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by Phil Stott | January 26, 2018


Aerial photo of shipping containers in port

Recruiters and interviewers will often throw out questions that are designed to test a candidate's ability to think on their feet, and ask them to make a case for something they care about on the fly. In doing so, they're looking to assess how well you can make an impromptu presentation, and also to get a sense of how deeply you think about issues in the world around you. 

With that in mind, when it comes to answering a question like "what's your favorite invention?", you need to do more than simply come up with better reasons for justifying your choice than "I think it's really cool" or "no-one had done it before."

To get an idea of the kind of depth you could go into, consider the information in the video below from the Wall Street Journal. 

While the subject matter may seem kind of dry on first glance—the history of global shipping—it's more or less a case study in how to build a compelling narrative out of something that most of us take for granted.

In fact, if nothing else, I'd recommend watching it just to absorb the information as a primer for the next time you're asked about an invention or world-shaping technology in an interview. Sure, the smartphone you'll undoubtedly have on you at the interview has changed the world, but interviewers have heard that one a million times. But a cogent, 4-minute response about how the humble shipping container has made the world we live in possible? That's something that will make almost anyone sit up and pay attention. 


p.s. If you want to go really deep on this subject, check out Containers, an 8-part podcast from Atlantic writer Alexis Madrigal, that was released in 2017.