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Preparing for Job Interviews

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A technical note prepared to assist in preparation for professional job interview. Contains a list of 72 standard questions that have regularly come up in MBA job interviews

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Preparing for Job Interviews

  1. 1. DPON-80-E 2-408-089 Preparing for Job Interviews A Guide to Successful Interviewing y “Hi, I am Conor Neill, a manager here at Accenture Sydney. Welcome. Please take a seat. How was your journey? Did you find us easily? I have a op couple of questions for you.” In 1999 I began interviewing as part of the “executive team” of Accenture. Each Friday afternoon I would have 4 or 5 graduate interviews and take “yes” or “no” career decisions about people that I had only met 45 minutes previously. C Companies want to hire great people. How do they decide which candidates have the commitment, personality and capabilities to make a positive impact on their organization? Ideally they would come and see you work for 3 months – but they don’t have that luxury. They skim through a CV, t read a cover letter and spend an hour on campus speaking to you – and no have to decide between you and a hundred others. How can you make it easy for them? How can you get across your specific blend of strengths in less than an hour? o D This technical note was prepared by Conor Neill, Lecturer, under the supervision of Professor Brian O’ C. Leggett. March 2009. Copyright © 2009, IESE. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, contact IESE PUBLISHING via the website, www.iesep.com. Alternatively, call +34 932 534 200, send a fax to +34 932 534 343, or write IESEP, C/ Juan de Alós, 43 - 08034 Barcelona, Spain, or iesep@iesep.com. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise – without the permission of IESE. Last edited: 5/18/09 1
  2. 2. DPON-80-E Preparing for Job Interviews These comments came from companies after campus interviews at IESE Business School during 2008. • “He was not familiar with the industry and just listed off chronological experiences” • “He gave the impression that he was the only MBA graduating” • “They described what they did rather than how they did it and the impact they had” • “She didn’t come over as particularly motivated by the company or industry” • “I don’t think he even read the job posting” y This technical note is designed to be a practical aid that ensures that these comments are not heard in the corridors of IESE after your interviews. How to Use This Technical Note op This is a technical note on job interviews – specifically what you as an interviewee can C do to prepare well for interview situations. It is structured in four sections. • Part 1: The simple stuff (anybody can do this bit). t • Part 2: The complex stuff (only you can be you). no • Part 3: 71 common interview questions and 9 questions you might want to ask the interviewer • Part 4: The really complex stuff (what do you want out of life). I would suggest the following six steps as a simple plan for interview preparation using o this technical note. 1. Buy a notebook. (I will assume you have a pen.) D 2. Read through this technical note writing down your thoughts in your notebook. 3. Answer the questions in Part 3 by writing answers in full in your notebook. 4. Speak your answers out loud. Ideally you would sit in front of a web cam and record your answers. Happy with your answers? 5. Now get friends to ask you the questions. Once you are happy speaking to friends, get a second year to mock interview you. 6. Study the questions that you should be asking the interviewer. Prepare for a two-way sharing of information that can facilitate your career decisions. One note on CVs – a recent recruitment study found that applicants whose curriculum vitae contained only wholly positive references were invited to fewer interviews than 2 IESE Business School-University of Navarra
  3. 3. Preparing for Job Interviews DPON-80-E those whose curriculum vitae first highlighted a weakness or slight limitation before going on to describe positive characteristics.1 Part 1: The Simple Stuff I will not labour these points as they are self-evident. You are interviewing for a professional role in a professional organization… so here are nine simple traits of respectful professionals: 1. Arrive a few minutes early 2. Bring a notepad and pen y 3. Switch off mobiles 4. Listen to the question op 5. Be honest 6. Be positive 7. Answer only the question asked 8. Give a structured answer C a. State what you did b. Why you did it c. What you learnt from the experience t 9. Ask interviewer for a business card no Part 2: The More Complex Stuff Cracking the simple stuff is easy. Now we have the problem of how you convey to an interviewer in the course of less than an hour all of your hopes, dreams, successes, lessons learnt, strengths, motivations and capabilities. o There are eight areas where you as a strong candidate can improve your interview D performance: 1. Prepare 2. Smile before you enter 3. Make it easy for the interviewer 4. Be clear and concise 5. Be confident 6. Keep cool 7. Practise, practise, practise 8. It’s a marathon, not a sprint 1 N. Goldstein, S. Martin, R. Cialdini “Yes! 50 secrets from the science of persuasion” (London: Profile Books, 2007) Ch. 28 IESE Business School-University of Navarra 3
