenly it hit me like a ton of bricks - this is for a story in the newspaper!


          Luckily, there was a meet up a few days later and by then, I had my head on straight.  25 years later, my wife and I still walk off and joke "Why the passion?" when someone blitzes with a bunch of questions.



          • Re: Interview questions bombed or big bang

            I was being interviewed for a job driving elderly and disabled people to the shops, or to see their friends. The rather posh elderly woman interviewing me asked me what I had done for the three years after I left University as there was a gap on my employment record. I had left it blank because I thought it wasn't relevant to the job I was applying for (plus I was slightly embarrassed at having been a lowly dustman).


            I replied "I was a dustman" (note for non-British readers - I was a refuse/garbage collector). I expected to be shown the door but instead the woman roared with laughter and said "It's admirable that you did such a socially-useful job that most people wouldn't want to do". After that, she was really friendly to me and I got the job. Since then, I learned to be proud of the fact that I was a dustman for three years.

            • Re: Interview questions bombed or big bang

              It has happened to me once when I went for an HR department job in a company. I got suddenly blank when they ask about what CGP. Even I was aware of the answer but don't know what happened to me at that time. Anyways, experiences either they are good or bad, they always teach us. 

              • Re: Interview questions bombed or big bang

                I remember my last interview where my boss put an org chart in front of me and asked which job I wanted.

                I replied that since I could do every job on the chart including his, where did he need me most.


                After that I ended up with an entire group.



                  • Re: Interview questions bombed or big bang

                    I had a similar experience with a recruiter that came to our electronic college. The interviewers questions was "What do you want to do for us?" In my research I had discovered the company had a teaching branch. The recruiter would have reported to that branch. I responded, "I kinda like your job or maybe a career in teaching."


                    A few weeks later I received a phone call with an offer to follow in the mail. I told my roommate, the company must have been desperate to select me. There were 106 applicants for 6 positions. Or a lot of people turned the job down in order for the list to get to me.

                  • Re: Interview questions bombed or big bang

                    What is worse than blowing a key question in an interview? Not knowing that you blew it is worse....

                    I have had a long engineering career so far (4 decades). During that time I've been job hunting 7 times (including the first time). I only quit once, but jobs still have a way of evaporating. I went for a total of 11 interviews and got 10 job offers. For 5 of the jobs I only went for one interview and took the job offered. My first job was good, but I had been promoted as high as I could go and I wanted to see if I could go higher so I started looking around. My first interview in that process was the one that did not result in a job offer. That interview took place at a giant conference table with 18 scientists and directors asking me rapid fire questions for a couple of hours. I must have flubbed something although I have no idea what. I know the guy who got that job and I should have been able to run circles around him, but he must have had better answers than me.

                    At my next job interview there were only 8 scientists in the room in a similar format, but afterward I knew I had nailed every question. Apparently I learned something from the failure, even though I didn't know what I did wrong.

                    1 of 1 people found this helpful
                    • Re: Interview questions bombed or big bang

                      I don't recall an interview question that I bombed, but i do recall that after I got one job, i was told by a colleague who was on the interview panel that my answer to one particular question separated me from the other candidates and got me the job! It was a question that I didn't even give any thought to; just answered it honestly!


                      There is a key question from my distant past, which I think was very important: In the mid 1960's, I was very keen on HiFi systems, and I built several amps and pre-amps, based around the published Mullard designs. I was also very keen on rock climbing and mountain walking. Both of these interests were known to the person who interviewed me for my place at university.


                      At the end of the interview he said  "If I gave you £200 and told you it could be spent on putting together the best HiFi system, or funding an expedition to, say, the Swiss Alps, what would you choose?" My heart said "HiFi", but my brain said "Expedition". I answered with my head and he smiled and told me he was offering me a place. I believe the smile meant that it was a good answer. I'll never know



                      • Re: Interview questions bombed or big bang

                        I wonder if many organisations do not interview in person unless they're fairly confident they will be hiring (or will find an alternative job if they can).

                        I cannot think of any majorly bombed questions as an interviewee or interviewer.

                        Rarely I've had to interview people, and there was a time when a new engineering centre was being opened in Shanghai, and we had to interview (in pairs) over the phone to decide who to choose for an in-person interview.

                        That was a lot of pressure.. the interviewees were all young kids, it was likely to be their first job after uni. Some tried really hard, but English was a requirement, and I remember one applicant who just repeated the same sentences regardless of what was asked, as if it was being read out : (

                        Also there were lots of awesome engineers, and one (as we found out later) who cried on the phone after being told her interview had gone well. It was only after hiring, we realised how important these first job were, so that some of the kids could send money home to support their families.

                          • Re: Interview questions bombed or big bang

                            I always held to power of an interview panel in high regard. The decision of the panel had the potential to change the course of someone life. I never took that responsibility lightly.

                              • Re: Interview questions bombed or big bang

                                True 'dat.  (do the kids still say that?)


                                I've been doing a lot of interviews in the last year due to always having one or two folks promoting out of the team.  One good trend I've seen is that every single interview candidate with experience was still employed.  They are just looking to leverage up through the Fortune 500.  In turn, I've found that the folks are very genuine and relaxed throughout the day looking for a good fit and growth.  It's a good state we are in right now for engineering at least in the petroleum and chemical industries.


                                Instead of a panel, we do 30 minute one-on-one interviews.  At the end of it, I take them to lunch at our onsite cafe with a couple of guys from the team and then a tour of the refinery.  Feedback has been they much prefer this over the panel grilling.


