50 Common Interview Questions

Bhuvana Sundaramoorthy shares a great list of typical questions you are likely to be asked in your next job interview together with suggestions on how to answer them. This is an excellent list also for those conducting such interviews. Notably absent from the list is the cliche question "What is your greatest weakness?" although it is noted in the comments that interviewers who ask this question do not know what they are doing.

Leadership in a Nutshell

Gill Corkindale shares this summary of what it takes to be a good leader:

1. Be aware. Understand yourself and your context. Know your own strengths, limitations, and development needs. If you don't have time to build your skills, bring people into your team who will complement you. Be aware of the organization and the people you are leading. If you have moved from a start-up to an established organization, for example, the people and the rules of engagement will be very different.

2. Have a plan. Know where you are going. One great definition of leadership is to have followers. If you cannot create a sense of the future, no one can follow you.

3. Build relationships. Give more of yourself. A leader has to get things done through others, so people skills are critical. Take time to get to know your peers, bosses, and subordinates. Talk less, listen more, and remember the details of what people say. Investing time to understand the roles, ideas, and personalities of those around you will yield a strong network, corporate allies, motivated staff, and personal goodwill.

4. Deliver. Get things done. Whatever your line of business, you need to show the results of your leadership. So whether it's a better product, an improved service, a higher profit or share price, make sure you deliver.

5. Have integrity. Get your values right. Your values define who you are and why others should work for you. The important point here is that values should be lived, not written down or occasionally talked about. Show by your own example that honesty, truth, transparency, respect, and sustainability matter.


25 Random Things About Me

1. I’ve been a pauper, a poet, a paper boy, car wash attendant, commercial bakery worker, cemetery grass cutter, book warehouseman, hod carrier, construction laborer, television delivery man, jet refueler, lavatory cleaner, ditch digger, law clerk, attorney, actor and professor

2. After a deep spiritual experience, I spent a frosty warm night in a yak-hair tent called the Hotel California at the Mount Everest base camp in Tibet.

3. I was recruited to play football at Princeton University. Otherwise, I may not have considered applying to and attending Old Nassau. What a lucky break.

4. During law school, I was in a garage band we called Permanently Band, playing for friends and ourselves original songs that I wrote in a burst of creativity that I have not experienced since.

5. Lately, I am more concerned with spiritual growth, awareness, seeking and searching than with anything else.

6. In her youth, I appeared onstage with my darling daughter, Deirdre, in three community theater productions – To Kill a Mockingbird, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Impossible Years.

7. I was tricked into auditioning for a role without knowing it in To Kill a Mockingbird when the director asked me to fill in during a rehearsal for a missing player. He then informed me that the missing player had left the production and asked if I would take over the role of Mr. Cunningham.

8. This led to a wonderful moment in the play when Scout (Deirdre) recognizes Mr. Cunningham (me) in the lynch mob and defuses a tense situation. The way we staged it, I took a couple of threatening steps toward Deirdre before dropping to my knees in front of her to speak my lines. What a wondrous memory.

9. Come to think of it, I have a lot of enduring pictures of Deirdre in my mind. One is of her playing mob or beehive soccer when she was a tyke. She was apart from the swarm twirling her pigtails and I was screaming from the sidelines, “Go after the ball!”

10. I am a third cousin of Tampa Bay Rays manager, Joe Maddon.

11. When I was growing up I knew my grandparents as “Grandma and Grandpa from Hazleton” and “Grandma and Grandpa Next Door”

12. When I was little, I read every Nancy Drew mystery I could lay my hands on.

13. My favorite author, though, was Edgar Allen Poe. What a combination.

14. I once drove the 120 miles from Princeton NJ to Scranton PA all the way without ever coming to a complete stop. The clutch in my yellow VW bug was shot and made a horrendous grinding noise if the car had to be started from a complete stop.

15. I know all the two letter state postal abbreviations by heart from years working in the book warehouse and shipping operation that my father ran as general manager.

16. We put our Christmas tree up before Thanksgiving and just took it down and put it away this week (2nd week of February). I love decorating the tree. When I open the boxes containing the ornaments, I think and say, “Hello, old friends.”

17. I have a bunch of buddies from playing pickup basketball who, for many years, I only knew by their nicknames – Sluggo, Gumby, Goober, Buzzy, Dog.

