Year: 2017

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Interview Questions You May Not Expect

Interview Questions You May Not Expect

If you’re looking for some conversation fodder for tonight’s dinner date, take a look at these alternately nebulous and exacting questions culled from real-life job interviews across several industries. While it makes sense for a Data Scientist to test your ability to estimate numbers on sight, I would personally find it more intimidating (but interesting) to answer a Brand Manager’s query as to what brand best represents me as a person. Deep stuff, no?

Courtesy of Microsoft Money

Here are 27 of the toughest job interview questions reported by Glassdoor users during the past year.

  1. “How do you explain a vending machine to someone who hasn’t seen or used one before?” – Global data analyst at Bloomberg
  2. “How many fire hydrants are there in Los Angeles County?” – Software engineer at Disney Interactive Studios
  3. “If your current employer had an anniversary party for you, what five words would be written on the cake to describe you?” – District manager at Express
  4. “Who in history would you want to go to dinner with and why?” – Flight attendant, at PSA Airlines
  5. “Prove that hoop stress is twice the longitudinal stress in a cylindrical pressure vessel.” – Test operations engineer at SpaceX
  6. “What’s the capital of Canada?” – Team leader at OpticsPlanet
  7. “Name a brand that represents you as a person.” – Brand strategist at Twitter
  8. “Estimate how many employees are in the next building” – Data scientist at Risk Management Solutions
  9. “How many happy birthday posts do you think Facebook gets in one day?” – Sales operations at Facebook
  10. “If you could take anyone on a road trip with you, who would you take and why?” – Educator at lululemon
  11. “What’s the first thing you’d print with a 3D printer if you had one?” – Linux systems administrator at Rackspace
  12. “If you had to take only one item to a deserted island, what would that be?” – Customer service specialist at Squarespace
  13. “Please describe an instance where you had to make a decision without all of the necessary information.” – Analytics at athenahealth
  14. “How do you reverse a text string on the Unix command line?” – Developer at Capital One
  15. “If you’re in a boat with a boulder and you drop that boulder into the lake, how does the water level before and after you drop the boulder in the lake compare?” – Mechanical design engineer at Apple
  16. “You have been asked to lead a multi-million dollar, multiyear grant that will be supported across several companies and universities. How do you start?” – Research scientist at Ford Motor Company
  17. Sell me on one idea, and then sell me on the opposite of that idea.” – Solarwinds administrator at Blizzard Entertainment
  18. “How would you go about finding the top five Java developers in a certain area.” – Technical recruiter at Google
  19. “What’s the probability of an integer from 1 to 60,000 not having the digit 6?” – Quantitative developer at AKUNA CAPITAL 20. “If you were a Muppet, which character would you be?” – Donor family advocate at LifeNet Health
  20. “Give me 48 cents using six coins. Tell me quantity and value of the six coins.” – Human resource manager at Wintec
  21. “Write an equation to optimize the marketing spend between Facebook and Twitter campaigns.” – Analyst (data science) at Uber
  22. “What is the angle at 3:15?” – Implementation consultant at Fast Enterprises
  23. “What part of the newspaper do you read first? What does this say about you?” – Audit at BDO USA
  24. “If a co-worker had an annoying habit, and it hindered your quality of work, how would you resolve it?” – Production technician at Procter & Gamble
  25. “Throw your resume aside and tell me what makes you you.” – Sales executive at Zillow
  26. “How would you find the square root of 1.2?” – Hardware engineer at Jump Trading
7 Tips for Creating Your Best LinkedIn Profile

7 Tips for Creating Your Best LinkedIn Profile

As recruiters, we spend a lot of time on LinkedIn. The platform makes it easy to find potential candidates by searching for people with specific skill sets within a designated area, and it’s a tool on which we rely for providing the most up-to-date info on candidate’s current jobs and locations. While LinkedIn’s profile creator coaches new users on how to fill in each section of their profile, it can be helpful to know how to optimize your profile so you can get found and get connected with those who will boost your career. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite tips on curating a LinkedIn profile that will best serve you throughout your career.

