Dumb Interview Questions Can Drive You Nuts
Dumb (AKA stupid) interview questions are a frequent hot topic among job seekers and those who publish material relevant to them. In fact, it seems to be a topic that keeps on coming back, like the proverbial “bad penny” (for those of you old enough to remember that saying).
Dumb Questions You Could be Asked
Dumb interview questions might have cropped up in your experience at some point. Do you recognize these (or variations of them)?
- If you were a plant, what kind of plant would you be?
- If you suddenly inherited a fortune, what’s the first thing you would do? (Don’t say, “I’d quit my job”!)
- What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream, and why?
Hopefully you won’t be asked this one!
But if you are, what should you say?
Actually, I think it’s highly unlikely that any employer would come right out and ask you this. But it’s very likely that the interviewer will want to verify (validate) any experience claims or qualifications you’ve included in your resume. That’s why I tell my job seeker clients they should never include anything in their resume that isn’t (a) factual/true/not exaggerated and (b) reasonably comfortable to discuss in an interview.
How Should You Respond to Dumb Interview Questions?
The answer to this could depend on several factors, including:
- What level of position you’re targeting: If you’re a recent college graduate, you might respond differently than if you’re a senior executive with an impressive track record. Some companies apparently think recent grads (or those about to be) are fair game for stupid questions. For example, take a look at this blog post by Nick Corcodillos of Ask The Headhunter, “Do Employers Haze New College Grads in Interviews?” However, even if you’re a confident executive, you can get hit with questions that seem totally irrelevant to your situation.
- The overall reputation of the company where you’re interviewing: If it’s a company with a pretty solid reputation and a general record of treating its employees fairly, you might try to either deflect the question entirely or give an answer that shows you respect the company but not necessarily the question.
Sometimes you’ll have to make a tough choice, which leads to the next factor:
- How badly you want (or think you need) the job: Desperation is never a good motivator for interviews, so keep that fact in mind. That said, you might try to answer the question if you could come up a way to tie your response to the actual needs of the position you’re interviewing for. Alternatively, you could determine that trying to answer would be contrary to your best interests (maybe landing you a job with a company that’s a pain to work for). In that case, you could politely but firmly disengage yourself from the process–terminating or prompting the employer to terminate the interview.
Look for Companies that Don’t Ask Dumb Interview Questions
While it seems that many companies still do ask these kinds of apparently pointless questions, at least some have started moving away from that practice. I saw in Nick’s blog post (mentioned above) that Google is evidently one of those. He says:
“Smarter companies are coming to realize how this kind of nonsense reflects on them. Google, for example, recently announced it would stop using silly questions to assess candidates, because the company did an outcomes analysis and found such questions don’t predict an employee’s success.” [emphasis added]
So try to start your job search and interview process by looking for smarter companies!