To Expostulate

Every interviewer is looking for the same thing, which is a universal generalization that’s not one-hundred percent accurate. It is what they aren’t looking for in the interview that is always true. Interviewers aren’t looking for people who will cause them headaches and problems. If you have a tendency to show up late, or not at all, and ignore calling in with updates, they aren’t looking for you. I have worked for companies that allowed employees to skip work without any notice, something I would never so much as try. One of the more fascinating aspects was that when they allowed the employees to skip work and not call in, they did it more often as time progressed, kind of like psychological reinforcement that it was acceptable to skip work without notice, because doing it never had negative consequences. It might have been because the bosses never had to make up the slack for the missing employees, to do the work of the missing person.


I could have made this essay an extensive list of the juicy rationalizations and polite means of rejection, but my efforts are better spent elsewhere.  There’s always: “We’ve decided to move ahead with another candidate”…”After careful consideration”…”Your background is”…”The position has been filled”…”We have selected another applicant”…Where I am sure that all of the credentials that I have, all of the experience, as well as the hard-won credentials dissolve into the shade when compared to some other candidate.


Rather recently the other candidate shared a surname with someone already in the organization, but I’m sure that was a coincidence. I keep seeing that same coincidence, as they (those that make decisions) keep explaining to me in those rejection emails “We’ve decided to move ahead with another candidate,” especially when said candidate has a familiar name. These coincidences keep occurring, and yet the detectives tell me they do not believe in coincidences. It becomes one of those “who do you believe?”


It seems, and I have stated this on other occasions, that my professional credential was something that, if I had it in the past I would have been hired, but now, after the time and effort to obtain the credential, it really doesn’t mean that much. It’s funny how “if you just had this” changes when you get whatever is “this” to which they were referring. When you don’t have it, it is invaluable, and when you have it, it suddenly becomes meaningless. What was meaningless all along was you, but they would never tell you that.


I won’t go too far into the philosophical significance of writing hundreds of research studies, or the improvements that those efforts have made in my perspective and insight in literacy, business and reality. I think “lifelong learner” is such a cliché that when a decision-maker actually encounters one, they are dumbfounded. People who write twenty and thirty page research documents and twenty page annotated bibliographies in their spare time make the term “lifelong learner” look like someone who does a crossword puzzle on Sundays and thinks they’re really straining their minds. For the record, I like quizzes, but I hate crossword puzzles.


The most amaroidal part of having studied so intensely is the perspective that makes me look askance at some of the people making decisions. In this vast information society, you might not be able to find out how they got there, but their credentials, or lack of them, are an easy search. While some are truly impressive, some make me wonder who they knew to get where they are, and make me even more curious as to who would be interested in hiring someone without significant academic credentials, especially when they insist that you have them. Reminds me of people whose resentment was thinly veiled when they told me they weren’t impressed. They might not have been impressed, but they seemed frightened.


During the interview you asked what you thought were good questions, like when you would be evaluated and what you had to do to get a perfect score on your evaluation. You mentioned in the area of evaluation how recent research shows fundamental attribution error has a part in evaluations. (Few people are familiar with fundamental attribution error, but it plays an important role in evaluations, as noted in the Harvard Business Review.) You gave some great background research on their parent company, including the stock target price and the P/E Ratio among other things obtained through Yahoo Finance.


The HR people keep insisting that they can’t find good people. They certainly aren’t interested in training anyone, that’s for sure. “This business is well ended. My liege and madam, to expostulate, what majesty should be, what duty is, why day is day, night night, and time is time, were nothing but to waste night, day, and time. Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief: your noble son is mad.” Polonius, Hamlet, Act Two Scene Two


Leroy Added Nov 11, 2017 - 8:13am
Don't really know what you are trying to say; life is not fair?  If so, then I agree.  Let's face it; no one wants to hire old vapors like us.  No use complaining about it. 
But, I do disagree about training.  Maybe they don't want to spend money training someone that won't be around long, but most do provide training today.  They have to.   The common refrain from millennials is, "I'm not trained to do that" when you ask them to do something.  My former company spent a lot of time and money on training.  I have to admit that 95%  of it was useless, but it makes the millennials feel better about it.  Quite literally we went through weeks of training all total including playing a breakout game at a business that specializes in it on to teach us how to express how we do our job, which is only an illusion that we have any control over it.  It was like writing case statements for every little thing that we do.
