Answering 25 tough interview questions, part 2

Here are the next five of those 25 tough interview questions that I mentioned last time. With my answers. Again, I encourage you to add your own.


6. “If you were the Head of Barclays Corporate what would your strategy be with the recent European Crisis?” – Asked at Barclays.

Oh dear, this is miserable beginning. I know nothing about finance and next to nothing about economics.

All I could say is that I’d act ethically. I don’t know whether the ethical crisis in the banking industry can possibly be quite as bad as it appears, but it could certainly use a shot of decency. What that would mean in specific terms of investment strategies and suchlike, I couldn’t say.

7. “If your friend was seriously injured and you had to get him to a hospital, would you speed and go through a red light?” – Asked at Barlow Lyde & Gilbert.

Of course I would. Why do traffic lights exist? To prevent accidents; and the goal of that is to preserve life and health. On an occasion where a traffic light would do the opposite, the right thing is to ignore it.

Support for my decision: ambulances do this routinely.

Caveats: obviously this depends on all sorts of factors. I’m assuming the question pertains to a time-dependent injury, such as one that is causing massive loss of blood, or that has resulted in his being unable to breathe, so that time is of the essence. If he’s merely broken an arm or something, then the risk of jumping the red light may well outweigh the benefit of getting him to the hospital more quickly.

8. “Would you rather fight a horse-sized duck or 100 duck sized horses?” – Asked at BHP Billiton.

I know for a fact that a horse-sized duck could tear me to shreds. Ducks are dinosaurs, after all, and even a chicken-sized chicken can do some serious damage.  At various time and places in prehistory, big  birds have been the top predators, the equivalents of lions and tigers. Also, ducks are evil.

So I’d have to take my chances with 100 duck-sized horses. I’m not sure how much damage they could do, given the lack of sharp edges. I’d expect a nasty kicking, but in the end I’d probably be able to take them all out by stamping on them. At any rate, I’d have a better chance than with the evil horse-sized duck.

9. “Tell me about a time when you failed at something.” – Asked at Lloyds Banking Group.

I fail at things all the time. To pick just a few, I was supposed to be learning Scheme but got distracted; I had idea for how to get into space cheaply, but it became apparent that it wouldn’t work; and I wanted to write a novel in 2012, but didn’t find or make the time. Also, for every palaeontology paper that I’ve had published, there’s at least one that either I’ve not finished yet or I’d given up on completely.

I’m cool with that. I fail at a lot of things because I try a lot of things. And because I try a lot of things, I succeed at a lot of things, too. I’d be prepared to bet that if you took a random sample of 100 people, and plotted how often they succeed against how often they fail, you’d get something pretty close to a straight line.

Try more: fail more, and succeed more.

In defence of my failures: I tend not to waste a lot of time and effort on failed projects, but recognise early on that they’re not going to fly. I’m not good at putting them cleanly out of their misery, but I am good at unthinkingly procrastinating on those project until such time as it becomes obvious to me that the project is dead.

10. “What are the three words that your parents would describe you with?” – Asked at YO! Sushi.

Modesty forbids me to tell what two of them are, but the third would probably be “selfish”. For what it’s worth, I’m not sure that would really be fair. Back when I left home for university at 18, it would have been fair; and since I’ve not lived at home again for a significant time since then, some aspects of how my mum sees me are maybe a bit stuck in 1986. I’m not the same man I was then.

Oh, all right, then: the other two words would probably be “curious” and “intelligent”.

Or the three words might be “obsessed”, “by” and “sushi”; but I couldn’t admit that at an interview with Yo Sushi, they’d never believe it.

5 responses to “Answering 25 tough interview questions, part 2

  1. Pingback: Answering 25 tough interview questions, part 3 | The Reinvigorated Programmer

  2. Pingback: Answering 25 tough interview questions, part 4 | The Reinvigorated Programmer

  3. Pingback: Answering 25 tough interview questions, part 5 | The Reinvigorated Programmer


  5. Just for my own benefit, I’m adding this, five years on.

    I wrote in the original article “I fail at a lot of things because I try a lot of things. And because I try a lot of things, I succeed at a lot of things, too”. Today, I saw a tweet with a Michael Jordan quote that says the same thing much better:

    I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.