How do you weigh an elephant?

Spalding Associates

One candidates tale of a recent interview

Before you ask no it wasn’t a question for a job at a Zoo but was a question asked by a large international company looking for creative graduates.

Whilst this might seem a strange question, you will be more familiar with the questions I was asked at a recent interview which were “could you give me an example where you have enjoyed working with other people” and “how do you handle conflict with collages or team members”.

I will be honest I had been busy in the period before the interview and had not prepared as fully as I should have done. I wasn’t expecting this question and whilst I am usually good at thinking on my feet on this occasion the pressure of the interview got to me and I struggled to answer.

I was really embarrassed, not because I didn’t have a good answer, but because I had not prepared as I should have done and it put me off my stride during the rest of the interview, consequently I didn’t give my best. Not surprisingly the interview panel could tell I hadn’t prepared properly and I didn’t get offered the job on this occasion.

Whilst we can all make mistakes, I won’t let this happen again and want to share a useful model I have since used called the CAR technique:

The CAR technique:

  • Context what was the situation

  • Achievement what did you do

  • Result what was the outcome

This technique can help and if I had prepared as I should have done, I would have had some excellent examples to show my skills and abilities to the panel.

There are plenty of examples on how to answer competency based questions on the web so have a practice. However what I found really helpful was getting Spalding Associates to email me some questions and give personal feedback on my answers. I now feel very confident about my next interview.

Now let’s return to our elephant still waiting to be weighed...

What if we put the elephant on a big raft inside a full tank of water?

If we measure the volume of water in the tank before we place the raft and elephant in the water, and standing well back from the large splash, we measure the volume of water that’s displaced from the tank this would give us a good approximation of the weight of the elephant.

So, let’s suppose that the tank holds 15000 litres of water and when placed on the raft in the tank 7500 litres (or about 1,900 gallons) of water is displaced We know that 1 litre of water weighs 1 kilogram that means the elephant weighs about 7500 kilograms.

If you can answer this you should definitely be able to show that you can think outside the box and get the job but don’t forget you still need to prepare.

Thank you for taking the time to read our blog!

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