I grew up in a corporate culture where you always arrived at work at a certain time and didn't leave before a certain time no matter how late your might have worked the day before.  If your flight home arrived at 4 pm, you went to work to finish out the day.  That has changed today.  There was one millennial that would stroll in around 10:30 in the morning and to make up for it, he would leave about 3 in the afternoon.  His reasoning was that when he had to work long hours he did; when he didn't, he didn't.  It was his way of compensating for working overtime. 
I was a little shocked when I returned to work in the US.  I arrived at work around 07:30 (I preferred to avoid traffic).  The nominal start time was 8.  The next person after me didn't arrive until 08:30.  I thought that I was in the wrong place.  Most weren't there until about 09:30.  And this included the old vapors like me.  The millennials have changed the expectations and, for the most part, for the better.  We now have a better work/life balance.  We have to adapt.  No use complaining.
George N Romey Added Nov 11, 2017 - 8:37am
Jeff in an attempt to cut costs there is very little in the way of human or resources in Human Resources. This is especially true in the interviewing process. Most companies want cheap already trained employees even if it means more turnover. Unless you are lucky enough to have specialized in demand skills you will be treated like a beggar.
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 11, 2017 - 12:05pm
I'm with you, George. They way overpay certain talents and crush everyone else.
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 11, 2017 - 12:07pm
Thanks for the comment Leroy. Mostly, I see people promoting their own under the guise of being professionals and making objective decisions that are the best for the organization, or, so they are attempting to prove. Their position is indefensible.
Leroy Added Nov 11, 2017 - 2:49pm
Jeff, there are three kinds of employees.  Those that want to climb the corporate ladder; those that just want to do their time and go home; and those that want to accomplish something.  Those who climb the corporate ladder shamelessly promote themselves, even if it is at the expense of others.  They are the first to raise their hands to ask questions or to volunteer to take on a task.   They volunteer for everything that puts them in the spotlight.  They take the corporate BS seriously.  They make me want to puke.
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 11, 2017 - 3:30pm
Yes, Leroy, I love the ones that, if they can't take all of the credit for someone else's successful work, they will still try to weasel in some part of the successful operation so they can take credit. I love those types. Watch out, because behind your back they'll claim they did 99% of the work.
Like you, I find people who wander into work hours past the normal starting point very annoying, especially when I had a question to ask them or I need their input to continue with a project. They have little sense of urgency. I see a lot of things get put off, again, something that I am not familiar with and I must say I do not find favorable.
TexasLynn Added Nov 11, 2017 - 9:51pm
Good post… it reminded me of the younger corporate days and made me appreciate those days are behind me (God willing).
I did that corporate rat-race crap for 20 years… talk about a slow learner.  About 8 years ago, I had an epiphany and said, “To hell with it”.  Training the Indian who would be doing my job might have had something to do with it.  (nothing against the Indian… really nice guy).
I sold my house (in Houston) took a few months off fishing and camping on a river and then found a job in a small town for a small business (making about half the money).  I am lucky that I work in IT (Information Tech) and my jack-of-all-trades approach made me a good fit for IT Manager, Department, and lackey.
BUT the environment of working for a small company is night and day to corporate life.  The owner of the company knows the name of every person who works for him (about 40 of us).  You know he genuinely cares.  There’s no politics, or politically correct bullshit, or corporate ladder to climb.  Training?  You need it you get it but it’s your responsibility to identify what you need. 
My living expenses are next to nothing.  My commute is about 15 minutes (at 70 mph most of the way).  I look out my office window and see pine trees and squirrels.  I get up each weekday morning and smile, because I get to go to work. :)
Houston… I miss your diversity of ethnic food and many of the friends I left behind; but as for the traffic, nut jobs, leftist city government, and soulless corporate culture.  Good riddance…
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 11, 2017 - 10:03pm
Thank you for your comment Lynn, and I am genuinely happy that you have found a place where you can make a living and not deal with all the trials and tribulations that permeate the workplace. Some of the smaller firms are not fun, as they, from my experience, might have certain people who everyone knows are difficult to work with and nothing is done about it for reasons that are obvious. Yes, I have seen small firms where everyone is a member of the team and everyone works together. One of the small companies I worked for had a very serious policy of not leaving piles of crap for other people, and they took that philosophy quite seriously, so it was pretty nice to work there. It's when people don't want to pull their weight that companies, large and small, become bad places to work. Of course, that is a generalization, but that is one of the greater influences.
