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Once during an interview the interviewer had asked me this question that "Why does the head of the company have the office in the back corner?"

This was asked at the end of the interview and at that time I was not able to come up with a very good answer.

What is the interviewer hoping to learn about me from answers to this question?

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    I do not think this is a common question being asked. It is more about how you answer than what you say. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jun 20 '13 at 15:07
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    The answer: "Because he's the boss and he gets can sit where ever he wants!" Without more context (about the boss, the office, the company, etc...), it's probably impossible to give a better answer. – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jun 20 '13 at 18:28
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    I made some edits to this to hopefully bring it in line. The question now focusses on what the interviewer is hoping to learn about candidates by asking this question rather than what the 'right' answer is. – Rhys Jun 21 '13 at 9:38
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I have never asked this sort of question, but the theory is that you will be revealing your true nature. Possible answers might be interpreted like this:

  • "The boss can sit wherever he wants." - you see a boss as having power
  • "He's earned the best office." - you assumed that was the best one, and think if a boss has something good it's because of what they've done, not the title
  • "So he can see everyone coming and going." - you think the head of the company has the time and interest to keep track of tiny details and you expect to be monitored
  • "Maybe the company started with just one office and expanded outwards from there, and the boss never moved?" - you see "because we always have" as a typical reason to do things
  • "That office has room in it for confidential meetings and to keep private files. It makes sense for him to have it." - you like logical explanations and don't think power means luxury
  • "Um, I don't know? I never thought about it? I have no idea!" - you don't think on your feet and you don't handle pressure well

These conclusions may in fact be completely inaccurate. Yet some people may draw them, or similar ones.

Your best strategy when faced with a completely unexpected question is:

  • acknowledge out loud that it was an unexpected question. "Oh, that's an interesting question. Hm."
  • Present your first thought with a bit of a "pulled punch" - start with "maybe", "perhaps", or "in some places I've worked"
  • Include your own reasoning copiously. Don't say "because it's biggest" and assume the interviewer will know you think there are practical reasons for a large office, or will know you think the boss deserves the prestige of the most square feet. Explain your thinking.
  • For some questions you might want to give two possible explanations. Don't give more.
  • Don't offend the interviewer. Eg "How would I know? He might be a narcissist saving the best for himself, or a micro manager watching us all come and go, or there might be a practical reason for him to have more floor space, or he might hate the smell of coffee from the reception desk and need to be furthest from it, or ... " - this is rude and unlikely to get you the job
  • wrap up by closing the uncertainty with which you opened, saying something like "yes, I think that's probably the reason."

And make a note to yourself about this employer so that you can evaluate whether you want to work for them.

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Interviewers do this as a way to determine how candidates react when situations come up they're not prepared for.

A friend of mine used to interview job candidates all the time. If he got the feeling the job candidate had been coached, and 'always knew exactly what to say', he would ask questions 'out of the blue' to get him or her to respond without advance preparation.

This might be a sign that the interviewer was getting frustrated with 'stock answers', and decided to throw a curve.

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  • I added in a first sentence as an edit to more directly convey that this does answer the question. I don't want to put words in your mouth, so please feel free to edit further if desired. Hope this helps! :) – jmort253 Jun 25 '13 at 4:22
  • @Jmort253 - Looks good to me. – Meredith Poor Jun 25 '13 at 7:37
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Because in the world of business there usually aren't any easy or singular answers.

Asking open ended questions allows an interviewer to test your ability to react to difficult problems and changing circumstances - it also makes it harder to prepare in advance.

For example:

Interviewer: Why does the boss have the back corner office?

Candidate: Because he deserves a good view.

I: But our boss in scared of heights always keeps the blinds closed. Yet he still insists on that office.

C: Does he ever open the blinds?

I: He does during some meetings, but sits with he back to the window.

C: So, he wants the view its not just for him. So he likes to demonstrate his influence to vistors.

And so on...

Alternatively, the boss may not ever be in the office, it might be the only office with a private bathroom, etc...

The point is that instead of testing your ability to calculate an answer, its about having you explore alternative options.

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