18. Despite spending most of my life now in Western Pennsylvania, I have never visited the Andy Warhol Museum, the National Aviary, or the Regional History Museum.

19. Growing up, I was a New York Yankees and New York Giants fan. Now I root for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

20. I am a fan of classic country music, even though I grew up strictly listening to rock and roll. Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline and the rest touch my soul.

21. On the Friday before Christmas, I pulled out my axe and sang Christmas carols for the “pirohi ladies” at St. Mary’s Church in Ambridge PA while I waited for my three dozen.

22. I represented the creator of one of the first internet search engines in connection with the Initial Public Offering of the company commercializing his invention.

23. I am partially blind in one eye.

24. I am part of a loving family.

25. I am on a journey of discovery.


Weasels & Other Super Bowl Ad Critters

In this essay, Jeffrey Schrank gives a list of the techniques advertisers employ to make claims for their products. I have reprinted selections from the article and used Super Bowl ads that I believe illustrate the concepts Professor Schrank stresses:

"The 'claim' is the verbal or print part of an ad that makes some claim of superiority for the product being advertised... some are honest statements about a truly superior product, but most fit into the category of neither bold lies nor helpful consumer information. They balance on the narrow line between truth and falsehood by a careful choice of words.

"The reason so many ad claims fall into this category of pseudo-information is that they are applied to parity products, products in which all or most of the brands available are nearly identical. Since no one superior product exists, advertising is used to create the illusion of superiority. The largest advertising budgets are devoted to parity products such as gasoline, cigarettes, beer and soft drinks, soaps, and various headache and cold remedies...

"The first rule of parity involves the Alice in Wonderlandish use of the words "better" and "best." In parity claims, "better" means "best" and "best" means "equal to."
When the "king" in this Castrol commercial states that nothing beats Castrol Edge brand motor oil in wear protection, he is not claiming Castrol is the best motor oil or that it is better than any other, even though it seems so. Note that this commercial also demonstrates a scientific claim as explained in number 8 below. And how much more vague can you get (see number 6 below) than the tag line "It's more than just oil; it's liquid engineering."

Regarding the scientific claim that Castrol Edge provides 8x better wear protection than Mobil 1 5w 30, a rocket scientist might have trouble figuring out what this actually means.

If you are able to navigate skillfully, the Castrol website contains an explanation of the test results on which the claim is based. As I understand it, the industry standard test is designed to determine whether an oil meets some minimum level of "oilness". The touted differences are measured in microns.

Many questions are not answered, such as "Are apples and apples being compared? Do other tests show different results? How does this test relate to conditions an ordinary consumer encounters in using the oil? How do the prices of the two oils compare?"

One can go on and on. The point is that the "scientific" claim creates the impression of superiority without actually stating so clearly and unequivocally.

"To create the necessary illusion of superiority, advertisers usually resort to one or more of the following ten basic techniques. Each is common and easy to identify.

A weasel word is a modifier that practically negates the claim that follows...Words or claims that appear substantial upon first look but disintegrate into hollow meaninglessness on analysis are weasels. Commonly used weasel words include 'helps' (the champion weasel); 'like' (used in a comparative sense);...'virtually';...'can be';...'up to';...'fights';...'fortified';...'enriched';...'strengthened'...

[e.g]...'Helps control dandruff symptoms with regular use.' The weasels include 'helps control,' and possibly even 'symptoms' and 'regular use.' The claim is not 'stops dandruff....

'Leaves dishes virtually spotless.' We have seen so many ad claims that we have learned to tune out weasels. You are supposed to think spotless,' rather than 'virtually' spotless...
"Help" is on the way:

The unfinished claim is one in which the ad claims the product is better, or has more of something, but does not finish the comparison...[e.g]'Magnavox gives you more.' More what?...'You can be sure if it's Westinghouse.' Sure of what?
What's G?:

This kind of claim states that there is nothing else quite like the product being advertised...The uniqueness claim is supposed to be interpreted by readers as a claim to superiority...[e.g]'There's no other mascara like it.'...
Other beers drink like a guy smashing into a tree:

'Water is wet' claims say something about the product that is true for any brand in that product category, (for example, 'Schrank's water is really wet.') The claim is usually a statement of fact, but not a real advantage over the competition... [e.g.]'Great Lash greatly increases the diameter of every lash.'..."SKIN smells differently on everyone.' As do many perfumes.
Dogs make better pets than big wild animals:

This is the kind of claim to which the careful reader will react by saying "So What?" A claim is made which is true but which gives no real advantage to the product. This is similar to the "water is wet" claim except that it claims an advantage which is not shared by most of the other brands in the product category...

