Jon J-B

Jon J-B has written 142 posts for The Right Candidate

Offbeat interview questions: What have you encountered?

It’s widely known that certain companies use nontraditional interview questions. There have been a couple of recent stories that highlight questions used by Amazon, Apple, Zappos, and many others. 

A few of my favorites:

  • Zappos: “What superhero would you be and would you dress up at work given the chance?”
  • Clark Construction Group: “A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?”
  • Bain and Company: “Estimate how many windows are in New York.”
  • Apple: “If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors?” 

I think these types of questions can help an interviewer evaluate how a candidate articulates their way through solving for an unknown problem (Bain/Apple examples) or whether a candidate is a culture fit (Zappos). But some of the questions (like the penguin question above) just seem ludicrous to me.

Recruiters/Hiring Managers: What are your thoughts on these types of questions? Do you/have you work(ed) for companies that use them as part of their interview process? How were the answers evaluated?

Job seekers: What unusual questions have you been hit with during an interview? How did you respond?


It’s college recruiting season-so why aren’t students getting hired?

As someone who has worked quite a bit in the campus recruiting space, I know what it’s like to live by the academic calendar in Fall and Spring. Those are the two peak times of year for campus recruitment, with Spring semester more focused on intern hiring.

This has been top of mind after reading that a large number of employers are finding new college grads are not prepared for the workforce.

60% of employers surveyed by one study said that new college grads lacked basic “communication and interpersonal skills”- about a 10% increase in the past two years. Another survey by global staffing company Adecco reported that 44% of employers cited soft skills like critical thinking, collaboration, and communication skills as the biggest gap.

Further, a recent survey of 200 employers by the National Assocation of Colleges and Employers (NACE) showed ability to work in teams, think critically, solve problems, and effectively prioritize work as employers’ top priorities in new hires.

How to solve this gap? Obviously, universities need to be studying these results and reviewing how they are integrating collaboration, peer feedback, and other key soft skills into their curriculums.

But the biggest key for any student is to do at least one (if not more) internships during their course of study. Internships are real-world work experience; they provide a realistic preview of what will be expected in the workplace. Internships are also a phenomenal way to build upon their in-class learning in an experiential setting. I used to perform exit interviews with our Summer interns, and almost all of them stated that their work experience had opened their eyes to what would be expected of them. More than a few realized they needed to change their course of study to better prepare themselves for a future job.

In fact, 70% of students who complete paid internships consider themselves ready for the workplace vs. 44% of those who do not. (Having interviewed students from both groups, I can state a large number of the 44% are not as ready as they think.)

So students, if you are reading this: it’s time to seek out an internship. Trust me, both you and your future employer (who, if you do a great job in your internship, could be one and the same) will benefit.


Hello and Happy Friday!

Seattle is consumed with Super Bowl fever as the Seahawks take on (and dominate) the Broncos this Sunday. I have never seen so many people in blue and green Seahawks gear. There are giant 12 flags hanging off of construction cranes, buildings, and overpasses all over town.

So, as you might imagine, this weekend a majority of Seattle will be glued to a TV on Sunday. This represents a fantastic opportunity for people who aren’t into football: Ski slopes will be deserted (if any are open, that is-we are up to 70% below normal snowpack in many areas). Stores and malls will be mostly empty. Traffic? What’s traffic?

I am spending Saturday moving some furniture, trying to get more stuff out of our basement by selling it on Craigslist, and making a couple of snacks for the party we are attending Sunday. Should be a productive and fun weekend.

Hope you have a great weekend, and that you are supporting the right team on Sunday. Go Hawks!

Voluntary resignations are on the rise—and that’s good news.

This is the week of employment stats.

Balancing out the not terribly positive news I posted on Monday: Millions of people are quitting their jobs every month. Nearly 2.4 Million people resigned their jobs in November 2013—over a Million more than at the height of the recession. 

At face value, this might not be viewed as positive. Here’s why it is: The number of people voluntarily resigning their positions is a positively correlated sign of consumer confidence. People resigning their jobs signals they have confidence in the economy (they have found another job or are confident they will quickly) and in their own financial situation that they are willing to take a risk on moving to a new role.

People are being more proactive rather than reactive with their career decisions—and that’s a very good thing.

Unemployment Update: States start slashing benefits, Congress still deadlocked

The bad news: Congress hasn’t moved forward on renewing Emergency Unemployment Benefits. At this point it’s uncertain when we will see any movement. That means 1.3 Million Americans actively seeking work have been without any Federal assistance for a month. 

Worse news: If you live in North Carolina, the state General Assembly cut the maximum unemployment benefits from 73 weeks to 12-20 weeks. The net effect of this is the statewide unemployment rate in NC has dropped sharply–from 8.8% to 7.4%. Some of that has been through more people finding jobs; but over 100,000 North Carolinians left the workforce altogether, artificially reducing the unemployment number.

Additionally, if you are still receiving unemployment benefits in NC, that benefit has been significantly reduced–from $500 to $350/week. 

The net effect of these changes is that fewer people can continue to focus on seeking work. Many of these people, who have exhausted their savings and/or didn’t have any savings to begin with, will be forced to seek other forms of assistance to keep their families housed and fed.

Republicans argue that extended unemployment benefits amount to little more than a crutch–that it makes not working too comfortable. 

Reducing or eliminating the safety net may have an impact of getting people back to work–into jobs that would be considered underemployment.

I would be very curious to see how many people have accepted positions with wages significantly below what they made previously–and whether that action has forced them to access other social safety net programs–food banks, food stamps, etc. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find any data on this yet. If any of you do, please let me know.

There may be some hope on the horizon in NC, though. Senator Kay Hagan amended the Senate bill for extension of the Federal Emergency UI benefits to include a reinstatement of extended UI insurance in NC. It would be in the hands of Gov. Pat McCrory to determine whether extended benefits were reinstated in NC if the Senate bill passes.



March 2019
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