  4. 4. DPON-80-E Preparing for Job Interviews Prepare If you are reading this technical note five minutes before your interview, then it is too late for you. You cannot squeeze preparation for an interview into the night before. You must take steps well in advance to prepare for interviews by reviewing, planning and rehearsing your interview “performance”. You are competing with highly talented, well prepared candidates who are hungry for the job. Know why you will have an impact on this organization. Know why this job is a good job for you. Review your notebook with your answers to the questions included in part 3 of this technical note. Rehearse the answers mentally and link your answers to your personal resumé and general background. y Focus on your story and make sure that you fill in the obvious gaps. Know how they will respond to your story and be prepared with your counter-response. If you have a op weakness, they will find it. Be prepared with an answer that addresses it without whining. “Conceal a flaw and the world will imagine the worst” Marcus Valerius Martialis. Check Google news on the company – what has been happening recently? What is the C share price? Review recent analyst reports. Who do you know at the company? Check LinkedIn for people who you know at the company – for family and friends who could give you a lead in to somebody at the company. It is a powerful indicator of career motivation and job understanding if you can talk to the interviewer about what t another employee has shared with you about the job. no Shortly before the interview review your application, curriculum vitae and your general notes on the particular company and sector. In any interview you will be expected to speak about the job in question, your qualifications for the job and your general knowledge of the sector. These are areas that every candidate must prepare beforehand. Know and be ready to talk about everything on your curriculum vitae. o You could be asked to speak about anything and everything on it. The more time you spend preparing, the more you will find out about yourself and the D more sincere you will sound during the actual interview. Know yourself well, they will probe beneath the surface. You know the questions you are going to be asked. What would you do if you had final exams and you knew all the questions in advance? This is no different. 4 IESE Business School-University of Navarra
  5. 5. Preparing for Job Interviews DPON-80-E Smile Before You Enter If there is one and only one thing you do in your interview it should be to smile. As you reach the door of the interviewer, think a strong positive thought, put a smile on your face and take a deep breath. Go in positive and prepared to start strong. Impressions are made in the first few minutes. No matter how things are going, smile, be positive and stick to your story. Be energetic. The energy in the conversation must come from you. Sell yourself. Remember, you need someone to stand up and say, “We should hire this person.” y Make it Easy for the Interviewer It is worthwhile switching roles mentally – pretend you are the interviewer. What skills op and expertise would you be looking for? How has the candidate demonstrated those skills in the past? In general you will want to know whether or not the interviewee is aware of their own assets and if they have worked out their career goals. There should be different considerations for different phases of an interview process. C In the campus or “screening” interview with Human Resources or with junior members of the organization you don’t need a “win” – you just need to differentiate yourself from the crowd. The key is you being different from the crowd. t In the decision interview you are competing with the rest of the short list. Do you have no clear, well-researched assumptions about what the organization uses as criteria for a “good match”? Can you argue and support your case to be a good match? How and in what context will offer decisions be made? Shape your summary points to make it easy for the interviewer to make your case. A highly useful activity is to write the text of your interviewer’s script for the decision meeting. Write the memorandum of the decision to hire you. Why will this interviewer put their reputation on the line to say o that you are the person for this job? D In order to prepare me for interviewing Accenture trained me to look for five overall areas and twenty specific qualities that Accenture had identified as influencers over the future success of management candidates. Table 1 below highlights the key behaviours that form these twenty qualities. As you read the indicators listed in the table, reflect on the experiences you have had that can be the basis for specific examples you can share about yourself. This table is specific to Accenture, but the general characteristics apply to most professional careers. (Use common sense if your industry or sector is very different – but do get into the interviewer’s frame of reference). IESE Business School-University of Navarra 5
