Watercooler: Acing the interview; women clean up

HELP ON INTERVIEWS: Just landing an interview these days is tough.

There are more job seekers out there right now than at any other point this decade, according to government data — in August, the latest data available, there were about 6.3 unemployed workers competing for each open position. Job openings are at their lowest point in nine years of data.

So if you actually get called in to talk about a job, congratulations. Be sure not to undermine your chances of landing it with shaky responses to common questions.

In their book, “101 Toughest Interview Questions,” career experts Daniel Porot and Frances Bolles Haynes also advise interviewees to practice tough questions beforehand with a friend or family member, memorize effective answers, be truthful, listen to what you’re actually being asked and keep answers concise.

What are some of the toughest questions?

■ “What interests you most about this job?” Answer this with specifics: Emphasize how your past work experience relates to the opening, or how your skills fit with the job’s tasks and responsibilities. Also mention what makes the company unique and appealing to you from your research of it.

■ “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Give them your strengths. If you bring up a weakness, keep it minor or address how you work around it.

■ “What salary figure do you have in mind?” Give them a broad salary range. Porot and Haynes also recommend saying that compensation is a topic best left until after you’ve received a job offer.

HEY YOU, USING SOAP?: Mother told you to scrub your hands with soap and water after going to the bathroom. Guess the sisters listened more than the brothers.

A study of nearly 200,000 male and female restroom users of all ages at a highway service station in England over 32 days from July to September 2008 found that, unprompted, just 32 percent of men washed their hands with soap during visits to the bathroom, compared with 65 percent of women.

The data were collected from infrared sensors at the entryway measuring people entering and leaving the restrooms, while wireless sensors recorded soap use.

How to boost hand-washing, which helps reduce the spread of disease? The data suggest peer pressure could be most effective.

The researchers put different text messages in the bathrooms urging users to scrub up. Some had a significant reaction:

Men were much likelier than women to wash their hands with soap after seeing a “disgust” message, such as “Don’t take the loo with you — wash with soap,” upping hand-washing by 9.8 percent. Women responded more to “knowledge of risk” signs, such as “Water doesn’t kill germs, soap does,” increasing soap rates by 9.4 percent.

For both groups, a message carrying a form of peer pressure was one of the most effective : “Is the person next to you washing with soap?”

The study was published in the October 2009 issue of “American Journal of Public Health.”

BIZ BOOKS: It’s been a stellar year for lovers of books on business and economics. This week, watch for two more tomes from high-profile writers.

■ “SuperFreakonomics” is the follow-up to the best-selling “Freakonomics,” a pop economics book from 2005 that explored such varied topics as the economics of drug dealing and how the legalization of abortion affected the violent crime rate.

“Freakonomics” authors Steven Levitt, an economist, and Stephen Dubner, a journalist, also write a blog for the New York Times Web site.

The new book delves into global warming, high-end prostitution and how you sift out terrorists from a group of millions of bank customers.

■ New York Times business reporter and editor Andrew Ross Sorkin’s 600-page-plus opus on the financial meltdown, “Too Big to Fail,” walks readers through the year-ago crisis.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features