Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Interview Preparation

Many typical job interview questions ask you to give examples of a work situation where you demonstrated certain talents. I have in mind one main situation that demonstrated almost all of my skills, and I want to write about it here so as to figure out how best to summarize the most important points.

This past December, I was asked to lead a team of three people, including myself, in creating a set of standardized tests in only one week. No one had ever created a set of these tests in less than two weeks before. It usually took at least three weeks, and we usually had teams of four or five people to do it. My boss understood that doing it in only one week would be next to impossible, but management said the deadline couldn't be extended. All three of us on the team worked almost 80 hours each that week.

My boss said I could skip all the usual steps in which I would have reviewed the other team members' work. However, I knew that there were certain types of test questions in our computer system that tended to contain more errors than others, and I wasn't comfortable leaving those types of questions unreviewed. So I told my team members I would review only those types of questions, while they could spend more of their time checking their own work on the other types of questions. This meant that I was volunteering to work even longer hours than I had to, for no money. I received the same salary regardless of how many hours I worked.

I found several dozen bad test questions in my review. My boss questioned whether the problems I had found were bad enough to merit spending time fixing them, so I sent her copies of the problems. She was horrified at how bad the problems were, and she approved replacing every single test question that I had recommended replacing. So we replaced them. We succeeded at meeting the one-week deadline, and the tests were of higher quality than they would have been if I hadn't taken it upon myself to review those questions.

This example illustrates:
  • my dedication to my work (volunteering for no money and meeting an almost impossible deadline)
  • my prioritization skills (deciding which types of questions most needed to be reviewed
  • my persuasion skills (showing my boss that the problems I had found were worse than she had expected)
  • my ability to handle failure (having to accept the fact that I couldn't possibly review all the test questions)
It probably illustrates some other things I haven't thought of, too. It's a good answer for the vast majority of "Give me an example of . . ." interview questions. But it's a bit lengthy. I think I could leave out the part about my boss questioning whether the problems were worth fixing, if the specific interview questions I'm asked don't relate to having to persuade anyone to change their mind. But I don't think I can leave much else out.
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