[e.g.]...'Campbell's gives you tasty pieces of chicken and not one but two chicken stocks.' Does the presence of two stocks improve the taste? 'Strong enough for a man but made for a woman.' This deodorant claim says only that the product is aimed at the female market.
The first diet cola for men:

The vague claim is simply not clear. This category often overlaps with others. The key to the vague claim is the use of words that are colorful but meaningless, as well as the use of subjective and emotional opinions that defy verification. Most contain weasels...

"[e.g.]'Lips have never looked so luscious.' Can you imagine trying to either prove or disprove such a claim?...'Its deep rich lather makes hair feel good again.'...
Lots of candidates here - Virtually all of the Bud light commercials "only beer with just the right taste" "difference is drinkability" "Bud light is easy to drink" "Bud light has an easy drinking taste" and this one - More intelligent electricity?:

A celebrity or authority appears in an ad to lend his or her stellar qualities to the product. Sometimes the people will actually claim to use the product, but very often they don't...

This kind of ad uses some sort of scientific proof or experiment, very specific numbers, or an impressive sounding mystery ingredient...[e.g]'Special Morning--33% more nutrition.' Also an unfinished claim...

This kind of claim butters up the consumer by some form of flattery...[e.g]'We think a cigar smoker is someone special.'...'If what you do is right for you, no matter what others do, then RC Cola is right for you.'...'You've come a long way, baby.'
"For drivers who want to get the most:

This technique demands a response from the audience. A question is asked and the viewer or listener is supposed to answer in such a way as to affirm the product's goodness...[e.g]'Shouldn't your family be drinking Hawaiian Punch?'..."
Isn't it time?:


Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong

"Every Communist must grasp the truth, 'Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.'

“Communism is not love. Communism is a hammer which we use to crush the enemy.”

“In waking a tiger, use a long stick.”

"A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another."

"Whoever wants to know a thing has no way of doing so except by coming into contact with it, that is, by living (practicing) in its environment. ... If you want knowledge, you must take part in the practice of changing reality. If you want to know the taste of a pear, you must change the pear by eating it yourself.... If you want to know the theory and methods of revolution, you must take part in revolution. All genuine knowledge originates in direct experience."

"The proletariat seeks to transform the world according to its own world outlook, and so does the bourgeoisie. In this respect, the question of which will win out, socialism or capitalism, is still not really settled… It will take a fairly long period of time to decide the issue in the ideological struggle between socialism and capitalism in our country."

"We should support whatever the enemy opposes and oppose whatever the enemy supports."

"Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed."

"Our army has always had two policies. First, we must be ruthless to our enemies, we must overpower and annihilate them. Second, we must be kind to our own, to the people, to our comrades and to our superiors and subordinates, and unite with them."

"We are advocates of the abolition of war, we do not want war; but war can only be abolished through war, and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to take up the gun."

"Our principles of operation are:

'(1) Attack dispersed, isolated enemy forces first; attack concentrated, strong enemy forces later…

'(4) In every battle, concentrate an absolutely superior force (two, three, four and sometimes even five or six times the enemy's strength), encircle the enemy forces completely, strive to wipe them out thoroughly and do not let any escape from the net. In special circumstances, use the method of dealing the enemy crushing blows, that is, concentrate all our strength to make a frontal attack and an attack on one or both of his flanks, with the aim of wiping out one part and routing another so that our army can swiftly move its troops to smash other enemy forces….

'(5) Fight no battle unprepared, fight no battle you are not sure of winning; make every effort to be well prepared for each battle, make every effort to ensure victory in the given set of conditions as between the enemy and ourselves.

'(6) Give full play to our style of fighting - courage in battle, no fear of sacrifice, no fear of fatigue, and continuous fighting (that is, fighting successive battles in a short time without rest).

'(7) Strive to wipe out the enemy when he is on the move…

'(9) Replenish our strength with all the arms and most of the personnel captured from the enemy. Our army's main sources of manpower and materiel are at the front.

