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Background: I was asked this in a phone interview. It took me by surprise, and I faltered here. I couldn't figure out just what to make of "special time" - unfortunately, that time I didn't get the job.

Let me also say that in this interview, I was not allowed to ask questions. Strange, but that was the rule from the get-go. In fact, when he asked me the "special time" question, I did ask him "what do you mean by special time"; at which point, he quickly and somewhat roughly reminded me about the "no questions" rule. Maybe it is relevant that it is a big market-research/polling type company..

What would be a good response to “Do you like spending special time with coworkers”?

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  • 3
    Since that particular question is pretty nonsensical, I'm wondering if this question should really be "how should I respond when I do not understand an interview question?" Whether you misheard it or not in this case you clearly needed a better idea of what the interviewer meant to ask.
    – Rarity
    Jul 1 '12 at 15:41
  • 52
    "I was not allowed to ask questions. Strange, but that was the rule from the get-go" - And you think it's unfortunate that you didn't get the job? I might actually have walked out at that point.
    – pdr
    Jul 1 '12 at 16:11
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    Was English the interviewer's first language? Jul 1 '12 at 19:05
  • 1
    @KeithThompson - Yes it was. Jul 1 '12 at 21:15
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    "special time with co-workers is the lawsuits playground" ;) On a serious note: AS @pdr already mentioned you can call yourself lucky that they rejected you!
    – iLuvLogix
    Jun 2 at 13:17
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Provided that requirement was not to ask questions (this sounds like interview for a job that does not require thinking), the right answer would be like:

I don't understand the question. If possible, please repeat.

Note there are no questions above, just as required. "Please repeat" part is added to make sure that you heard them right ("if possible") - based on discussion in comments there is a chance that question was misheard.

After making sure that the question was heard right ("if possible"), exactly as you spelled it, most reasonable answer would probably be like

I don't understand the question. I don't understand what "special time" means.

I'd recommend an answer like above because in the context of the question, term "special time" doesn't appear to have meaningful semantics.


I searched the web for this term and the only somewhat relevant definition I could find was at IBM Rational Portfolio Manager Help -> section Glossary of Terms:

Special time
    Non-standard working hours (overtime).

Per se, above definition makes some sense, but when put in the context of the question you have been asked, any shade of sense appears to fade away: “Do you like spending special time with coworkers?”

Huh? Do I like spending overtime with coworkers?

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Let's put this together:

it is a big market-research/polling type company

+

in a phone interview

+

I was not allowed to ask questions

(which latter one would be the st*pidest, redflaggest thing I have ever seen btw., ...unless...)

What if I told you, you had never been interviewed for a job?

You had been researched / polled; or more precisely, information about you had been harvested.

I offer this as I have recently came across a job ad active for a similar company where the job title was "Unsolicited application", and where — as far as I can recall — the job description was some pleasantly colored generic fairy-dust (requiring no qualification (again, if I recall it correctly)); something one could easily say to: "Well, with a stretch, I can see it plausible me having a chance at it". (Which further contributes towards drawing in a large number of people.)

So yeah, what if they are preying on the unfortunate of the job-market, and just abuse the landscape to siphon up the information they want? I offer you this possibility.


Let's look at the specific question in this light:

Do you like spending special time with coworkers?

Looks to me more like an item being part of some sort of poll, possibly sculpted a bit to appear more like an interview question. On this ground I would suggest not worrying how to answer this specific manifestation of it in an authentic interview context.

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    Excellent answer. Very old question, but still, this is an excellent answer. The OP was just scammed out of his time and out of his information. As a rule of thumb, you should always walk away from or hang up the phone on anyone who makes unreasonable demands from you. Respect is a two-way street. Jun 2 at 4:48
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I'd point out to them that it's not a question, you are just seeking clarification on their question to you.

If they remind you of "no questions" in that context, it's either a test or just stupid.

I'd politely ask twice what their question meant and if still refused more info, maybe say 'only if its truly "extra special" time with co-workers' and see how they respond. Maybe a little humor will help.

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You should have asked them to clarify what they meant, as pointed in the comments to your question. But, whatever they meant, I hold that a good response is an honest response.

Are you ready to give "good responses" and then get a job in a social environment you dislike? Would you be happy simply getting a job and spending the working day with resentment or apathy?

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  • They did ask for clarification, and was told 'no questions'.
    – acolyte
    Jul 2 '12 at 13:43
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    The author added those details additionally, after I posted my answer.
    – drabsv
    Jul 2 '12 at 15:57
  • my apologies. i did not notice that.
    – acolyte
    Jul 2 '12 at 16:00

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