No, I never got asked any of those dumb interview questions myself. However, I know people who have, and you probably know what I mean. It’s the “what flavor of ice cream would you be” or “if you had to choose between selling your child and selling your car, which would you choose” (I made that up–at least, I don’t think it’s ever been asked!) variety of interview question.
I’ve heard that even some supposedly successful and reputable companies like to throw in this off-the-wall kind of question during interviews. Presumably they’re hoping to get a sense of how the applicant thinks on his or her feet, responds to totally unexpected questions, etc. I can’t believe, though, that there isn’t a more effective and less far-out method of determining that information, and I’m certainly not alone in thinking this.
Just as one example, I recently read an online post by David Welsh titled “Which Member of the ‘Rat Pack’ Matches Your Leadership Style…and Other Useless Questions.” Welsh appears to be UK-based, but his somewhat tongue-in-cheek post makes good sense in a much wider area than that. Why more companies don’t “get it,” I can’t understand. As Welsh says:
“The irony is there are several really high quality psychometric tests out there that are very good predictors of leadership ability and traits. I’ve even seen them used. And paid for. They are not cheap. And then clients would listen to the results, nod, ask that stupid question about leadership style at final interview and rely on the answer alone.”
Basically, you have two choices when you encounter what appears to be a really dumb interview question:
Actually, I suppose there’s a third choice. You can pause, say “that’s an interesting question–can you tell me what prompted you to ask it?”–and then wait for their response.
Although choice #3 might produce an interesting outcome, I suppose I’d probably advocate for #2.
A critical part of any successful job search involves astute evaluation of the interview process and a plan for approaching it as effectively as possible. I always encourage clients to prepare thoroughly for interviews, including doing extensive research on the company before the interview. Then I remind them that “expect the unexpected” is consistently good advice, to be ignored at their peril. You can’t be thrown for a loop in an interview if you’ve given thoughtful consideration to how you will handle unexpected situations and have made sure you’re ready for them.