Skip to comments.How to Answer Stupid Job Interview Questions
Posted on 03/11/2014 9:38:46 AM PDT by ShadowAce
Our client Angela went on a job interview.
"It's supposed to be a Marketing Manager job, but they sure talk a lot about graphic design in the job ad," said Angie. "And the job's been posted on the company website for six months."
Angie went to the interview and sat in a lobby for half an hour. A nice woman came to get her and deposited her in a small interviewing room. A not-as-nice lady came in and started grilling Angie with questions, taking notes as Angie spoke (no eye contact - all business!).
"Tell me about your experience with Adobe Illustrator."
"Tell me how much you know about InDesign."
"Tell me what you know about search engines."
Wait a second, thought Angie. Something is off - this lady is just reading questions from a script. She doesn't know how the pieces fit together. She doesn't know anything about this job!
Angie is a marketer, not a graphic designer. She knows tons about search engines, but none of what she knows would have impressed her interviewer, who kept her eyes glued to her notepad and scribbled furiously throughout the interview.
"May I ask a question?" asked Angie finally. "Sure," said the lady.
"This job has been open for a while," said Angie. "What would you say is the reason it's taken some time to find the right person?"
"I'm choosy," said the interviewer, and that was that.
Angie never heard from the company again, but she hadn't waited around after the interview, either. She could see in a flash that no one with spark and self-esteem would thrive in that company. As far as I know, that job is still open.
A job search is a test of your fortitude. The struggling economy doesn't make it easy, and an even bigger challenge is the dysfunctional recruiting process used by nearly every medium-sized and large employer.
I want you to keep in mind that it's not you - the system itself is broken beyond repair. You are fine. It's the combination of talent-repelling job ads, Black Hole application systems, and thoughtless, soul-crushing interview processes that make a job search so hard on your emotions.
The good news is that slowly, the tide is turning. I've been writing about putting a human voice in business for twenty years, but since we put a name and mission to the the Human Workplace cause in 2012, the pace of change toward a mojo-fueled work world has accelerated dramatically.
These days, we get as many inquiries in our office from employers looking to boost the mojo level in their organizations as we do from job-seekers looking for Human Workplaces to join.
Still, you can't assume that when you go on a job interview, your interviewers will be as Human Workplace-aware as you are. They may be just the opposite, like Miss Choosy in our story above.
They may ask you idiotic interview questions and work hard to make the relationship "I'm in charge - you're dogmeat" abundantly clear throughout your interview conversation.
When you're asked a foolish, irrelevant question on a job interview, it's hard to know how to respond. Do you answer the question sincerely, ironically, or a mix or the two? Is it best to play the part of the The Good Little Interviewee and give no sign that your time is being wasted and your IQ is seeping out through your ears?
If you play that part too well, you may get hired into a job that will suck your life force away. So what do you do, when the brainless interview questions start flying?
Here's our guide to stupid interview questions, to bookmark and pull out before your next job interview.
This question is so pointless and by extension, insulting (Do you have a job opening to fill or not? Why would you use our precious time together asking me fanciful kindergarten questions?) that it's a red flag.
Either this firm lets its interviewers ask any random questions they want on a job interview, or they've actually talked about it and decided this question is worth asking. Either way, if a fresh-faced baby interviewer or HR screener asks you this question, I'd hate for you to get up and leave before you've made it to the hiring manager, the person who has the Business Pain we came to learn about.
(If your hiring manager asks you this question, you have my permission to get up and leave. Just say "Oh, look at the time! So sorry, I forgot that I have an appointment in eight minutes. Lovely to meet you, though!") Hit the road, and go get yourself a nice gelato.
You might want to answer this way: "I'd be an ebola virus, and infect your competitors!" but I fear your interviewer wouldn't pick up on the satire. Better to answer the question with a short answer and then ask your own question, like this:
INTERVIEWER: If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?
YOU: Hmmm, probably some kind of wild cat, like a jaguar - I enjoy the hunt. Can I ask you a question about that?
INTERVIEWER: Er- sure!
YOU: I'm always interested in the interview questions that companies ask. Is that your own addition to the company's interview script, or does everyone here use that question? I'll bet you hear some fascinating answers!
A human being in the chair across from you will enjoy telling you about all the wild and domestic animals s/he's met on past interviews. If your interviewer can't handle unscripted conversation and looks panicked at your question, you can just say "That's okay! We can talk about that later."
