We recently asked you what your most hated interview questions were. Here we share our tips on how to answer them. For answers to the other questions, check out the series links at the bottom of this post.
5. What was the most interesting article you read this morning in The New York Times?
Our readers told us they felt this question was particularly unfair, because they were so busy preparing for the interview that they didn’t have time to read the paper. As one reader put it: “to be honest, I don’t read the New York Times. I’m overwhelmed by conference papers and peer-reviewed journals. I don’t know what the target audience for the New York Times is but it’s definitely not scientists. Besides, it took me two hours to get here for the interview. I didn’t exactly have time to read the newspaper in the morning.”
For questions like this one, you are expected to think laterally – of course you can’t answer the question directly if you don’t read that paper or you didn’t read anything that morning because you were preparing for the interview*.
When it comes to science roles,the interviewer might be wanting to find out what you are interested in outside of your field, how aware you are of how what you do fits in to public interest and current affairs, or whether you are so involved in your work that these issues pass you by. If you genuinely have been too busy with work recently to stay abreast of current affairs, then explain why. For instance, “over the last four weeks I have given three conference presentations and submitted a grant proposal, so I have been unusually busy with my own work, but normally I read…” and list the media you normally consume.
If applicable, this question could be a good way to talk about how technologically savvy you are – do you gather your news and information from social media and blogs at all? Do you use on and offline technologies (such as pocket or evernote) to organise yourself and share content with your colleagues and peers?
Of course, if you did read something you found really interesting this morning (and all the better if it ties in to your work) go ahead and talk about it – it’s a great opportunity to go off-topic and share your enthusiasm for something that really gets you going.
Whatever you do, turn this question into a positive about what it is that you do do, rather than what you don’t read or what you don’t like about the publication, or the the state of science which means that you are too busy to do anything but your work – you will come across as a grump and unable to manage your own time effectively.
Good luck with the interview – and let us know how you get on.
*Needless to say, this does not count if you are applying for a job at the New York Times…