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March 01, 2005


Happy to weigh in, Lisa. Too bad about the deleted post, which sought to clarify the its/it's issue, about which some of your readers appear to be sorely confused.

To reiterate:

Dave is correct that the only time an apostrophe is used with its is when it's (get it?!?) used as a contraction of "it is." The possessive form of it is "its," no apostrophe anywhere -- before the "s," after the "s," anywhere.

This does sound like a minor quibble, but as I said, I would toss any resume or cover letter that misused its, and I don't think I'm alone in that.

As a hiring manager, I've always worked into interviews the question, "So, do you have any questions?" along with, "What do you need from me as your manager in order to succeed?"

I've never had a real rationale for why I did it, it just seemed like a polite way to invest the interview with a more conversational tone instead of an interrogative one.

Thanks for articulating what I was doing by instinct. Hopefully I won't need to use it as an interviewee for a while :)

just an afterthought ... i suggest that each prospective commentor (and commentator, or both) "eats, shoots and leaves" :-)

- some body

Travis is right on the possessive "its" use. The use of an apostrophe after a noun is only for plural nouns that end in s.

IE: The houses' chimneys. (Putting the possession of the chimneys on the houses.)

"It" is different in that it follows the same rules that his/her/them do. We don't add apostrophes to those words, don't do that to "it" in those cases. I was taught to replace it with his/her/etc... and see if the sentence made sense then. It was an easy trick to remember.

Then again I may be wrong, please correct me if I am. I am learning some other languages at the moment, and there is a chance their grammar is taking over. :)

Anyway, enough grammar. Nice article and I am adding these questions to my list. Much appreciated food for thought.

>>>In this VP recruiting process, I was positioned as an external, somewhat objective, person who knew the hiring managers, peers and direct reports very well. I expected to be asked what it was like to work for the company president and CEO. But not everyone bothered to ask! I thought the question was important enough that when someone did not ask me this, I asked him or her, “don’t you want to know what it is like to work for ____?”

How exactly is that question supposed to work? A half-second's consideration with games theory makes it obvious that you can't get a useful answer from that.

If the manager is tolerable to work with, the interviewer will have a positive incentive to tell the truth and a negative incentive to lie, and so will say that the manager is tolerable.

If the manager is intolerable, the interviewer will have a negative incentive to tell the truth and a positive incentive to lie, and so will say that the manager is tolerable.

"So, how is the boss to work with?" "Oh, he's a complete bastard, utterly insensitive to all employee input, technically incompetent to tie his own shoelaces let alone run a high-tech company, and we have to settle out of court for a half-dozen sexual harassment lawsuits a year." I don't think so.

Mark notes the games theory angle. It's worth paying attention to, but there are *always* ways to say the unutterable, without actually saying it.

"Tolerable" isn't exactly glowing praise, and when combined with a slight grimace, the point comes across.


I find it is not so important whether an interviewer says a boss is tolerable or intolerable. they are not likely to say he or she is intolerable. What is useful, however, is what they say about the boss's preferences, style, hot buttons, and such. I can tell a lot from what people say, even when they are only saying the good stuff. Because they will leave out the bad stuff. If someone goes on and on about how someone is organized, detail oriented, and a perfectionists, this tells you both what is and what LIKELY is not so high on this person's lists of strengths.

I also like to share the boss's hotbuttons - what do they love and loathe? This is good information to know.

I this particular case, there were a couple challenges that I wanted the candidates to be aware of. Nothing sinister or evil (or intolerable), but challenging and perhaps uncommon.

Bren - I'm with you, the last thing I would want to be described as is tolerable. :-)

And thanks, everyone, for the continuing grammar lessons - I need them!

Admittedly, I'm technical, and my perspective shows in that pair of terms. I'm certain that managers would phrase it very differently.

To technical people (when we're not speaking around your kind at work, naturally), the best a manager can really hope for is to be "tolerable", and maybe 80% don't manage that much.

When the choice is tolerable or intolerable, choose the former.

Mark - thanks for sharing where your point of view is coming from. :-)

Thanks for the good interview tips. I am going for a second interview for Test manager position in the software industry. This time I am meeting my future staff.

what type of questions do you think I should ask them? And which ones I should be prepared to answer?


I would ask the staff what kind of management they prefer and what their hopes are for the department for the future. I would ask them what is working very well in the department and the areas that they would like the new manager to tackle. I would ask them the key challenges the manager will face and why?

Whether they ask you or not, be prepared to share about your style and how you go about getting things done. Share your philispohies about what makes a department successful and a few of your quirks (makes you more human).

the staff really wants to be sure that you are going to be a fun person to work for and not an SOB. So be relaxed, open, and focus on building a relationship with them.

Good luck!

Hello! Just read your article, I usually do well in interviews, or so I thought and I have one this week, thanks for letting me know its ok to be assertive this week wehn asking about the company... I'll let you know how it works out! I appreciate the information, well written!!

I think being lineant with the candidate is good idea to know about them.

Very interesting post.I get to know about so many things from this post about interview.

Some of the photographs are great, but I was hoping this project would raise some interesting questions, such as what flags mean to people, whether they still have a role today, and so on. Instead we get some oh-so-witty photos of the flag as wee or draped over the designer's dog. Maybe I'm just surprised no-one set the flag on fire and took a photograph of the remains.

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