'(10) Make good use of the intervals between campaigns to rest, train and consolidate our troops. Periods of rest, training and consolidation should not in general be very long, and the enemy should so far as possible be permitted no breathing space…"


Jump in my Oscars Pool

You are invited to my free fun Frog Soda The Oscars - 81st Annual Academy Awards Pool: Anthony's Oscar Pool.

- go to the league page, http://www.frogsoda.com/awards_ceremony.php?Action=viewleague&lid=1014&aid=21

- if clicking on the link doesn't work, copy and paste it into your browser

- if you are a Frog Soda member, click "log in", if not click "Sign Up"

- Once you have created an account and are signed in, click "Join League"

- This is a private league, you will need the password to join: oscar


Why Rumors Spread

"Rumors have a way of slipping under our mental defenses before we think to question them. The best ones sidestep common sense entirely...Most of us don't like to think of ourselves as gullible. But we're especially likely to accept as true—and do our best to spread—tales that have several specific characteristics that take aim at our best defenses...

"1: Successful rumors needle our anxieties and emotions...Fear breeds rumor. The more collective anxiety a group has, the more inclined it will be to start up the rumor mill...we pass rumors around primarily as a means of deciphering scary, uncertain situations. Exchanging information, even if it's ludicrously false, relieves our unease by giving us a sense that we at least know what's happening...

"2: Rumors stick if they're somewhat surprising but still fit with our existing biases....If you already think liberals are waging a war on religion, you'll be more likely to buy 2008's (untrue) rumor that the new dollar coins omit the customary "In God We Trust." (It's printed along the side.)...Even when presented with evidence refuting a rumor, we often stick to our biases...

"3: Easily swayed people are more important than influential people in passing on a rumor...."It's your willingness to pass things along that matters"... Kids will believe almost anything (another long-lived schoolyard rumor claimed the "Mikey likes it" Life cereal kid died after a mixture of soda and Pop Rocks made his stomach explode), and thus rumors run rampant in schools. But the same is true of gullible adults: They're the ones who really fuel rumors...

"4: The more you hear a rumor, the more you'll buy it—even if you're hearing that it's false....

"5: Rumors reflect the zeitgeist...Rumors have the greatest chance of multiplying when the topic is something people are already pondering...

"6: Sticky rumors are simple and concrete....Examine your stockpile of offbeat conventional wisdom...We only use 10 percent of our brains. The Great Wall of China can be seen from space. People swallow eight spiders a year in their sleep. These tidbits are all simple and specific, with a vivid detail that sticks in the mind. They're also false. But they illustrate the point that tangible, easily graspable tales have an excellent chance of catching on...

"7: Rumors that last are difficult to disprove....Why do people still believe there's a giant prehistoric reptile prowling Loch Ness, even though innumerable hours of investigation have produced zero proof of such a creature? Well, it's a pretty big lake: How can we be sure she's not in there? It's tough to disprove the idea definitively...

"8: We are eager to believe bad things about people we envy.... Once someone hits a certain level of celebrity and adulation, it seems, the mill starts to churn automatically—and the more beautiful and successful the star, the more depraved the rumors. Jamie Lee Curtis is a hermaphrodite. Cher (or Janet Jackson) had a rib removed so she'd look skinnier. Catherine the Great died trying to make love to a horse..."

Some of these read like a manual for marketers.

Read more in this Psychology Today article.


A Story of Strength, Triumph and Oats

Defense wins championships, but the offenses stepped up when it counted in last night's Super Bowl. When Fitzgerald scored the go-ahead touchdown, I was drained, deflated, yet hopeful.

Somehow, the Steelers have become a team that can mount a charge from behind in the final minutes of a game and win. All the same, I was sweating, "Is this one for Warner? Can the Steelers do it again?"

Mom couldn't take it. Dad said she had to go upstairs and stop watching the game after Fitz scored. I know exactly how she felt. It was a bit too exciting, a little too heart wrenching.

But how 'bout that Ben Roethlisberger? Mr. Clutch. And Santonio Holmes becoming a man right before your eyes on the big stage.

And how about that James Harrison? If that six pick was not the best play in Super Bowl history, I don't know what was. I was exhausted and exhilarated after he scored. What a game.