There can also be a "no a**hole rule" where you weed the a**holes out, and make it a nice place for everyone to work. I wish more people would read that book, "The No A**hole Rule." Thanks again.
wsucram15 Added Nov 11, 2017 - 11:20pm
When we staffed new people (except for the office), we used trained temps.  We were lucky only one or two of them did not work out and we usually hired them. 
As far as training for moving up or other various positions, I was the champ, but also in HR. I learned every department in the company and could stand in if there was an emergency.  I  stood in for quality control lab at least 5 or 6 times a year, as did my assistant.
So training people to a different department was not a big deal...but only for long term employees and usually done by the supervisor in that department.  We had very little turn over.
But in looking for people you have to look for what the supervisors want, and most of the time, its unreasonable for what they want to pay.   The thing I always looked for was a worker, easy to spot.  
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 12, 2017 - 5:05am
Thanks for the comment, wsu. I am a big believer in cross-training, where the personnel in one department have a fair understanding of how other departments work, so that they can help, or at least not hinder the operation of the other department. Customer demands and legal responsibilities can impact the way things are done, and when other departments understand those reasons, things tend to go smoother. I will admit, however, there were a lot of employees who really didn't care to know anything about the other departments, probably because they didn't want to be called upon to fill-in if someone was absent.
Leroy Added Nov 12, 2017 - 9:40am
Lynn, I started out the opposite way.  My first major job out of college was with a small, local firm.  It was a lot of fun.  The guy I worked for could best be described as a nerd, but he was one of the most incredible guys I have ever known. 
Three things made up my mind to leave.  The company did well during the economic downturn, but it eventually caught up with the company.  Without telling me, they decided Leroy was healthy, so they could cut his insurance to save money.  Soon after I made an emergency visit to the hospital.  Strike one.  The owners were independently wealthy and did pay for it.  The second issue was that they continually argued with the business manager over his lifestyle.  He was a very decent guy.  I said to myself, if they force him out, I am leaving too.  The issue?  While waiting for his divorce to finalize, he was living with the woman who he was engaged to marry.  That was a sin in their book.  After that, I started looking.  I was offered a 25% raise by a multi-national company.  I took it.  Small companies can have their disadvantages.
I had a good run.  I traveled the world.  I accomplished many things that I could have never done in a small company.  But, in the end, it caught up with me.  It is possible for a company to go stupid and stupid it did.  Paperwork became more important than getting the job done.  I don't miss it.  I do miss the people with whom I worked.
George N Romey Added Nov 12, 2017 - 10:11am
My experience with small companies has been mixed. Often they are run by fairly clueless psychopaths. I’d had one women tell me I was lying when I said I’ve driven on the left side of the Road before in Australia and Thailand. She said it was a lie, they drive on the right side. Of course she had never been to either place. I’d didn’t argue with the nutcase,
Leroy Added Nov 12, 2017 - 10:16am
George, the wife of the owner of the small company where I first worked for was a psychologist.  She was nuttier than a fruitcake.
Eileen de Bruin Added Nov 12, 2017 - 11:14am
Jeff, some of these comments have made me laugh, especially about the nutty people!  
It occurs to me that perhaps, just perhaps, if you come across to your interviewers as so completely in touch with everything, so well informed and educated and trained, perhaps you might scare them because you would show them up, or even threaten their own position.
It is a fact and I have seen it many times over the are not necessarily taken on because you are the best candidate, but because you might be the worst.
A friend of mine went for a job for which she was so perfectly qualified, given her past experience, that her agency said that it would be a doddle, as the second person they were sending to be interviewed had no where near the capabilities that she had.  This position was with a smallish company and it would involve also being front of house and working closely with the owner, designer. My friend was creative and would be able to demonstrate how she could help increase turnover.
Now, the owner designer was a man and he and his wife interviewed the candidates.