  6. 6. DPON-80-E Preparing for Job Interviews Table 1 Key Influences Area Quality Behaviours PersonaIity Impact • Creates positive first impression • Acts with appropriate self-assurance, remaining poised in uncertain and ambiguous situations • Generates trust and credibility • Appropriate appearance – dress and grooming Achievement/ Drive • Strong determination to succeed and excel • Gives extra effort • Demonstrates strong energy and enthusiasm • Persistent and tenacious y Initiative • Motivated to learn and advance own expertise and value • Works to meet or exceed a standard set by others • Identifies and acts upon opportunities to increase quality of own op work Adaptability • Adapts readily to demands of new, changing situations • Adjusts thinking and approaches to reach new goals • Resourcefulness, ability to improvise • Can juggle multiple tasks, switch tasks and handle interruptions Maturity • Can take risks and handle conflict • Remains calm under pressure C • Does not give up, bounces back from setbacks • Consistently honours commitment, takes responsibility for actions and work Intellect Analytical Thought • Distinguishes key facts and issues from secondary and t Process extraneous factors • Can follow a progressive thought process from idea to idea no • Makes sound, defensible observations • Accurate, precise reasoning from practice to conclusion Creativity • Looks at issues and problems in new, unconventional ways • Sees relationships among widely divergent facts, ideas and situations • Can spot unconventional, hidden opportunities Decisiveness • Generates sound practical decisions and courses of action • Acts promptly and confidently using sound judgment and o common sense • Demonstrates the courage of his/her convictions Business Insight • Demonstrates strong commercial awareness • Adopts client perspective in all interactions D Academic Performance • Strong academic background Leadership Leadership Qualities • Valued by peers as a leader/potential leader • Can persuade/influence people to accept (buy an idea, services or product) • Pattern of significant, successful leadership experience • Takes charge when necessary; assumes leadership roles Team Working • Ability to work well with a wide range of people • Builds solid relationships of trust and respect • Maintains responsibility and flexibility in working with others to achieve common goals Empathy/Interpersonal • Adapts to other personalities in a respectful manner that is Skills conducive to goal achievement • Motivates others to get things done and makes the effort to win others’ confidence • Develops rapport easily; puts people at ease Resilience • Reliable under pressure • Maintains objectivity in the face of criticism and remains effective 6 IESE Business School-University of Navarra
  7. 7. Preparing for Job Interviews DPON-80-E Skills Functional/ Technical • Will depend upon Career Development Model criteria for the selected competency group, skill track and level Performance • Systematically organises and completes detailed tasks; checks accuracy and completeness of information • Proposes solutions to problems rather than just raising issues • Promptly acts on requests for information • Has a record of improving operational performance and can be counted on to meet/exceed goals, demonstrating speed and flexibility • Ensures plans in place with clear milestones and measures to track performance Cross-Competency • As defined by the Career Development Model and will vary according to level for which the candidate is being considered Career Career Focus • Thoughtful and appropriate career directions • Results orientation and driven to achieve y • Awareness of Accenture and nature of our work Motivation towards • Understanding and acceptance of Company lifestyle Company • Demonstrates good knowledge of, and interest in, who we are op and what we do Mobility • Aware of the requirement for mobility In the course of 45 minutes I had to take a decision as to whether an interviewee had all of the 20 qualities and would have a positive impact on Accenture. I also had the C informal thought of “if I was trapped in an airport for six hours next to this person would we get along?” An interview is also stressful for the interviewer. In Accenture, HR kept “score” for t interviewers. Each month the poorest performing interviewers were told that they were no no longer needed for interviewing. If I said “yes” to a candidate – I needed to be sure they would get a “yes” from the other interviewers. Be Clear and Concise Keep your answers short and to the point. o Be Confident D Think of positive reasons for everything. Don’t apologize for anything – grades, GMAT scores, GPA or IESE – but have a reason to back it up. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know, but let me outline how I would approach this situation/challenge/problem/opportunity…” One of the most common problems facing interviewees is themselves. Many interviewees have not thought enough about who they are and what they want out of life. Another challenge is finding the balance in selling yourself. A balance must be made between appearing aggressive and dominant or being overly passive, “down playing” your achievements. The right poise is assertive – a posture in which you stand up for your rights while respecting the rights of others. The advice generally given is for IESE Business School-University of Navarra 7
