Ask a silly questionThe Secret Candidate: why do interviewers ask stupid things?
I’ve started to amass what I’m calling the stupid question list.
Yes, I’ve been recording the many stupid questions I’m asked during interviews. I think interviewers forget that the door swings both ways: you invited me in because I impressed you on paper, so now, as part of our interview dance, you have to spend some time doing the same to me.
I interviewed for a restaurant company once. It was a rather well known global organisation. The low point was being asked: ‘If you were a pizza, what pizza would you be?’
Was this question supposed to draw out a link between my love of spicy chicken and peppers and a weird personality disorder? Hmm. Or maybe they thought I was more or less likely to be a sociopath if I did – or didn’t – enjoy extra mozzarella?
I gave a weird answer just to see the reaction. They replied with a bewildered nod and an uncomfortable smile.
So, I sacked that job off. Frankly I didn’t need to hear more from them to know if they understood what they were talking about. I’d already worked that out.
Another favourite was when I was asked, ‘What do you think of our office?’ Was that supposed to be a flippant question or a serious one from someone clearly proud of their surroundings? I had no idea.
Personally, I pride myself on my ability to put the People function in the context of the business. My belief is that if you operate a multi-site concern (as this one was) then the real hard work goes on in your sites.
The people in ‘Head Office’ exist mainly to ‘serve and see’ the folks out in the field.
If you have too cosy an office, you might opt to stay there and miss that important out-in-the-field work. It’s called becoming corporate, the antithesis of working sensibly, frankly.
I get that the office needs to be comfortable for the number geeks, and have sufficient beanbags for marketing. But for someone like me who only ever sees head offices as support functions, it’s the wrong question to ask. So I answered very honestly, ‘I quite like the toilets.’ Needless to say, this wasn’t appreciated.
Clear lack of clarity
My last example (though I have many more, and may well revisit this topic in the future) and most recent was when I had reached the final round for a role (I thank you) and was asked to put together a presentation and given a very broad (read vague) subject.
I sought some clarity from the headhunter to make sure I was on track, and cracked on. It seemed I didn’t hit the mark. Mainly, it turns out, because they didn’t tell me what they really wanted.
So in the presentation I faced interruptions such as, ‘I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet’ and ‘I forgot to mention that we have that already’. So an hour was spent hypothetically talking about stuff I didn’t really know about and trying to really understand what the role was actually there to do.
A bit of a waste of everyone’s time after I’d had three meetings.
So from my interview travels thus far, I offer these words for the wise. Watch out what you ask: you could make yourself sound like an idiot and give an irreverent job seeker such as me, free rein to take the piss.
Think about this too: why would I want to work with idiots?
And if you are going to set a question for a presentation, it might be worth making sure it’s the question you actually want your candidate to answer. That’ll make everything much less awkward for everyone, FYI.