The IBM Interview


Practice the imaginary conditional pattern. It is a favorite type of question. Examples:

¡°If you became president of IBM today, what would you do first?¡±

or: ¡°If you were told to sell 1,000 computers in one day, what method would you use?¡±

Before an interview, research the company thoroughly.

(The easiest way to do this is search the company¡¯s web site.) Thorough research will provide you with information to use as support of a point you want to make in your interview, and will also help you to avoid making foolish mistakes.

¡°What distinguishes IBM computers from others?¡±

¡°IBM computers are for young people.¡±

A couple weeks ago I discovered that personal computers are only a very small fraction of the products and services that IBM provides; a couple days ago I happened to look for a computer accessory on IBM¡¯s web site and found it quite difficult in fact, impossible to locate the specific item. Both of these discoveries would be very helpful in an interview.

Know the industry that the company belongs to.

¡°If you became president of IBM today, what would you do first?¡±

¡°IBM should focus on personal computers for individuals.¡±

This answer shows that the applicant knows nothing about the general computing industry or the personal computers industry. A few days ago I heard on TV that the market for personal computers is going to die out with the advent of smaller computers dedicated to specific tasks.

When you encounter a very general, vague question¡¦

If you answer such a question generally and vaguely your answer will usually be unsatisfactory. Try to make the question more specific by establishing a few parameters; either ask for more specific details or use the imaginary conditional pattern to define them yourself. (In the example here, the applicant has taken the initiative to define parameters for the question. I have underlined terms that you can use to specify.)

¡°What do you think of IBM?¡±

¡°In terms of whether I would buy an IBM product say, a personal computer I think IBM is one of the best, if not the best. IBM has a strong reputation of providing quality and helpful after-sales support. In terms of whether I would buy stock in IBM, it is a good investment because the management has its eye on the future and because IBM has a management policy of aggressive participation in a lot of other areas in the computer industry.¡±

If you find that you have nothing more to say but you don¡¯t think that you have answered the question satisfactorily¡¦

Don¡¯t hem and haw. Don¡¯t show the interviewer that you are groping because you have nothing substantial to say. If you are in the middle of an answer and don¡¯t know what to do, stop, and then say something like, ¡°I¡¯m sorry, but I don¡¯t have the details to give you a decent answer, and I don¡¯t want to waste your time. That is all I have to say in answer to your question.¡± The interviewers will appreciate your frankness and the fact that you said something that other interviewees don¡¯t say.

An unfair or ridiculous question

Sometimes interviewers ask such questions with the sole purpose of seeing how an applicant will react in an unexpected and difficult situation. One way out of this is to point out that the question cannot be answered. Another way to answer is to ask the interviewer to rephrase the question, and subtly point out that the question cannot be answered as it was stated. If you do this politely and respectfully, the interviewer will probably not be offended and will probably appreciate your courage and frankness.

CAUTION: However, you should carefully consider the personality of your interviewer, because some interviewers might not appreciate your rejection of the question. Another consideration: it might not actually be an unfair or ridiculous question.

The best general method of preparing for interviews is to research thoroughly and get lots of practice in quickly considering ideas and then organizing them. After researching, write up lots of possible questions, then get someone who has been interviewed before to ask you the questions you made and give you some additional questions.