Eliminate one

Question:

If you had to eliminate one of the 50 U.S. states, which one would you select? Be prepared to give specific reasons why you chose the state you did.

.

.

C

A

P

T

A

I

N

I

N

T

E

R

V

I

E

W

.

.

Solution: Don’t get hung up looking for a “correct” answer.” There is no correct answer, unless you’re applying for a job with Microsoft, in which case Washington State is definitely a nonstarter. The best course is to reframe the question in some compelling way. Another idea: Don’t start with the name of a state, but build some suspense by walking the interviewer through your logic and seeing where you end up together. Humor always helps. There are dozens of creative answers. Here are three of them.

  1. Well, I don’t want to be responsible for eliminating actual people. So I’d eliminate the political entity of a state by ceding it to Canada, perhaps a state that shares a border with Canada, such as North Dakota or Vermont. Would I still be able to visit?
  2. A similar approach calls for eliminating a state by actually combining it with one of its neighbors. For example, Connecticut can annex Rhode Island. Or North and South Dakota can be combined to form the state of Dakota.
  3. I’d eliminate Wyoming [you get points for knowing that Wyoming is the least populous state], but only if the people and natural attributes can be relocated to a theme park on the Las Vegas strip.

Candidates should be aware that some interviewers have an agenda when asking this question and want candidates to come to a certain conclusion. One candidate reports that when he was asked this question, the interviewer indicated the “correct” answer was to divide a square state (like Colorado or Wyoming) into several parts (presumably rectangular) and merge them with the neighbor states. It turns out that the interviewer had Colorado in mind as the ideal response. Listen to how angry the candidate was:

I thought I had covered every realistic possibility, but it boiled down to the interviewer being totally arbitrary. At the end, it was more like “but what about splitting a state into multiple regions and combining with all the neighbors” and “Colorado is rectangular and easy to divide” and so forth. She had no comment either way about my other solutions and was totally stuck on dividing Colorado. I wasn’t sure if she wanted me to go into depth about satellite photography and how it isn’t that tough with modern technology to divide an irregularly shaped state into equal parts, or admit that dividing a state into multiple parts is a valid method that I skipped. She was very hung up on dividing equally area wise, as if population densities or other considerations didn’t matter. We talked for a long time, as a portion of the interview, about why I thought involving more states made it less likely for success, and she always seemed to ignore this reasoning and return to dividing Colorado equally. So maybe the interviewer had some grudge against the state of Colorado ,was fascinated with that state’s rectangular shape or fascinated with easy geometric constructions (divide a rectangle into equal areas). Or was just being difficult for the sake of being difficult.

Of course, the interviewer might have been testing how the candidate reacted if she pushed back on the candidate’s solution.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s