Monday, January 10, 2011

Unconventional Interview Questions

I once encountered a job application that asked me to list my magazine subscriptions.

You can imagine how much I had to resist putting down some truly bizarre publications. It didn't matter. Despite my safe answers, I didn't get the job.

I can understand what the employer may have been trying to achieve. They wanted, I guess, some indirect look into my real personality; a glance at what is hidden behind the carefully-worded interview answers.

Which brings me to this question: Setting aside any worries about violating employment laws, if you could pick an unconventional question that would stand a reasonable chance of revealing important information about an applicant, what would that be?


Dan Richwine said...

Some of these articles on unconventional questions makes me remember Art Linkletter, who pulled the same trick to get kids to open up. His favorite was "What did mom and dad tell you not to talk about with me?" Can you imagine if he were writing these interview questions?

Which reminds me also of my favorite Linkletter quote:
“Each generation has been an education for us in different ways. The first child-with-bloody-nose was rushed to the emergency room. The fifth child-with-bloody-nose was told to go to the yard immediately and stop bleeding on the carpet.”

Jeff said...

Indirectly answering the question -

Whenever I walk into a prospect's office, the first thing I do is look at his walls, desk, and sideboard, to see what photos he has, what inspriation he shows, what "touchstones" he collects. Gives me some insight into who this person is.

Maybe then a question for the applicant could be, "what do you carry in your wallet?"

Just a thought.

- Jeff

Rick Knowles said...

I was once asked in an interview by an industrial psychologist for Jack in the Box: How are a fly and a tree similar?

I'm not sure what conclusions they drew from my answer, but I did get the job.

Just saw this post today on - top 25 Oddball interview questions:

Eclecticity said...

I liked to ask - What is your Achilles Heel? That is, something about you that I will just have to accept as your boss and will never be able to "counsel" you about because I knew it going in, and it really can't be fixed.

This goes way beyond tell me about a "weakness." Presumably weaknesses can be worked on, AHs are here to stay.

It's a challenging question for the asker and the teller. E.