Thursday, June 12, 2008

Strange Job Interview Questions

I listened to a favorite radio talk show host, Michael Smerconish, this morning on The Big Talker 1210 in Philadelphia.

The conversation turned to strange job interview questions and what interview answers say about a job seeker. The conversation turned to why man hole covers are round.

Smerconish's genius callers, shared:
- square man hole covers can fall into the hole
- man hole covers are heavy and round - easy for rolling
- if not round, it would be hard to climb in and out

The jury was still out on whether or not, a triangular man hole cover falls through or not. I think so - if NOT an equilateral triangle. (:>

A subsequent caller, a software developer, shared the following strange question his company asks job seekers: What is the number of barbers are in the US?

Having worked in career development in Southern California, this was a typical job interview queston used to hire fast and beat the competition to the next best idea.

Listeners thought wierd job interview questions give insight into how people approach and solve problems. I think it could be a good indicator, but most job seekers figured out how to spot and master that type of job interview question quickly.

Another caller was asked in a job interview: "What is the name of the shape of the Washington DC monument?" Answer? Obelisk.

Smerconish thought questions are asked to screen out job seekers.

My point? None of these questions are objective measures of how job seekers will perform on the job or career. Job interviewing is by no means an exact science as HR managers discover what works for the company. However, some ways are better than others at uncovering whether or not someone will be a good fit for a company or a career.

My question? How would an interviewer judge someone who answers these questions in the following possible ways?

Q. Why are man hole covers round?
Possible answers:
A. I am not sure. Will I be working in one?
A. This is a good time for a work site tour.
A. Which specific man hole are you asking about?

Q Name the shape of the Washington Monument?
Possible answers:
A. The pointy thing in DC.
A. Is there a point to this question?
A. Am I interviewing for the DC tour guide's job?
A. Don't we just call it the Washington Monument?

Number of barbers in the US?
A. Geez...I don't use a barber. I use a stylist. Is that the same thing?
A. Is something wrong with my hair?
A. Do you need one? I was wondering...what's up with that hair!

What's the weirdest job interview question you have been asked?


Kristina Cowan said...

This is a very interesting post--I'm fascinated by the question about the Washington Monument; that's a new one for me.

I agree with you that job interviewing is not an exact science. Perhaps it's more of an art form, really.

Marcia said...

I am still surprised at some of the questions that job seekers get thrown at them in interviews.

As long as companies measure outcomes, they should be able to spot what works and what doesn't.

Hopefully they will eliminate what doesn't since the cost of bad hires is so high.


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