                                BTW, since we are a very large facility with a broader company to grow in, we have postings for opportunities just about every year for First Line Supervisors, Planners, Fixed Equipment Engineers, Chemical Engineers, and Control Systems Engineer near the St. Louis area.  A little googling and you'll know who I'm talking about. 


                                One attribute I have never seen from engineering applicants is the Maker.  Over my years and multiple sites, its been rare to meet engineers that show their engineering passion with projects outside of work.  I remember two that taught at a community college, but no Maker projects.  That even includes woodworking.  However, many of the craft employees (millwrights, tin shop, electricians, etc) have shown some amazing projects from wood carving of canes to 800 HP engines.  I would love seeing such resumes from engineers as I find people with that constitution often bring great respect for training, documentation, innovation, and long term empassioned improvements.


                                See ya',


                                • Re: Interview questions bombed or big bang

                                  As someone who has hired hundreds of people over the decades, I can say that the process you use helps determine the quality of the people you hire.

                                  As others have identified, I spent a lot of time pouring over resumes and pitched out a lot of people for many reasons, but the biggest reason was how long they stayed with their last employer.

                                  Reason, if they didn't stay long for them, they will probably not stay long with you.

                                  In the Aerospace business, we always invested a lot of effort in keeping people's skills up. If I am going to invest in someone, I want some assurance that they will be around to pay us back for their education.


                                  If you do a good job in the selection process, the interview process gets to be very easy. Primarily you are assessing if someone has the temperament to fit in with your existing staff.

                                  Essentially, I was hiring attitude as I had already assessed if someone had the skills we needed.


                                  So when you go to an interview, I encourage you to be attentive, agreeable, and act properly. Be someone, everyone wants to hire.

                                  There is a time and place to be a social activist. An interview is not one of them.


                                  I remember one lady we interviewed for a secretary position and she spent the first 15 minutes telling us all the things she would not do. Needless to say, she was not hired.


                                  Do research on the company you are interviewing with. The more you understand about what they do, the easier it is for you to provide good answers to the questions and present yourself as someone they want to hire.


                                  Remember, they can hire anyone they want, make sure that someone is you.



                                  2 of 2 people found this helpful
                                    • Re: Interview questions bombed or big bang

                                      I once was hiring for an administrative assistant role.


                                      I asked "How do you characterize yourself under confrontation?"  I was about to ask for an example from her past where she handled such a situation, but then she replied "A loud screamer."


                                      I liked her honesty, but I had to pass. Already had enough of those.



                                • Re: Interview questions bombed or big bang

                                  The one that stands out the most was during my interview for element14, the question was (hopefully) less about right or wrong answers and more about how I answered.


                                  "Star wars or Star trek?"


                                  ... keep your answers to your self, I don't want to start a civil war

                                  • Re: Interview questions bombed or big bang
                                    Christopher Stanton

                                    "Which famous celebrity would you invite to dinner, or admire?"


                                    Is usually a question I really couldn't care less for   I'm sure this's meant to be a character assessment type of question, it's that I don't tend to follow mainstream entertainment media..

                                    • Re: Interview questions bombed or big bang

                                      Most of the responses I see are the Big Bang variety. I have one that, basically, tanked the interview. I won't detail the question, but the problem arose, because my expertise is in operating system design.  The question was a what happens if... The problem with the question was the interviewer wanted to know what would happen based on a particular instruction. My problem was, it created a major problem with re-entrancy and could cause issues with segmentation fault, bad pointers, and leave an orphaned processes, which was how I answered. The problem was, the interviewer was focused on the single thread, and what additional functionality is available before exiting the process.


                                      Looking back, I am kind of glad I didn't get the position, since I would have been mending code and tracking phantoms.

                                      • Re: Interview questions bombed or big bang

                                        I've been reflecting about this questions since I first saw you posted it. It's a bit tricky to know if I bombed an interview because I don't think the interviewer is going to tell me, at least bluntly. Most of the people I've been interviewed by have been polite people and polite people can usually be quiet long enough to complain about your answer to a colleague rather than the person being interviewed. This had never occurred to me until I was experienced enough in my career that I was asked to perform interviews and thusly experienced the shock of receiving, for lack of a better word, really bad answers to some of the questions I was asking. I mean, I've gotten some really bad answers where the person was completely sincere. One example comes to mind where I was interviewing for a hardware development position. In this interview I brought an oscilloscope and a function generator, pretty standard models, and I asked the candidates to hook up the function generator to the oscilloscope, generate a 5 kHz square wave, and display it on the oscilloscope without using the auto-set function. This particular candidate's response was, "that's what technicians are for", and when I explained we were a small company and didn't necessarily have enough work for a full-time technician he still refused to complete the request, all with a smile on his face. Not a smirk or a smug smile either, more of a proud smile, as if he had given the correct answer.


                                        So, after complaining to my colleague after the interview, because I was a polite interviewer, I had to ask myself what kind of bad answers I might also be giving. I'm not sure I've figured out the answer yet.

                                        • Re: Interview questions bombed or big bang

                                          During the same time, I was in 2 interviewing process. It was the second interview of each of the applications and receive these questions:

                                              "Make your implementation of memcpy()" and "What is the output of this fseek(*) expression".


                                          • For the first one, it was 1 of 3 questions of the test in an online editor and a video call with 2 people from the company, checking as I typed. I messed up some pointer casting.
                                          • For the second one, I think it was 1 of ~12. Videocall through Skype with 3 people from the company. I didn't work with files on C before and clearly said "I don't know", it was multiple choice.



                                          • For the first process received an email saying "Thanks for your interest in working with us, but..."
                                          • For the second process, I was contacted for a 3rd interview and then received an offer