  8. 8. DPON-80-E Preparing for Job Interviews interviewees to keep to specific topics and avoid generalities about themselves. Choose specific examples that you can explain to highlight strengths. Practise telling your stories. Keep Cool Don’t forget – they’re asking questions to find out about your line of thinking and to find out how you will react under certain conditions. When in doubt, take a deep breath and talk it out. Practise, Practise, Practise y What sounds good in your head may not necessarily sound good out loud. op Practise out loud – in the car, to your friends and family, in the shower, to your dog, to your wife, to your team, to your… you get the point. A lot of laptops now come with an integrated web camera. A great way to practise is to use a webcam at your desk to capture your answers. Come back the next day and C review some of your videos – it will give you a fresh reflection on the quality of your answers and delivery. Have second year students mock interview you. If your mock interviews are tough, you t will be better prepared. Do not let the interviewer say “yeah, that was ok”. Make them no be brutal on your answer (not on you the person!). It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint Eat and sleep right. Relax and have fun. An interview is a chance to get to know an interesting person. Get their business card. Be interested in their life. Keep in touch. o D Part 3: Interview Questions This is a list of potential questions. Different firms will ask different questions and will put different emphases on your answers. Be prepared as much as you possibly can, but remember, you cannot prepare for every eventuality. Your background – Tell me about yourself 1. Tell me about yourself. Walk me through your resumé. 2. How do you think a good friend would describe you? 3. Why did you choose the college you attended? What other colleges did you consider? If you changed school, why did you transfer? 4. Why did you choose the job you did after college? If you changed jobs, why? 8 IESE Business School-University of Navarra
  9. 9. Preparing for Job Interviews DPON-80-E 5. What did you like and dislike most about your last job? 6. Why did you decide to come back to business school? Why did you choose IESE? What other schools did you consider and/or apply to? Where else did you get in? How did you make your choice? 7. What do you dislike about IESE? What would you change? 8. What are your short-term objectives? What are your long-term objectives? What would you like to have achieved in five years’ time? Industry interest and knowledge 9. Why do you want to work in this industry? y 10. What do you think we do? What do you think a typical day looks like? op 11. What three traits do you think make for a successful career in this industry? Academic and school-related 12. What is your GMAT? How are your grades at IESE? C 13. What has been your favourite or least favourite class at IESE? Why? 14. What has been the toughest class at IESE? Why? 15. How has your experience at IESE helped prepare you for your professional life? t no Interest and commitment 16. Why do you want to work at this company? Why do you want this job? 17. What concerns you about this job? 18. Do you like [Location of Job]? Could you live there? o 19. Who have you talked to at the company? What have you learned from them? What would they say about you? D 20. What other companies are you talking to? What are your impressions of other companies? Do you have an offer from any other companies? 21. Why do you think you could do this job well? Why should we offer the job to you? 22. How do you think the industry is structured? Where do you think the industry is headed? What do you think of the recent changes? 23. Who are our competitors? What are your impressions of other firms? What differentiates our company from our competitors? What are some differences among different companies that you have noticed? Which differences are important to you? 24. How will you make a choice among companies? 25. Do you see yourself in this industry over the long-term? IESE Business School-University of Navarra 9
  10. 10. DPON-80-E Preparing for Job Interviews 26. If we gave you an offer right now, would you take it? 27. What will you do if you do not get an offer from us? Team questions 28. Do you see yourself more as a team player or as an individual achiever? 29. What would the members of your IESE teams say about you? What would they say is your biggest weakness? 30. What are some examples of teams you have participated in? Tell me about an experience that you had working as part of a team. y 31. Describe a difficult team situation and how it was resolved. 32. Few people get along with everyone. How do you handle conflict? How do you op handle working with someone you dislike? Give some examples. Skills oriented 33. What skills do you bring to the job? I see many qualified candidates, why C should I hire you? Why do you think that you would be successful at this job? 34. Give me an example of your leadership abilities? 35. What qualities do you think are important to this job? What makes people t successful in this area? no 36. Tell me about a time when you were creative. 37. Explain a project where you did the analysis from beginning to end? 38. Give me some example of doing more than is required in the course or job. 39. How would you describe your leadership and/or management style? o 40. What business publications do you read? 41. How would you manage an employee who was underperforming? Would you D fire him or her if there were no improvement? 42. What makes a successful manager? 43. How would you rank yourself from one to ten? Why? 44. Do you work well under pressure? Your weaknesses and strengths 45. What are some of your weaknesses? What are some of your strengths? 46. What is your greatest accomplishment? What is the biggest risk you have ever taken? 47. From your resumé, what are the two biggest concerns we should have in hiring you? Why would we not hire you? What risks do you incur for us? 10 IESE Business School-University of Navarra
