Excerpt from “What Color is Your Straitjacket?” coming soon — Illegal, Ridiculous and Just Plain Stupid Interview Questions

Posted: 11/14/2010 in Interviewing
Tags: , , , , , ,

Here is an excerpt from What Color is Your Straitjacket? A Pocket Guide to Getting and Keeping a Job Without Going Wacko, soon to be available as an e-book. The artist is my talented friend Glenn Davis.

You’ve done your research about the company. You know how long they’ve been in business, their history, what their current goals are (beyond not going belly-up), and how you can help them achieve their corporate fantasies. You’re prepared to tell them how  you’re their fairy godmother.

You’ve also prepared your answers to questions typically asked in interviews, and thought of (short) stories that show your accomplishments. You have your questions  for them all ready. So how do you field those questions thrown at you by those exhaustingly perky H.R. pod people? How do you respond to queries  such as,

  • If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?

Hint: the specific answer to this question is largely irrelevant, as long as you don’t come back with “three-toed sloth, because I’d love to just lie around all day,” “anteater, because I could do amazing things with that tongue,” or “elephant, because they must have huge schlongs.”

  • If you were soda, would you be Coke or Pepsi, and why?

Hint: if you say, “Neither, I prefer whiskey,” you could either be perceived as “thinking outside the box” or “lush.” It’s a toss-up.

  • Who’s your favorite Marx Brother?

Hint: “Harpo, because he didn’t have to talk to anyone,” probably wouldn’t be a good answer.

  • What’s your favorite shape?

Hint: I’d refrain from giving an obvious answer such as, “Brad Pitt in his prime.”

  • Are you pregnant?

Hint: Even if you waddled into the interviewing room looking like you’re about to pop like a 175-pound balloon, the employer can’t legally even hint that your advanced gestational state even entered his consciousness. And of course, even if it weren’t illegal it’s a pretty rude question, especially if you’re not actually preggers but just really bloated that day.

  1. OK, Laurie. You are generating bad memories and I’m getting a headache. Someone long ago once asked me “if I could meet anyone today dead or alive, who would it be” and all I could think about was what answer would make me sound smart, intelligent, thoughtful, etc. That’s what I hate about “pet” questions interviewers ask. They pull you away from yourself and get you thinking about what someone might want to hear. I hated my answer of Martin Luther King because it sounded really self-serving. That’s why I really suggest people help start a more conversational interview so that the interviewer doesn’t have to fall back on questions like these.

    Keep up the good work! 🙂

    • Thanks Tim! I agree that a conversational interview is what to shoot for.

      I’m not sure my answer to the “dead or alive” question would be anything an interviewer would want to hear either – I’d say it would be a toss-up between Carol Burnett or George Clooney (obviously for different reasons).

  2. There is actually a re-tweet (share) button for each post. I tested a few, and they seem to work. If you don’t see them at your end, maybe it’s a browser thing?

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