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I met someone who finished business school and applied for lots of jobs in the financial sector, but was rather frustrated after six months and several interviews but no job offer. (This was before the financial crisis.)

She complained that the interviewers were asking stupid and irrelevant questions, along the lines of "what is the current stock price for company X?"

When she told them she had been away on vacation in France they asked her to describe the French stock market instead. (She: "How am I supposed to know, I was on holiday!")

Programming is apparently not the only field where "interest beyond 9-5" is a job requirement...

Or more precisely: There are plenty of jobs in both programming and finance where 9-5 interest is enough, but in my experience the jobs that are considered "good" tend to ask more than that.

Companies are always looking at ways to reduce costs. Some recognize that one employee performance varies greatly from the next employee. Asking these questions tends to indicate a different caliber of employee, one that is devoted to their field in obsessive ways. If that in the end defines a better employee I don't really know, but I tend to disagree. I personally (in the programming field) look for people who have the right ego (humble) and personality (outgoing). If you can do those two things, have a baseline of knowledge, and can LEARN then you'll make a great employee. (Maybe not a great entrepreneur?) (Also no the company I work for is not currently hiring)

right ego (humble) and personality (outgoing).

I guess it sort of depends on how you define humble, but I find that most good programmers have at least a touch of arrogance. They must approach some of the most complicated machines developped in all of history and say, "I will make this do my will." They must approach problems that have not been solved before and say, "I can solve this." If you decide to change languages or even just frameworks or a new API, they must think, "I can and will learn this."

I can see a desire for a certain degree of humility, but it must be of a specific kind, not what most people think of as humility. It should be of the "I know there are people better than me, but I will find them and learn from them. I will always strive to be the best, while acknowledging there will be others better."

Your assumptions are correct, being afraid is not what we look for. :) You can have confidence without ego, but that is normally because you know what you know and more importantly know what you don't (wisdom). Now combining the wisdom and willingness to always continue learning, that is what I attempted to sum up in one word of "humble".

I'm not sure you could characterize those questions as measuring "interest beyond 9-5". I think they are actually just ticking off the boxes "candidate spent at least 10 minutes effort into prepping for interviews [Y/N]".

There are many big bank interview guides, all of which tell you "look up the DOW/NASDAQ/S&P open/close before the interview" (not to mention share price of the company you are interviewing at). At one point I interviewed at a big bank, and many questions I got were stolen right out of this book: http://www.amazon.com/Heard-Street-Quantitative-Questions-In...

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