During your job search, you'll decide whether and how far to push the frame "I'm the interviewer -- I ask the questions, and you answer them!" over and over again. I encourage you, if you haven't done it already, to try a meta-question like "I'm curious how that question helps you make better hires?" if you can ask it with a smile on your face.
I understand that if you've recently endured a string of interviews studded with stupid interview questions, that smile could be hard to maintain.
This interview question comes from the genre called "How badly do you want it?" that still plagues corporations and institutions decades after we all realized that the most-grovelly applicants don't make the best hires. We still love to test job-seekers on their DESIRE for the job, asking insulting questions like this.
I hate this interview question, because it asks a job-seeker to do two awful things. First, the question asks a job-seeker to assume a supplicant position and beg for the job. Secondly, it asks a person to compare him- or herself to people s/he's never met and likely never will.
Here's how you can handle this one:
INTERVIEWER: With all the talented candidates, why should we hire you?
YOU: Great question, and I think that's really the point of our conversation today -- to determine whether I'm the person for the job and whether this is the job for me. It might be that you should hire me. I love this field and I'm excited to keep growing muscles in it. That being said, I haven't met the other candidates and I'm sure there are smart and capable people in that group. That's going to be your challenge, to consider what's ahead for you and which person can best fill that role. I have total faith that if we're supposed to be working together, we'll figure that out.
This question comes down from our Puritan forefathers, who saw life as a joyless quest to surmount personal deficiencies and weaknesses. Cheery vision, right?
I reject the view that people have weaknesses. People come in a fascinating array of types, and part of the fun of being alive is that we get to figure out where we shine and maneuver ourselves into that spot.
The old idea of weaknesses-to-correct is giving way to the new idea 'figure out what you love to do, and do it all the time.' Who has time to work and work to get slightly better at things we'll never love and never be great at?
I recommend that you handle this horrendous question this way:
INTERVIEWER: What's your greatest weakness?
YOU: Great question! I used to obsess about my weaknesses when I was younger. I took classes and read books like you wouldn't believe, and then over time it occurred to me that I should be focusing on the things I do well, like designing financial reports. Other things -- graphic design, for instance - aren't for me, so I steer myself toward the work that jazzes me and where I can make the biggest impact.
Really, are people still hearing this ancient interview question in 2014? Yep, interviewers still pull out this lame Mad Men era question and ask it, so you've got to be prepared. The truth is that no one can make a five-year-horizon career plan in 2014 (maybe the Pope - and maybe not even him).
This may have been a great question to ask when The Beverly Hillbillies was filming new episodes. Today, it's a waste of interview airtime, but you still have to answer it.
Try this approach:
INTERVIEWER: Where do you see yourself in five years?
YOU: I love Finance, and I don't have plans to move out of it but then again you never know what influences will hit you. I'm interested in getting my MBA, so five years from now I could be one year out of school and I may think totally differently at that point than I do now. The things I can say for sure are that if I'm alive five years from now, I'll be working hard at something I love and supporting the people around me. For me, the team is as important as the work.
When you get into your new job and start interviewing people yourself, what questions will you ask them? When you adopt the Interviewing with a Human Voice approach, you won't ask lame interview questions like the ones on our list. You'll ask job-seekers to bring their questions to the job interview instead, and invite them to go first, asking questions of you to start the interview.
You'll learn much more about your candidates from the questions they ask you than you ever would from their answers!
Once the applicant's questions are exhausted, here are some questions an interviewer can pose:
1) Given what you know about our company and this role so far -- and this is your chance to ask me anything you want to know, by the way -- what would you see as the most likely goals for the new hire in this position, over the next six months?
2) Here's what we're dealing with in Tech Support. (Explain your situation.) What would your approach to that set of conditions be? What would be your attack plan, if you got this job?
3) How does this job mesh with your career plan for yourself? How will it grow your flame?
Job interviews can be fun and enriching for everyone involved -- and they should be!
When we interview folks at Human Workplace, we tell them "This is a job interview, and potentially a coaching session. We have an opening to fill and you might be interested in that job, but that is just our starting point. If this isn't the right job for you, let's talk about you and your career instead." Sometimes, candidates say "I'm not sure I want this job, but I wanted to meet you guys." We say "Cool! We had booked the time anyway. It's great to meet you."
Fifty percent of our interviews veer into career coaching and that's absolutely wonderful. After all, a job is just a job. Your flame is everything!