1. Add a Profile Picture

According to stats published on, LinkedIn profiles with pictures get a 40% InMail response rate, and are 11 times more likely to be viewed in the first place. Most people do have pictures on their profiles, as we all tend to have multiple online profiles. But should you use the same profile picture that you use for Facebook or Instagram? Well, hopefully you could, if that picture is a clear picture of your face, without other people or a distracting background, but you might want to use a different photo anyway. A headshot is best, and make sure your face isn’t covered by a hat or sunglasses. I have a personal bias against car-selfies, as they look a bit unprofessional.

2. Include Contact Info

Yes, you can send and receive messages through LinkedIn, but with only 40% of users checking the site every day, you might not see an important message until a few days later. Furthermore, as it costs money to send InMails, some would-be senders are turned away when the only way to contact you is by InMail. To ensure that you are reachable, add an email address you check regularly to your profile, and be sure check your LinkedIn inbox at least a couple of times throughout the week.

3. Add skills

Listing your skills makes your profile 13 times more likely to be viewed. Other users can endure you for the skills you post, and with over 10 million endorsements awarded each day across the platform, the numbers can really start to add up. Of course, keep an eye on what people endorse you for, because in addition to the skills you add yourself, the site will sometimes suggest to your contacts that they should endorse you for a skill you haven’t actually mentioned, and if they do, it shows up on your profile along with the other legitimate skills. So, if someone graciously endorses you for Java programming, but you have no experience as a programmer, just delete the skill—they won’t know, I promise.

4. Populate Those Fields

LinkedIn gives you a ton of sections to fill in, and while of course you don’t have to fill in everything (if you’ve worked in the States your whole life, I don’t need to see that you have a “Native” proficiency in the English language), you should fill in everything that is relevant to you. If you have a degree, fill in that education section. If you do Volunteer work, list it. If you moderate a website on travel deals in your spare time, list that too. This kind of information makes your profile more searchable, more likely to be viewed, and more likely to inspire responsiveness in your network when you reach out for connections, endorsements or referrals.

5. Use Keywords

If you don’t write a summary of yourself, at least write a brief summary of your responsibilities at all of your employers. A bare-bones profile with only companies and job titles can be hard for others to find. More written content on your profile is also a way for others to see how you write, which can add a little personality and credibility to your profile.

6. Connect with People

A healthy connections list of at least 50 contacts makes you look good, plain and simple. The more connections you have, the more people will want to connect with you, because you likely add value to your network through active engagement, whether by endorsing others for their skills, facilitating networking opportunities by being responsive to messages, or by sharing informative content. The larger your network, the more value you’ll get out of LinkedIn.

7. Export Your LinkedIn Connections

This helpful tip comes from You can download your connections to create a file on your computer containing your contacts’ first and last names, email addresses, job titles, and companies. This provides a backup in case you ever lose these contacts.  It takes a while to build your LinkedIn network, so a little added security is a huge time-saver.

Click Connections, then Settings, and on the next page, under Advanced Settings, you’ll see a link to export your LinkedIn connections as a .CSV file.

LinkedIn is an important tool for businesses, and keeping your profile updated and active is a great reflection on you as a professional in this age of social media. Spend some time reviewing your profile and interacting with your connections, and reap the rewards.

Interview Preperation

Interview Preperation

Happy Friday, Career Talk!

Our CEO, Jill Herrin,  recently shared an article on twitter that is pretty informative.

This student  has offers her 7 tips for nailing interviews. Jessica is a  Computer Science major at Harvard, and was offered internships across a wide breadth of industries, from finance to IT to trading.

What I find most interesting about her interview prep strategy is just that–the strategy of it. It does’t matter who the interview is with or what position it’s for–there are ways to successfully prepare and interview for any job.

The takeaway here is that interviewing is a skill unto itself, and creating your own processes for each step, from preparation to reflection, will help you present your best self in every situation.

Take a look! Also take a peek at Jessica’s blog, The Optimize Guide for more helpful advice on internship and college applications for high school and college students.

9 Questions Recruiters Ask

9 Questions Recruiters Ask

So, now that your fabulous new resume is out there, people are starting to notice. You should of course use it to apply to those jobs which are posted on company websites, but you should also post it on sites like CareerBuilder, Indeed, etc. These popular job sites not only function as a one-stop shop for applying to multiple positions with different companies, but they also serve as an ever-updating pool of active candidates for recruiters.