  11. 11. Preparing for Job Interviews DPON-80-E 48. Are you a thorough person? 49. What kinds of situations frustrate you easily? 50. Discuss a recent or large failure, professional or personal. How did you react? 51. Imagine we are reviewing your performance at our firm after working with us for six months or a year. What do you think our criticisms of you would be? 52. What is the biggest mistake you ever made and didn’t get caught? What is the biggest mistake you ever made and did get caught? 53. Tell me about the manager in your last job. Would you have done things differently? y Personality op 54. What motivates you? 55. What do you do in your spare time? 56. What do you do for fun? What did you do this past weekend? C 57. Tell me about a time when you found it necessary to break the rules. 58. What are your goals for the next five years: personal and professional? 59. What would you change about your past? t 60. How would your friends and/or team-mates describe you? If I were to call your no last boss, what would he or she say about you? Can we call him/her right now? 61. What makes you nervous? 62. What was the best day of your life? 63. What is your favourite book? What was the last book you read? Why did you like it? 64. If you could have lunch with any three people who would they be and why? o 65. What don’t you like about other people? Think about someone you dislike and tell me what makes you dislike this person? D 66. What do you hope to get out of your professional career? 67. What is important to you about the place that you work? 68. If you could change anything in your life that you have ever done, what would it be and why? What was your worst decision, personal or professional? Sales specific questions 69. What makes you think that you can sell? 70. How do you measure success in your life? 71. What about your personality will make you a good Salesperson? IESE Business School-University of Navarra 11
  12. 12. DPON-80-E Preparing for Job Interviews Questions for the Interviewer “There is nothing more off-putting than an interviewee that doesn’t ask any questions” says Rosie Innes – IESE Career Services. The interview is also an opportunity for you to really assess whether this organization is the place for you. 1. What are the opportunities for personal growth? 2. What is the realistic time frame for advancement? 3. How is an employee evaluated and promoted? 4. What is the typical first year of assignments? y 5. What are the challenging facets of the job? 6. How would you describe your company’s personality and management style? op 7. What characteristics do the successful people at your company have? 8. What are the next steps in this interview process? When will you take a decision? C Part 4: The Really Complex Stuff What are your strengths? t Read “Now Discover your Strengths” by Markus Buckingham.2 no What are your goals? Get in the habit of writing goals down and sharing them with others. Get them down on paper, then iterate. Don’t wait for perfection or 100% clarity. o Write one down now. Who are you? D A monk and his followers live near a river. Each morning they go down to the river. One morning, a scorpion falls into the river. The monk reaches out and picks up the scorpion placing him on dry land. His hand is stung. The next day, the monk and his followers go down to the river. A scorpion falls into the water. The monk reaches out and saves the scorpion, again receiving a painful sting. His followers ask if he is ok. A third day, the monk and his followers go down to the river. A scorpion falls into the water. The monk reaches out to save the scorpion but his followers hold him back. 2 Buckingham, Marcus “Now, discover your strengths: how to develop your talents and those of people you manage”, Simon & Schuster, 2001. 12 IESE Business School-University of Navarra
  13. 13. Preparing for Job Interviews DPON-80-E “Have you not seen what will happen?” The monk asks to be released, reaches out, saves the scorpion and is again stung painfully. The followers ask the monk “What are you doing?” The monk replies “It is in the nature of the scorpion to sting. It is in my nature to help those that I can help. If I do not follow my nature I will not be fulfilled.” “The reward for conformity is that everybody likes you except yourself” Rita Mae Brown y op t C no o D IESE Business School-University of Navarra 13