My friend didn’t get the job. The agency was so surprised about this but then my friend saw the photograph of the second candidate.  That is to say that her friend at the agency showed her the photograph and said to my friend that whilst she was perfect for that job, that is exactly what the wife might not like about her...
She was a plain Jane friend is a very attractive woman and she is a widow. Don’t forget that the wife was part of the interview panel.  Now, draw your own conclusions! 
Leroy Added Nov 12, 2017 - 12:38pm
Eileen, I can relate.  My mother played a role in the hiring of secretaries for my father.  The longest-serving one was nicknamed "Tiny."  Her nickname was a misnomer.  She was quite the ubiquitous woman.  She wasn't the most highly skilled candidate.
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 12, 2017 - 12:43pm
Eileen, thanks for the comment and thanks for confirming my suspicions. But now what do I do, play dumb?
Eileen de Bruin Added Nov 13, 2017 - 3:32am
Leroy, yes, absolutely!  We surely have all noticed this kind of thing. Of course I love your Mum’s “management”,!
Jeff, yes.  The key or the art of getting into an organisation is to read your interviewer and panel.  Feel your way.  Play to,their needs, and say what is needed to hit their yes buttons.  This implies that, yes, you might have to under play some facets.
By saying to someone that you are no expert in X, whilst having done various qualifying courses, it doesn’t beat the real, practical experience from this someone, from whom you hope to be able to,learn a great deal, whilst offering a solid support role.
If we are clever, we know when to underplay our hand and  flatter their ego. 
If the interviewer is made to feel that you know things well beyond their level and that they might become exposed, well, will they hire you? Also, your presentation might come over as arrogance.  
Have you ever been videoed in an interview situation and played back? On a short presentation course I once did, the trainers did this and it is surprising what you learn from seeing yourself in action!
”would the power to gie us, to see ourselves as others see us” R. Burns
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 13, 2017 - 3:57am
hanks for the comments Eileen. There is almost always something that an interviewer wants me to know that I'm not great at. Actually, there are a lot of things I'm not great doing. I rarely say I'm an expert at things, just pretty good, that lifelong learner thing where we all get better. I've been told time and time again modesty is not a good trait in an interview. I guess they weren't real with me about that either.
Eileen de Bruin Added Nov 13, 2017 - 5:56am
Every interviewer is looking for the same thing, which is a universal generalization that’s not one-hundred percent accurate. It is what they aren’t looking for in the interview that is always true
Jeff, you began with this commentary.  I am not sure that I agree with it.  Don’t give up!  Everybody is different and interviewing is entirely subjective even after many objective facts like qualifications have been sorted.
I am not sure that modesty isn’t a good trait in an interview, it depends to whom you are speaking and one size doesn’t fit all.
I would drop the life long learning stuff and talk about practical experience. Life long learning is an attribute. Sometimes we do. ot get better at something, we just get more experience and might become wiser.  A bad teacher of fifty years’ experience is still a bad teacher! 
Are you a nit picker of details and absolutes? Do you have a tendency towards asperges? This is not an insult as many surgeons and lawyers have this attribute which is not a trait in their profession.  To me, it seems that you work in absolutes.  To some people you might be the person they need to focus in and down on intricate detail. I think that you might need to orientate towards those roles where your attention to detail will be valued.
If your sought roles are more general and require working in a management team, then it is more about people skills and reading the signs and behaviourisms. 
TexasLynn Added Nov 13, 2017 - 7:12am
Leroy & George,
You guys have convinced me I've hit the lottery on small companies. No assholes and not a psychologist in the bunch. The owner knows the business backwards are forwards and has hired people who compliment each other to form a great team. They also had the foresight to diversify so as to better get through the rough spots. So far, so good... I'm hoping to retire here. I've never thought that way about a company before.

I will say that even though the big corporations I worked for were cold and soulless; the experiences I had and the many of the people I met and worked with were great. It was the right decision at the time. And the money was good... BUT Things just slowly eroded and became more and more politically correct until it wasn't worth it anymore.
Leroy Added Nov 13, 2017 - 8:18am
Jeff, all I can say is that with my previous company, the interview was more of a psychological one.  They quickly find out what you know then focused on what you don't know.  We spent about ten minutes talking about what I knew.  The rest of the four-hour interview was about what I didn't know.  The idea is to see how you react to pressure.  They try to frustrate you making you answer questions and solve problems outside your field of experience.  They want to see if you are going to blow up.  You are emotionally drained when the interview is done.  I was so depressed that I went home and crawled into the bed.  To my surprise, I got an offer.  
