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What not to say in a job interview

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What not to say in a job interview

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I’ve interviewed a few people for jobs at Monash University, and there’s always someone who comes out with something surprising. Here are some real examples.

For a post-doctoral research position:

  • Q: What would you say were your major weaknesses?
  • A: I don’t have any.
  • Q: Really? You can’t think of anything that you could work on, new skills you could develop, anything at all that you might be able to improve?
  • A: No, I don’t think so.

From the same interview:

  • Q: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
  • A: I think I’ll win a Clay prize.

For a statistical consultant position:

  • Q: Suppose you have a client who is measuring some characteristic of people. She wants to know if there are any real differences between the measurements from people in Group A and those from people in Group B. What sort of data analysis or statistical models or tests would you use?
  • A: I know what you want me to say, but what I’d actually do is persuade them to use the method in my latest paper published in xxxx.

For a post-doctoral research position on a project using Bayesian analysis:

  • Q: Suppose you try out these Bayesian ideas and it is not working out the way you expect. Then your supervisor suggests you try a non-Bayesian method that might work. What would you do?
  • A: I wouldn’t do it.
  • Q: But if your supervisor asked you to do it, using a method you have no experience with, what would you do?
  • A: I would just say no.

I didn’t make any of this up. I appreciate the honesty of these people, but if you are in a job interview, please think about what the employer might be looking for.

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