Posts Tagged ‘interview questions’

Interviewers still occasionally try to see how creative they and you can be with  “Think on Your Feet” (and sometimes on your head) interviews. What is a “Think on Your Feet” interview, you ask? Well, remember the movie “The Running Man” (yes, with your good buddy and mine, Ahhhhnold), which depicted a sadistic game show in which criminals were hunted down by professional stalkers? Well, it’s not like that.

Here are a few wacky “Think on Your Feet” interview questions:

  • If you were a hamburger, what topping would be on your bun?
    Not sure it really matters how you answer this one, as long as you don’t say, “You.”
  • If I were to look in your kitchen cabinets, what would I see?
    If you don’t care about burning your bridges, you can say, “One hundred cans of corned beef hash in case of the apocalypse, and a package of moldy Cheez-its.”
  • If Hollywood made a film about you, what actor – alive or dead – would play you?
    Probably not, “Bela Lugosi, since my former colleagues found me kinda creepy.”
  • If you were a salad, what flavor would your croutons be?
    Bad answer: “Onion and garlic, ‘cuz that’s how I always smell.”
  • If I were to ask your seventh-grade teacher about you, what would he say?
    Really bad answer: “Who? Oh, the pot-head.”

Spider-Man has a job interview. He knows the interviewer won’t just ask him about his work history, but will also probably do a behavioral interview, i.e. ask him to give examples of times when he saved the world from multi-limbed freaks or greedy uber-ambitious guys who climbed out of  the TV sitcom hellpit. Here are some of the behavioral interview stories he’s prepared:

  • a time when he solved a problem –  “I had to figure out how to save a trainload of people without splitting myself in half, so I focused on the problem and used my finger to create a rope….”
  • a story about handling conflict – “When my best friend wanted to kill me ’cause I killed his father and stole his girlfriend, I successfully negotiated a win-win before I knocked him unconscious.”
  • a time when he defused a potentially volatile situation – “I de-limbed Alfred Molina as he was about to destroy a lot of buildings….”
  • his strategies for handling stress – “To keep my general stress level low, I do some deep breathing, climb walls, and bungee-jump without the bungee.”
  • an example demonstrating how well he worked on a team – “I divided up world-saving responsibilities with my alter-ego based on our different strengths.”
  • a time when he initiated a project or strategy – “I started the Spidey’s-Not-the-Bad-Guy Fan Club.”
  • an example of when he juggled multiple priorities – “Well, I had to save three people who were about to fall to their death, so I perched two of them on the roof….”

Guest post on my talented friend Andy’s blog, Laughing in Purgatory:

straitjacket guyA comedic look at job search and success – “What Color is Your Parachute” meets “This Is Spinal Tap,” if you will. This combination of comedy and advice gives helpful tips to anyone who is searching for a job, or hoping to hold on to the one they have. Topics include contemplating your navel to find your life’s work, idiot-proofing your job search, online disasters, strategic schmoozing, resume do’s and don’ts, interviewing horrors and how to handle them, how to hold on to your job, reflections on bizarre jobs, and weird work stories.

I’m sure you know that nonverbal cues are much more significant in terms of communication than verbal ones (according to one study at UCLA, about 93%). Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice your interview questions ad nauseum, or that you should become so obsessed with what every part of your body is doing during an interview that you become totally spastic. It does mean that you want to pay some attention to stuff like how you’re sitting, and make sure those nervous tics are in check.

Here are some nonverbal don’ts to be aware of:

  • Make sure your hands aren’t flailing all over the place as you’re talking. And especially when you’re not talking, ‘cuz that’d make you look REALLY wacko.
  • Sit up straight like your mom, dad, big brother or childhood guardian told you to. Nothing makes you look less confident than hunching over in your chair like Quasimodo in a suit.
  • Watch the nervous leg jiggle. Okay, the interviewer knows you’re a bit nervous; that’s okay. But you don’t want to look like you’re going through Xanax withdrawal.
  • For God’s sake, don’t do the “I will establish rapport with the interviewer by mirroring their body language” thing. It’s just creepy.
  • Smile naturally, but no fixed smiles like you’re a crazy person.
  • Don’t touch your face incessantly, play with your hair, or engage in other distracting nervous habits.
  • Don’t sit too casually — you know, with your legs open like you’re trying to catch a breeze, or your arm nonchalantly draped over the chair like a teenage boy on a date.
  • Look ’em in the eye. Or the eyebrow, same difference. If you don’t, you’ll look like you’re   a. pathologically shy,   b. a pathological liar, or   c. pathological in general.

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.