Even the medical exam was a test.  One guy who received an offer went for his medical exam.  They made him wait so long that he found a white tag and put it over his big toe and covered himself with a sheet.  He didn't get the job.  He went on to open a store for this little company named Apple.
Leroy Added Nov 13, 2017 - 8:43am
"You guys have convinced me I've hit the lottery on small companies."
I have mixed feelings about it.  After working for a major company for fifteen years or so, my former boss and mentor gave me some wise advice, "Get out!  There is no longer a future here."   Unfortunately, I didn't follow his advice and stayed too long.  He retired shortly after.
A big company can wear you down.  And, they are cold and heartless as you say as I recently found out.  If I am able to work again, it won't be for a major corporation.  I'm done with it.
Eileen de Bruin Added Nov 13, 2017 - 10:01am
Lynn, yes, it sounds excellent! If it comes your way.....
Leroy, I had to laugh about the big toe tag trick....good for him! So is this who you are implying it is then or what?
I applied for a job once and the application form was so detailed and wanting to know everything that I wrote that I was a thousand years’ old, had 27 kids and had some problems with child care as a single Mum and psychologocal issues! I sort of lost it and decided to go for a laugh, of course mocking the hard structure of the form.  No, I never heard anything. . . . . 
Jeff, for you, I would say go for a small company as a jack of multiple trades. My cousin did that and got loads of work with small companies for years doing their books and looking at special issues, projects that sort of thing. He built up a nice portfolio of companies and worked and worked.  He had left the corporate world, or got booted out by a US you do over the age of fifty!  But he had enough background and experience to offer to the small companies in the UK.
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 13, 2017 - 10:14am
There is no doubt that some interviews are psychological in nature. Having held jobs where people insisted that I would be fired as soon as they "turned me in" to my bosses, as well as threatening to kill me (for real), I'm not one to get nervous in interviews. But perhaps when their best efforts failed to intimidate me, I came off as too self-confident? Something not taught by my education and lifelong learning was solving problems while understanding that the people solving the problem were just people, not machines.
The other interesting aspect of this is that there are far more pieces of literature and textbooks about how things went wrong than how things went right. As one of my coworkers (retired teacher) said: "Do it right, no one remembers, do it wrong, no one forgets."
George N Romey Added Nov 13, 2017 - 10:34am
What I'm finding is that even small companies are losing sight of hiring someone with broad based talents that can wear multiple hats.  Too few appreciate someone that has considerable experience in various areas and can be used as needed.  Unfortunately we are all seen as technocrats.
Eileen de Bruin Added Nov 13, 2017 - 10:54am
Jeff, oh I dunno....things have been going wrong in systems for years and, for example the NHS wrote off thirteen billion pounds a few years’ ago wasted on very badly designed technical and computer systems. This is barely bothered about in the news and it doesn’t even make the tv news!  The billions which are literally thrown at systems and public institutions provide jobs for the boys and the “bodge the bodge” working culture known and loved in the systems’ integrators world! In that same year, the same amount was spent on social care.....this budget has been mercilessly cut ever since, but never a word about the billions going to computer and systems’ companies ...
There are huge gaffs not splashed across the news papers or the tv news channels.  But the destruction of what is left of public services is the main talking point of politicians pretending that this cannot be afforded! 
So, ok, if you get things right in a company, great. If you get somethings wrong, fine, own up to it.  In a micro level, perhaps you are taking all of this too personally.
Perhaps your failing to be intimidated, as you put it, is more about you than them.  When you go for an interview, perhaps people are just asking themselves if they could work with you. This is the most important qualification to have.
George, dunno again.  If you find two or three of the caps you can wear then go for it, but don’t try to be everything to everyone all of the time.  We cannot be thus and it would be highly unusual to be so.
Leroy Added Nov 13, 2017 - 11:00am
Wow! Jeff.  I have never worked in such a toxic environment.  I did have a manager threaten to fire me.  He didn't have the authority nor was he in the right.  I just mocked him.  I had several people pull me to the side and tell me I would not make it in the corporate environment if I didn't change my ways.  I outlasted all of them, although I am not sure it is something of which to be proud.
