Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Of Advisers and Interviews

I have an interview this afternoon.  It's nothing big, and I don't have my hopes very high about it, but it's my first real-person interview since college. 

Sure, I've had other interviews since then, but they've mostly been those all-commission jobs where the company you work for has absolutely no incentive to keep you around and so they hire everyone who applies.  If you drop out, oh well, some other poor sap will come and be their warm body to fill their "entrepreneurial role".  In this setting the word "entrepreneurial" is just a euphemism for "hey, why don't you work your ass off setting yourself up, and we'll just take a slice of your pay?"

This is how most financial adviser companies operate.  (I say most because there are some legitimate ones out there).  Another word about financial advisers: please, please, please, never ever use them.  You can learn enough over the weekend to make what they do completely obsolete, and they take a huge chunk of your money (your RETIREMENT money) to offer you products that are handed down to them by their parent company.  This chunk can be anywhere from 0.5% to 2%, and when you start to get a crap-load of money in your account, 0.5% to 2% is a LOT of your hard-earned retirement dough.  In addition, Most financial advisers are paid to sell you generic crap that their parent company is getting on discount, and they're getting a significant commission to peddle to unsuspecting people who think investing is too complicated.  It's pretty much the definition of conflict of interest. 

Moving on, my wife was prepping me this morning on our way to work.  A significant portion of her job recently has been interviewing candidates, and so she's become pretty adept at asking interviewing questions.

So she started hammering me with these ridiculous questions to "prep" me for the interview.  "Tell me about yourself". "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?".  "Tell me about a time when you handled yourself under stress".  "What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?"

And every time I started talking, she corrected me, saying "Don't say that, you'll sound like a total douchebag idiot with tiny deer poop pebbles fermenting in your skull from which the methane produced by the feces is slowly condensing and forming thoughts for you".  Thank you, my love - you're so kind.

Who came up with these insane questions to ask?  There's no way these questions can really form a good impression of a candidate that will perform well in an analytical role.  Most people who are good at math/science/analysis are terrible social people.  Why can't the interview process be more like a test, where they sit you down with a long list of math, science, and finance problems increasing difficulty and let the best score win?  Maybe some geography thrown in there just for good measure.  Because damn, I like geography.

I expressed this to my wife, who said, "See?  you should have stuck through with your engineering major if you didn't want to talk to people and instead answer math/science problems all day". 

Thanks again, my love - I really love it when you answer one of my problems with telling me about all my other problems.


  1. Never use financial advisors? I heartily disagree. While there are some crap companies out there, I absolutely cannot agree with your complete write-off of the profession. Clearly, you have not spoken with the right person.

  2. If you're interviewing for a true technical position, such as programming, engineering, etc, they do ask you real questions such as, how would you solve a specific programming problem. I've been asked for the definition of left joins versus inner joins in databases, etc. However, for most business positions, you don't need skills as much as the manager needs to see that you'll fit in with the team and not create more headaches for him. There's a reason the position is open, and these questions serve to create a complete picture of you over several hours. Is it fair? No. But, c'est la vie. And listen to your wife. She is a good example of a tough interviewer. If you impress her, you'll impress anyone you meet.

    Good luck! (Ne puha ne pera)

  3. Hope it went well!

    I hope when they asked what your biggest weakness is you said "my lack of an engineering degree so I'd never have to speak to you"

  4. Good luck with your interview. I almost always solicited interviews with a couple of firms that I had no interest in working for just for the practice. The "touchy/feely" questions get to be pretty automatic since I was looking for work as a marketing manager. Still, you do get comfortable eventually with your answers. (Biggest weakness? Oh, that would be that I am too much of a perfectionist. Uh huh.)

    My husband is a computer scientist and writes programs. He gets very few of those weirdo questions in an interview. I do think the attempt is to find people who will work well with a team.

  5. I've always seen the interview as a "how well will you fit in" step . . . except the one time that I found someone lying on a resume to get the interview . . . she was nice, but didn't know anything, technically.

    African or European swallow?


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