  14. 14. DPON-80-E Preparing for Job Interviews Appendix 1 Typical Investment Banking Interview Outline The interviewer will have a list of questions and/or points that their bank’s Human Resources department will want to cover. These vary from firm to firm but will most likely include at least some of the following: • Can this person do the job? (Ability) • Will this person make good decisions? (Judgment) • Does this person know what they are getting into? (Commitment) y • Would I want to work with this person? (Fit) op The objective of the interview is for you to answer these (and related) questions. Bankers are all about data points, and will try to get as many pieces of information as possible. However, these interviews are not very original and most follow their firm –imposed framework to the letter. C Your job is to show interest and enthusiasm in telling your story. Remember to work your story into all of your answers. Try to be as concise and to the point with your answers as you can without leaving anything important out. t Interview Outline no 1) Housekeeping items a) IESE Grades (may be asked for specific classes – accounting, finance, statistics) b) GMAT o 2) Walk me through your resumé D a) Why did you choose… (everything you have ever done!)? b) What did you learn? 3) Why investment banking? a) How does investment banking fit into your goals? b) Commitment (The interviewer wants to know that you will be excited about doing this job) c) Knowledge of the industry 14 IESE Business School-University of Navarra
  15. 15. Preparing for Job Interviews DPON-80-E Appendix 1 (continued) 4) Why us? a) Programmes – rotation versus group interest b) Bank culture – why are you a fit? c) Other factors – geography, specialization, etc. 5) Behavioural a) Strengths y b) Weaknesses op c) Examples of leadership and teamwork d) Personality questions (the little things you put on the bottom of the resumé) 6) Technical C a) Accounting questions b) Finance questions t c) Three ways to value a company no 7) Any questions for me? a) Anything that shows interest b) Close with a wrap-up of your credentials o c) Make sure that your interviewer is comfortable with your story d) Next step in the process D IESE Business School-University of Navarra 15
  16. 16. DPON-80-E Preparing for Job Interviews Appendix 2 Cracking Consulting Cases There are five steps to crack consulting cases: 1. Big picture thinking 2. Problem solving logic 3. Focus on value 4. Depth and breadth – business intuition y 5. Results orientation op Big picture thinking You must articulate the critical issues facing the business – the key is to focus in on a few key issues. Avoid providing a “laundry list” of every problem facing the business. Typical questions are “You have just been promoted to CEO – what do you think the C biggest challenge facing you might be?” Problem solving logic t The interviewer will ask you to lay out the elements of the problem. What factors no should be considered? In Analysis of Business Problems you have learnt a structured approach to business problem solving. What simple model can you apply to the case to allow a structured approach? How should you prioritise your limited resources? Focus on value o What avenues of investigation should you pursue? The interviewer will be looking to see if you are instinctive about the path to choose and will look into your reasoning to D prioritise this particular course of action. Typical questions include “Which opportunity do you think will have the biggest impact?” Depth and breadth – business intuition The interviewer is looking to see that you can focus in on an area and go deep – asking probing questions to analyse one specific area. “How would you improve the stock-out situation in the warehouse?” 16 IESE Business School-University of Navarra
  17. 17. Preparing for Job Interviews DPON-80-E Appendix 2 (continued) Results orientation It is not enough to have lots of ideas – it is vitally important that your ideas are practical and deliver results. The interviewer will want to hear a practical, implementable plan of action. “Those seem like good strategies. How would you implement those ideas?” Check www.bcg.com – they have a number of online interactive cases that are excellent preparation for a consulting case interview. y Cruise Ship Operator Case op Background: A major cruise ship operator has retained our team to determine, if it should build a new luxury cruise ship. We have been asked to begin our work by analyzing the future C demand for cruises. Essential facts include: • Half of the operators (including our client are earning a small profit; the others are operating with losses. t • There are 8 major cruise ship operators. The largest has a 25% market share; no the second has 20%; our client has 15%; the remainder is divided among other competitors. • Prices have declined over the last 2 years • Construction of the cruise ship will take 3 years o Question: You are a member of the team assigned to this project. How would you go about D structuring an analysis of the future demand for luxury cruises on the client's new ship? Travel Agent Case Our client is a large travel agency based in Northern Europe. They are seeing significant margin erosion. What would you suggest they do? Take a piece of paper. I want you to draw the income statement of this business. Imagine that revenues are 100. What are the net profits of this business? What would you recommend to our client? IESE Business School-University of Navarra 17