Sounds like you have the tendency to rub people the wrong way.  I am not suggesting you fit this mold, but I have had colleagues who were so obsessed with being right that they just couldn't cope in a corporate environment where decisions are often made by the group. One guy was hung up on safety.  He would become ballistic if someone challenged him on safety.  Safety wasn't something that could be compromised.  It was his way or the highway.  He was shown the highway.  Safety comes first, but there is more than one way to skin a cat.  You don't have to make a machine inaccessible to make it safe.
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 13, 2017 - 11:21am
Well, Eileen and Leroy, you might have hit the proper  note on some of it. I once worked where there would be meetings and Bob the plant manager would suggest a new policy. Around the table the comments would go, with "great idea Bob" until it got to me, where I would say, "I can see a few problems, Bob." Immediately, I would be labeled a rebel, an outsider.
Eileen de Bruin Added Nov 13, 2017 - 11:56am
Jeff, mmmmm, yes.  If you could say, “that could work, yes....can we do a few scenarios to try it out?”and then. “best case” “ worst case” yep, with little modification or with these three rules, it can work brilliantly.....type of thing.
It really is all about how you present what you want to get across, without being immediately negative, or the blocker.
You are not a rebel or an outider if you have something to add to the creation.....
Is the glass half full or half empty? 
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 13, 2017 - 12:27pm
Yet many people in the same company were very quick on taking credit for solutions that I devised. I stopped the idea stealing by submitting the proposals and having everyone sign off on it. Man, did that make them unhappy. They would take credit for the improvement, and I would pull out the memo that suggested it long before they tried it. They would just wait for some time to pass and then claim it was their idea, which never worked when I could produce the memo that they signed off on as having read.
Now, why would any employee want to make themselves look good by stealing an idea from another member of their team? That's not teamwork, that's backstabbing. I was the guy whose ideas were stolen, and they didn't like it when they could no longer take credit. The same for solutions, where if the solution was that they had to lift a few fingers to solve what they should have addressed before it became a problem, then they resented that as well. They would have loved me if I could have solved all of the problems all by myself, but they were organizational problems that had to be solved by people of the organization.
Leroy Added Nov 13, 2017 - 1:02pm
Jeff, I can tell you from experience that no one likes someone who is continually covering their rear end. The last thing you wanted to do in my former company was to write a CYA memo.  If it even sounded like it was a CYA, you would get a quick smackdown.  It just isn't proper corporate etiquette where I have worked.
As an engineer who was often called on to perform a root cause analysis or failure analysis, I learned early on that you don't blame the customer, even if it is their fault.  It only pisses people off.  It's like with my wife; I'm wrong even when I am right.
Eileen de Bruin Added Nov 13, 2017 - 1:54pm
Jeff, this is the issue, I think.  Perhaps you are full of hugely great ideas but if this is constantly presented as your own and as having been stolen, or administratively claimed as yours only, then it does feel like you need to claim superiority at all costs.
This will cost you any chance of being taken on in a team environment.
Leroy, of course your wife is right!
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 13, 2017 - 2:03pm
Thanks for the insight Leroy. In a lot of the problems it was the sales force making unrealistic promises to customers in order to close the sale. They over-promised and created all kinds of nightmare that the operations people had to make happen, or face huge penalties, something that, again, I had never heard of. Sales is easy when you're giving away the store.
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 13, 2017 - 4:15pm
Eileen, in the cases mentioned, they freely admitted to lifting my ideas, and the upper management was well aware of it. I do not insist on superiority, but I do not lay claim to the solutions others devise, either. I have been on a lot of teams, and I always want the people who accomplish things recognized for such things. I do not "constantly" present ideas as my own,  even then, the team gets the credit for making it work. When assigned a problem, personally, which has happened, I don't go out of my way for recognition. The issue was that those people stealing the ideas were looking to make themselves look good at any expense; I do not have that problem, as my evangelical upbringing looks askance at liars. I know what I can do individually and what takes team effort. 
