According to George Bradt, a management executive who blogs about business leadership for Forbes magazine, there are only three "true" job-interview questions: "Can you do the job? Will you love the job? And can we tolerate working with you?"
"Every question you've ever posed to others or had asked of you in a job interview is a subset of a deeper in-depth follow-up to one of these three key questions," Bradt says.
We tested Bradt's theory against questions posed by potential employers. When looking for a senior technical manager, for example, Amazon is believed to have asked candidates: "How would you fix the US economy?" This would appear out of place in an interview for a sales assistant at Waterstones. But since Amazon's revenue is greater than the GDP of Kenya, in this case it is nearly synonymous with "can you do the job". The accounting firm Ernst & Young reportedly asked tax-analyst candidates: "Does life fascinate you?" This is merely an inverted way of asking: "Will you love the job?" As in, "does life fascinate you? Then you're probably unsuited to tax analysis".
And Citigroup supposedly asks prospects: "What is your strategy at table tennis?" That translates to "do you play table tennis? Because if you want to work at Citigroup, you better bring your A-game", which translates to: "Can we tolerate working with you?"
There appear to be exceptions. Google used to ask job candidates to "design an evacuation plan for San Francisco", which doesn't appear to correspond to Bradt's questions. Perhaps that's why it was recently banned from use in interviews by the company's senior management, along with: "How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?" (Answer: about 500,000.)
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