Why do companies hire third-party staffing agencies in the first place? Doesn’t the in-house Human Resources team take care of reviewing applications and conducting interviews? Sourcing talent, screening potential candidates, facilitating full interviews, and negotiating offers takes a huge amount of time and focus. The HR teams of large companies have people dedicated to doing this work, while smaller companies may not have an HR team at all. In either case, recruiters help find the best candidates out of the hundreds of resumes which may be submitted for a job, or they search extensively for talent to fill those jobs which require highly specialized skill sets.

Furthermore, recruiters are valuable to the companies who hire them because they establish working relationships with candidates. When a company needs new employees, they can call on a recruiting agency to tap into their network of talent. Recruiters are also valuable to you as a job-seeker; an employer who doesn’t hire you probably isn’t going to follow up with you throughout your career, or refer you to other positions, but a recruiter will.

When I come across a great-looking resume, my next step is to pick up the phone. There are things that even the most specific resumes can’t capture about a person, and speaking to you is the only real way to get a sense of those not-so-quantifiable traits that make you you. The following are the questions my team and I ask our new candidates.

  1. Please walk me through your resume and tell me a little about yourself.

    The purpose of this question is two-fold: I want to hear how you talk about yourself, and I want to hear how you handle open-ended questions. I don’t need your life’s story, but I also hope you expound beyond a sound-bite. Your decision-making process is my main focus here: what prompted you to take the steps you did?

  2. What are your main strengths and career interests?

    Good recruiters want to establish a relationship with their candidates, which means getting to know them beyond the requirements of a particular position. While you may be perfectly capable of fulfilling the duties of the job we’re discussing initially, you may also be a great fit for something else on my docket. You and I both want you to get a job, of course, but we also want you to like it.

  3. What potentially puts you in the job market right now?

    Maybe you’re looking to relocate to a new city, or move back closer to family. Maybe you’re being proactive because your current employer is downsizing, or maybe you’re just ready for that next step up the ladder. This is still interesting to us even when you’re only passively searching for something new; if we know what the key aspect is which will inspire you to make a move—you’ll be on our short-list when that perfect position arises.

  4. In terms of salary, rate and geography where would you like to be?

    The more we understand your goals, the better. There’s also the practical considerations that come into play here—maybe the school districts are important to your family, or maybe your SO has an awesome job and wouldn’t want to move—these things will come up in greater detail as we move through the interview process, but it’s never too early to make note of anything that will influence your decision whether to accept a position.

  5. What is your current base salary?

    Some people balk at the money question—I understand, it’s a personal thing. However, it is a standard screening question because it’s usually a pretty good indicator of of skill level and experience. For instance, if you make a $50,000 salary at your current position, it’s unlikely you will be considered for an $90,000 position. The reverse is also true: if you make $90,000 now, hiring officials will want to know why you’d accept a $50,000 job.

  6. Do you get any additional bonuses or incentives on top of that?

    Maybe your current position has a great base salary but no bonus, while the position for which you applied has a lower base but an awesome bonus and stock options. These details come into play when it’s time to negotiate an offer.

  7. What is/was your hourly rate (if contractor) and do you work on w2 or corp-to corp?

    Taxes, baby. This article from Biztalktaxes gets into the weeds on this topic. Basically, working on a W2 means that you work as an employee of ours—the company who hired us pays us, and we pay you. Corp-to-corp means that the company to which you are providing your services—your client— pays your business, meaning you own either an LLC, a corporation, or an S corporation. If you’re a contractor, make this choice by weighing the pros and cons of each and decide what suits your financial needs best.

  8. Where are you right now in terms of your search and do you have any interviews or offers pending?

    This is mostly to ensure we avoid any conflicts of interest; if you’ve directly applied to the job we are discussing, I can’t represent you. Additionally, if a company is slow to respond after they interview you, we can motivate their decision-making by mentioning that you have other offers to consider if that’s the case.

  9. Do you have any questions?

    I’ll tell you what I can about the work environment, the company culture, the company size, how long they’re been around, etc. Some details are confidential at this stage however, the big one being the actual name of the company. I’ll tell you that when they ask to interview you. The biggest reason is to keep our relationship intact—I want to be able to vouch for you, and again, we can’t do that for those who apply directly to the company.

This initial conversation is designed to help us not only understand what you would offer your potential new employers, but also your goals and expectations; it’s more about you than it is about our client. Once we wrap up our preliminary discussion, I get to work crafting an introduction of you to our client, which along with your resume will prompt the next step: the job interview.