TexasLynn Added Nov 14, 2017 - 3:41pm
In reference to the psychological interviews... Not that I interviewed a whole lot… but when I was a team lead for a group of programmers I had a standard no-win scenario question I always asked.  It went something like this…
"Every now and then our customers will identify some tasks that we can fix or input rather quickly but might take them hours.  When this occurs the programmer on call will generally write the code, test it and then get approval from me (the team lead) and a database administrator before applying it to production."
"Let’s say you’re that programmer and a customer comes to you at the end of the day with a vital change they say needs to be applied ASAP.  You write the code to do the fix, the DBA says he agrees… but I’ve left for the day and I’m not answering or returning your messages.  What do you do?"
Generally, the exchange is directed toward continuing to try and reach me or call my supervisor, etc… BUT I give no outs.  I don’t answer; my superiors don’t answer; the customer wants it; the DBA says it’s your call…
What am I looking for?  I want YOU to decide.  I want YOU to put your ass (or mine) on the line.  Right?  Wrong?  Do something…
Worst Answer: Never committing to anything… just keep calling me and twiddling your thumbs.
Acceptable Answer: Tell the customer NO… we’ve got to follow the procedures and hang my (the team lead’s) ass out to dry.
Acceptable Answer: Tell the customer and DBA YES… and take your chances that I’ll approve.
Best Answer: Analyze the change being made.  Deleting half the database? No.  Updating a dozen records? Yes.
On a final note.  I remember in that job hiring two people at roughly the same time.  One was a kid right out of school with no experience and moderately lacking the needed skills… BUT I liked his attitude.  He was eager to learn and prove himself.  The other had a stellar resume and had the skills needed in spades.
Within a year the kid was my right-hand man.  The professor was a drag on the team from day one.  Knew his stuff… but couldn’t apply it in the real world… was oblivious that his work was crap… and then there was the issue of him being a bit of a psycho; making life hell for just about everybody.
Leroy Added Nov 14, 2017 - 10:12pm
Lynn, the best answer is to just make the damn change and then take a week's vacation.  That is how it usually happens.
I mentioned above that I was threatened with termination.  It wasn't code, but the situation was very similar.  We had an international team of about 20 engineers come together.  We examined how we might implement the "standard solution" in a brownfield plant.  We came to the conclusion it couldn't be done.  We tried calling my boss and the process boss.  We couldn't reach either one.  I was the one who had to make the decision.  I didn't hesitate to choose a non-standard solution.  The process boss threatened to have me fired.  I didn't work for him, so I just laughed.
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 14, 2017 - 10:47pm
Ah, yes, those "It's going wrong and you need to fix it" problems. I have found that usually the people responsible for those decisions were unavailable, maybe it was because I did a lot of graveyard or weekend shifts. The best thing that I could do was to corner them and have them insist that they understood the solution would not be the best because they just needed the problem solved immediately, and respond to an email stating that they understood that this would be a last-minute, slap-dash solution. After that, I would consult with as many people in the firm available to get their approval.
In one of my more important positions, I would run the solution by the VP of Operations. The Monday morning quarterbacks couldn't say much when the decision was approved by the VP. There were very few fights, mostly because if they insisted on making a stink about it, I would get the VP on a conference call. That was usually the end of it, but of course, there was always the smoldering resentment. If the problem, or the potential problem had been foreseen, there wouldn't have been a problem, now would there? For whatever reason, I seemed to be the person who has to make those decisions, none of which I enjoyed, but I really didn't lose too much sleep over it. All I can suggest is CYA on those, by making sure everyone available gets to put in their two cents and at least the people who were there, who faced the situation with me approved of the decision. That and I kept the emails on a drive that I took home with me, so there could be no "losing it." Thanks Lynn and Leroy. Threatening to fire someone for fixing things is very unprofessional. Improvise, adapt, overcome. Use the resources you have.
Eileen de Bruin Added Nov 15, 2017 - 2:47am
Great fun to read those scenarios Lynn and Leroy. Usually, they represent lack of design stage inclusion of course but that is how the world works.  
Jeff, so back to you: what is your next step?
Good luck!
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 15, 2017 - 7:24pm
Eileen, the next step is to continue what I am doing, which I really enjoy doing. The real step is independence from relying on organizations outside of my control, since their position is rather clear at this point.
Eileen de Bruin Added Nov 16, 2017 - 12:49pm
Great! Go for it and good luck!

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