What They Say: Sorry for making you wait.
What They Mean: Sorry for empowering myself by letting you sweat in the waiting area. I'm sure the receptionist's inane story about her boyfriend's band helped you focus. Have you started to doubt yourself yet? Good.
What They Say: So tell me about yourself.
What They Mean: Despite receiving your resume over a week ago and having it right in front of me I haven't pulled myself away from Facebook and TMZ.com long enough to read it. Can you tell me everything while I zone out for a few minutes?
What They Say: Why this company?
What They Mean: Listen, we're aware it's a recession and you've been out of work for some time. However, we'd still like to believe that we are a unique snowflake among millions of identical raindrops and, much like a Jonas Brother on his wedding night, you've been saving yourself for us. Hence, I'd like you to spend about five minutes or so blowing smoke up my ass with some information about our company you got from Google Alerts and the press page on our web site or, if you are truly motivated, our 10-K statement.
What They Say: What are some of your weaknesses?
What They Mean: Let's see how much your MBA program prepared you to answer some rote interview questions. If you don't say "delegation" or "I work too much" I will lose a bet and have to eat a whole quail.
What They Say: Why did you leave your last job?
What They Mean: If we actually go through the effort of checking your references are we going to find out you brought a hooker in on Casual Friday or were caught peeing in the espresso machine?
What They Say: What is your management style?
What They Mean: I'm trying to figure out if you are going to be someone I can boss around; the least obvious way to do that is to flip the question around. It's a style of questioning I learned from graduate school. Or CSI: Miami, I forget. Man, David Caruso has had a hell of a roller coaster career. On the flip side, I'm happy to see Khandi Alexander get steady work; I've loved her since NewsRadio. I miss Phil Hartman [sigh].
What They Say: Where do you see yourself in five years?
What They Mean: I'm looking for someone with mediocre dreams who's not willing to shoot too high or try to take my job. Can you tell me in the vaguest terms possible if you are that type of person?
What They Say: Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team?
What They Mean: I need to zone out again so I'm going to toss you this softball. If you say you prefer one or the other I'm going to get up without a word, walk out that door and promptly eat another quail.
What They Say: How many piano tuners are there in New York City?
What They Mean: This interview is running a little short and it's also kind of boring, let's spice it up by asking you a seemingly arbitrary case question. Either you over-prepared for something like this, in which case we will learn nothing about you except how good your grad school is at preparing you for case questions (and how many piano tuners there are in New York City). Or you didn't prepare at all and I get to watch you stumble and sweat for 10 minutes (3 of which you will spend trying to guess how many people even live in NYC) and will now how a good story for the awkward Happy Hour we do once a month at the pub around the corner.
What They Say: We are looking for somebody who can hit the ground running.
What They Mean: The last guy caught us off guard when he left unexpectedly and nobody here knows how to access his Excel files or where he keeps the advertising proofs. We're hoping we can blame you for all that ASAP.
What They Say: Do you have any questions for me?
What They Mean: Last chance to redeem yourself for that stupid fucking answer earlier. I mean seriously, who says their biggest weaknesses are parallel parking and Asian strippers?
What They Say: We will be in touch soon.
What They Mean: I plan on being unavailable to you for the next two weeks after which one of the company bots which send you a form rejection letter. Thank you for making me look like I do something during the day.
Unemployment Success Stories
6 years ago