Neither an interviewer nor an interviewee be

Phil Castle

I’ve had a lot of blessings to count over my 24-year tenure as editor of the Business Times. Chief among them, of course, the ongoing opportunity to talk to so many remarkable entrepreneurs and tell their success stories.

But here are two more blessings to add to my lengthy list. I haven’t been an interviewee or interviewer — when it comes to decisions involving hiring, I mean.

It’s been decades since I had to wriggle into a suit and tie and sit in a conference room to answer questions about my qualifications. As I recall, my last formal job interview was sometime in the 1990s, when I interviewed for a position with the Capital Press based in Oregon. I got the job and enjoyed working for an agricultural weekly with circulation across four states. Covering cows and plows, we used to joke, although I can’t think of a more complex or important industry.

Here’s the other thing. Despite holding a series of what might be considered management positions at daily and weekly newspapers, I’ve never been responsible for hiring anyone. Ever. That’s always been a task relegated to publishers. Above my pay grade, so to speak.

I’m grateful on both accounts.

My oldest son survived what could only be described as a gauntlet in the coast-to-coast process he endured between the time he received his MBA and landed a job with an investment bank. I remember one holiday visit and the time he spent pouring over the thousands of questions likely to come up in the high stakes interviews so prevalent in the financial sector. Believe it or not, there are books for that.

Nor would I want to sit on the other end of a job interview given what I report about the challenges businesses face in finding qualified applicants for job openings. Members of the National Federation of Independent Businesses answering the latest monthly survey citied it as their single most important problem. Ahead of inflation, by the way.

All of this comes to mind after reading a story about a different part of the interview process — the questions applicants most hate.

How many gas stations — or another type of business — operate in the United States? Where do you see yourself in five years? Then there’s this oldie, but goodie: What’s your biggest weakness?

As I understand it, the point of such questions is not necessarily to discover whether or not an applicant can come up with what’s deemed a correct answer, but reveal how the applicant thinks. Can they demonstrate a calm, methodical approach? Or would they be more like me and panic?

I’ve only endured a handful of job interviews over the course of my career. But I don’t recall facing any of those sorts of questions. Thank goodness.

Pressed to discuss my biggest weakness, I’d have to confess it was answering questions about my biggest weakness.