Preparing is key
Think accomplishment stories
Don’t forget breath mints

A group interview
Look everyone in the eye
Or at least the nose

Speak confidently
Don’t jiggle your leg non-stop
They’ll think you’re crazy

Well, that one’s over
Send thank-yous to everyone
On to the next one!

While every organization’s different and there isn’t any one right way to behave in a job interview, there are some wrong ways no matter who you’re talking to. Here are some ways to horrify your job counselor:

  • Wearing an outfit better suited to a hot date than a job interview. Even if you’re interviewing in a club, it’s better to dress a bit more formally than you would once you were in the job. And of course, nix the bouncing boobs. Even if the interviewer’s really really cute.
  • Rambling on and on. Your little 30-second elevator pitch (more about that in a later post) shouldn’t last twenty minutes. The person interviewing you doesn’t want to hear about your entire work history from the time you babysat for your neighbor when you were in high school, or the details of your first diaper-changing experience. Keep it to the point, the point being your experience and skills that are relevant to their needs.
  • Sharing personal info. Even if you’ve discovered the interviewer is a fellow Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanatic, don’t assume they’re your friend. They still could care less about your imaginary childhood friend or how your divorce has made you an atheist. Keep it professional.
  • Forgetting to check your appearance before you go into the interview. You don’t want to visit the men’s room afterward and discover that you had a big fat gob of mustard on your chin the whole time.
  • Talking smack about your former employer. Even if your former supervisor could win the Suck-Ass Psycho Boss of the Year Award, it still makes you look bad. The interviewer will wonder what you’d say about HIM after you’d worked there awhile.
  • Acting all humble and insecure. We all have our insecurities, and job interviews can be stressful, but you want to show confidence. You have skills; you have a lot to offer. If your attitude is, “why in hell would you want to hire ME?” those little negative thought molecules will wriggle out of your head and worm their way across the conference table and into the interviewer’s brain, which won’t be good news for you.
  • Not preparing answers to questions you’ll likely be asked. Yes, ideally a job interview should be more like a conversation in which you’re sharing information than like a firing squad, but you’ll still be asked questions that are typical of interviews, and it would be stupid not to put some prior thought into how best to answer them. And I know you’re not stupid.
  • Not preparing questions to ask. Again, think mutual, give-and-take, information-sharing situation to see if it’s a match. Besides, you don’t want it to seem as if you don’t give a crap.
  • Not researching the company beforehand. If you know little about them, how do you know it would be a good fit? And how can you address this in the interview? Besides, you will likely be asked the actual question, “What do you know about us?” and you don’t want your answer to be, “Nothing.”
  • Being late to the interview. Unless you’re in a hostage situation and are seen on Fox News successfully negotiating with the kidnapper, you may as well hang it up right there. If something unforeseen does happen, at least call before you’re supposed to be there, apologize for keeping the employer waiting, and keep your explanation brief – don’t give an elaborate explanation of how your pet lizard died, you tried to flush him and the toilet flooded.


While it’s important to ask questions in a job interview to make it a mutual exchange, get more info, and show interest, there are some questions that aren’t a good idea to ask. Here are a few:

  • How many sick days would I get? – Once you’ve had an offer, it’s okay to ask about benefits as part of the negotiation process, but you don’t want to ask about that stuff until then. It makes it look like that’s all you care about. And of course, if you ask about sick days, it’ll imply that you need them because, well, you’re sick.
  • Who was that hunk in the lobby? – I know you wouldn’t really ask that, would you? Of course you wouldn’t.
  • Where are you from? I can’t quite place the accent. Believe it or not, sometimes clueless employers ask these kind of questions. You certainly don’t want to be the idiot applicant who asks them.
  • I didn’t have time for lunch. Do you mind if I eat my sandwich while we’re talking? You do want to establish rapport in an interview and have a conversation rather than an interrogation, but chomping on your Chicken McNuggets won’t exactly bowl over the employer.
  •  How flexible is your company on the 8:00 a.m. thing? Now, many companies do have flex time, and you may need to be aware of their policies around it (once you have an offer) if you have kids, an insomniac dog, or an alternate vampire identity, but otherwise, well, don’t ask.
  • Has your company ever been sued? It’s a good idea to sniff around Google to find out as much info on them as you can, as well as to discover any dirt on them that would make you run for the hillocks, but it isn’t a question to actually ask them. I mean really, it’s just rude.
  • What other jobs are available here? Even if you’d give your left nostril to work for that company and are possibly interested in positions similar to the one for which you’re interviewing, you don’t want to sound like you’re not interested in that one. If it’s clearly not a fit and you decide not to pursue it, in your thank-you letter you can always ask at that point if there are any other open positions that would be a better match. If you ask in the interview, it’s kind of like asking your date if he has a single brother.