I’ve seen several FReepers here announce that they are out of work and looking again. I’m hoping this will provide some assistance.
If you’re asked what is 1+1 your answer should be “whatever you want it to be”
And that will ensure a miserable experience on the job. If career satisfaction isn’t important, that’s one thing, but interviews are a two-way street. The applicant should also be assessing whether the position/company is right for him/her.
>>3. What’s your greatest weakness?<<
As an interviewer, I got tired of asking this question relatively quickly, since most people expect it and have canned responses (”I care too much”, “I’m a workaholic”, etc).
Instead, I ask “What are you most often criticized for”. I want to see if the candidate has the ability to self-identify their own faults and shortcomings. No place for egomaniacs who think they’re perfect.
Not a bit surprised. HR is where they bury all of the Affirmative Action hires.
But these questions have been known to come out of the mouths of hiring managers as well.
If some dunce asks what kind of animal I’d like to be the interview ends immediately.
3. What’s your greatest weakness?
Me: (deadpan) Kryptonite.
I can understand that.
That’s only for accounting positions. :)
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
At your desk.
These are actually pretty good, thanks! I saw it on LinkedIn, but figured it was fluff and didn’t click on the linky.
This lady comes off as incredibly full of herself. I wouldn’t take her advice.
Especially telling someone you want to hire you that you are planning to get an MBA and you can’t say what you will want after that.
I hear that as “Please pay me as I am biding my time to jump out of here once I get my new degree.”
Stupidest question I ever got was from some consultant the company pulled in to interview me. To set the stage, I had been re-organized out of an 18 year job. This dolt looks at me with a straight face and said “We all know that life is a series of points. For instance, the big life changes like death of a spouse, divorce or loss of a job is 100 points. How did you fell when you lost your job.”
Having decided right then that I wasn’t interested in working for them after doctor nutcase wanted to psychoanalyze me I said “well, if you must know, I wasn’t suicidal. I went home and put a new roof on my garage. Then I went camping, and just for kicks, I stayed an extra couple days in the woods.”
I had an interview once where the guy asked me essentially the question about my greatest weakness. I looked at him and said .. “Pick up your phone and call my wife, she can tell you a lot better answer than I can”....I did not get the job...haha
My answer to that question lately has been that I stopped making plans that far in advance. While I always believe that I know what I want, life tends to throw me curveballs, and it just doesn’t work out. As a result, this is what I want to do now. I truly desire to be here long-term, but I will not make guarantees I cannot keep.
At one interview they told me “OK there is no right or wrong answers to these next questions” and then asked “if you could be any kind of animal, what would you be?”
I paused looked down and the floor and said “seriously?” And they all started laughing and one goes “That IS The right answer!”
HR is pretty much there only to make sure whatever state and federal laws that are applicable to the company's hires and fires are followed and to ensure the dreaded "diversity" requirements are met.
I've been a hiring manager and the worst part of the job was the pressure HR would put on us to hire their "diversity candidates." I was literally told once I *had* to hire a black girl for an open role because she met two diversity requirements. I refused because she didn't have the qualifications we needed.
The whole incident turned into a big pissing match which resulted in our HR department refusing to further recruit for the role I had open. So I did my own recruiting which was a pain in the ass, but found someone who was qualified in less than 2 weeks. Our HR department spent more than two months prior to that "looking for the right candidate."
When our CEO found out what happened, he fired the entire HR department.
Guess who won that pissing match.
'Would like me to shine your shoes, your worship'?
Thank you - I am excited to show it to my husband who has been looking for work since the first of the year. He has had his share of interviews with likely less qualified persons than himself but continues to plug away. This will be nice for him to read.
Often times the point of “stupid” questions is to see your reaction, watch the wheels turn, see how honest you are. I work in software QA, when I’m interviewing candidates they need to be able to be brutally honest but non-confrontational. Dumb questions can be good for that.
"Well, my last boss got kinda sick of all the time off I had to take to see my Parole officer....and, of course, all his repeated visits to inspect the workplace for weapons and to make sure all my restraining orders are being followed."
:: 1. If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be? ::
I’m sorry, I thought this interview was for a properly educated human being. Since you are looking for an animal, I’ll stop wasting your time. Bye.
Probable honest answer you will never hear: "We want a cheap H1B, but we have to make the pretense of interviewing a number of Americans so we can document that we were unsuccessful in finding a qualified non-H1B applicant".
