Recently I have gone on two job interviews, one in a school and one in a university, and wow, interview questions (at least in my experience) in Colombia are way different from those in the States. I have never felt so interrogated in my life.
The first interview was with a school for a 10th and 11th grade English teaching position. The interview began with a personality assessment test called the Wartegg test. Personally, I think personality tests and quizzes to “find out about yourself” are completely bogus. Basically, they are the same as fortune-telling. Occasionally what they say will be true, but usually it’s just luck or coincidence. I really dislike tests trying to tell me about me.
Anyways, how the Wartegg test works is that there are eight boxes, each with either a line or squiggle or square or something (see picture above) and you have to complete each one with whatever comes to mind, and then label each of the drawings and say which one is your favorite, least favorite, easiest, and most difficult. I looked up how they interpret your drawings, and I have no idea how my drawings can determine how ambitious or adaptable or stable I am, but that was what they were attempting to figure out.
After I finished drawing, I had a rather normal conversation with one of the coordinators. Who said that he liked my CV and thought I was a good candidate. The main question he asked me was what my salary expectations were. I hate that question. At first I said I expected my salary to match my skills and experience and what the school could offer, but he kept pressuring me for an actual number. I finally told him what I made last year and that I would need a little more this year because the cost of living in Bogotá is higher than in Barranquilla, and he seemed to accept that. After we finished speaking, I had more drawing to do.
The next portion of the interview involved three drawings and writing a story. The first picture I had to draw was of a person in the rain, the second of a man on one side of a piece of paper and the third a woman on the other side. Then I had to write a story (in Spanish, the whole interview process was in Spanish) about the man and the woman I had drawn. I have no idea what the purpose of any of this was, but I went along with it.
Next came the inquisition. I sat down with one of the school psychologists and she began by asking me about my boyfriend, my family, what they do, my relationships with them, and how often do I speak to my family. Then she proceed to ask me about my religious views, what do I live for, if I had any difficulties interacting with people, and what do I want out of life. She did not ask one question about my previous work experience or why I wanted to teach. I understand that they want to make sure they hire stable teachers who are able to work with kids, but in my opinion, this was overkill.
These interview questions are one of the most stark cultural differences I have encountered between Colombian and US culture. I don’t know if the majority of interviews in schools in Colombia ask the same kinds of questions, but I do know that there just isn’t the same sense of privacy or laws on privacy and what should be asked and what should not as in the States. Also, Colombians are generally much more straight-forward than North Americans and so asking questions like the ones in my interview does not seen as presumptuous. I know this about Colombia, but it was a bit difficult for me to deal with such personal questions in a work setting because I’m just not used to it. I felt a bit defensive throughout the whole interview even though I kept reminding myself that they weren’t trying to attack me, these were just the questions they were supposed to ask and inquired of everyone applying for the job.
The second interview I had with the university was not nearly as long or invasive, but they also asked questions about my family and religious views, and posed quite a few questions that I had no answer to, such as what was my biggest disappointment and what was something that made me angry. And fortunately there were no personality assessments.
The interviews were certainly an experience, although I hope future interviews will not entail such probing questions. If they do, though, at least I will be better prepared and not quite so surprised if the interview involves making drawings.