When I grow up, I want to be you.
#3. How does that make you feel?
Oh wait, this is an interview, not therapy......./S
"The kind of animal that embezzles company funds, and who is a serial sexual harasser."
yeah I understood that- thats why I figured there really was no right or wrong answer, they just want to watch you try answer it. So I figured I would at least try to make them laugh. Not only can I wrote good software but I am FUNNY too :)
And economics positions as well.
As we all know an economist is an accountant with a personality.
"Admiring the reclining chair I upholstered with your skin."
Why aren’t manholes round?
I recently got a job and one of the questions on the app was, Would having a manager at your side make you work harder or not? or something to that affect.
I replied that that would depend more on the manager then me. If he wanted me to entertain him, go get his laundry, or tell me stories about his terrible home life, or get his lunch I am afraid he would be in for a shock, I do none of those things. I told I have never done those things and I don’t plan to in the future.
I will tell a short story about a manager I once had who was a total control freak. He would send salesman to get lunch for himself and other managers. One day was my lucky day. I said sure write down all the things you want and I will be happy to get them.
He wrote down his list handed me money and the list. I got everything on the list and handed back the change and his purchases. Soon he came to me and asked me where the forks and spoons and knives and salt and pepper and butter and sour cream were. I said was it on your list? He said no. I said then I guess that is why you didn’t get them. I told you to write down everything you needed and since it wasn’t on the list I figured you already had them.
I was never asked to go after lunch again.
Good for your CEO!!
Correct. I just finished an 18 months on and off employment consideration with a company that reached out to me. I've talked on the phone with them about 6 times (3 official interviews). We only a months ago decided it wasn't going to work in the short term, even though I was "the perfect candidate" they were looking to groom for a top executive position 5 to 7 years down the road. In the end, on both sides, the risk was too high for the reward. I would insist on more than they wanted to pay for at least the first 2 years. If I'd have rolled the dice and it didn't work, I would be unemployed in a different city with a family to support and no income. We couldn't agree on the starting compensation package on the bet I'd be exactly what they hoped.
The unsaid component is that I was suspicious of the character that I would be working for. He "had a lot to teach the person that they hire". He had more degrees than a thermometer and told me more about himself than he asked of myself. He also did not fit the type of person the company claimed about his position. So my risk calculation was in part based on what kind of a fit it would be for me and them.
At your desk.
I have actually used that. In fact, in the interview for the job I have now. They hired me. That was 2.5 years ago. I'm almost there. LOL
“Top Dog, the one who hires and fires people who ask stupid questions when interviewing candidates”.
It’s a game. I only ever went off the rails once, and it was when I saw my next boss starting to roll his eyes at some of the HR questions. They asked me the classic, “Do you consider yourself a People Person?” I snarled, “No, I’m a System Administrator! I HATE my users and I want them to suffer!” Jaws dropped until the boss snorted and then started to laugh hysterically. I’m still in that job.
Sorry Laz, I have a new hero.
Answer their questions with Obama answers.
“What is your greatest weakness?” - My critics are racist, there is no scandal.
“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” - Being admired as the best president ever.
I should have elaborated a bit more - if it came down to just two candidates and they’re meeting with the boss and if one candidate answered “2” and the other one said “whatever you want it to be” guess who’d get the job? Basically the second candidate “knows” who’s the boss and what he says goes.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
” sitting in a cell, a quarter of the way through my sentence for wringing your neck “
OK, so has advice for an established professional that is getting slammed with the “less is more” mantra?
I really need to walk away from my current position, otherwise (and seriously) it will kill me.
I am overly competent and enjoy my (job-base) requirements. Since the collapse of the economy, several tasks that should be pushed off to admins and secretaries are required of my productivity.
Subsequently, my performance includes “clerical perfection” to the point that I have my original job to do, an admin’s job that I am evaluated on and a secretary’s performance that impacts my review.
The original concept of my job takes 40-hours a week, including travel (and, yes, that includes “pressing flesh” at the company locations).
Less is more appears to be a way to minimize advancement, and compensation increases.
I was interviewing for one job and they had me look at some electrical schematics to see if I was a complete moron or not.
They asked “where’s the power come from for this device?”
“West Penn Power” I answered, naming the local utility.
There are few things worse within the working world than being under the management of a control freak.
Answer: “Do you want it done right or do you want it done quickly?”
LOL! You probably wouldn’t have liked working there. Good answer.
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