Job Interviewers - How to avoid looking stupid

You interview lots of people every day. The candidates are keen to get the job you have within your gift. They get nervous, and you're just doing your day job. It's dead easy to get cocky and think you know it all. You start to get a little too clever. You think you can read something into every gesture, each word, and even the silences in between. It's VERY dangerous territory.....

Rather than look in the mirror, read this from the BBC. Some poor schmuk is after a job in Currys to sell TV's and laptops to herds of the great unwashed. He has a degree and is keen to get a job. Any job. He lives in south Wales and jobs aren't hanging off trees. He does his research. Frets. Does some more research. Frets. Puts on his best suit. Frets. You get the picture.

And what do Currys do when he finally fronts up? They ask him to dance. Yes. Dance.

In all that's holy, what the hell did these people think they were up to? What on earth possessed them to think this was a good idea? It was neither big or clever. It was very dumb. They end up with press coverage like this. And just what did they think they might learn by this? (Unless they thought they would open the store every morning with a song and dance show - hey. It's tough out there!)

There are many examples where interviewers are too clever for their own good. Just look at these dumb interview questions.

We all need to calm down and remember what we're trying to achieve. That includes me. And it probably includes you.


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Views: 929

Comment by Richard Peterson on September 14, 2013 at 2:57pm

All those meaningless interview questions actually have a purpose. That’s why everyone uses them. The interviewer is testing your ability to interact with others. By putting you on the spot, your answer gives the interviewer an idea of how you present yourself in a social and professional setting and a glimpse of what you think the most important facts about yourself are.

 Meaningless interview questions actually have purpose. Everyone uses them to test your ability to interact with others.

Comment by Martin Ellis on September 15, 2013 at 4:09am

Sorry Richard, but you can put people "on the spot" with relevant role-play scenario's that don't just test how people respond to given situations, but also reveal some of their technical knowledge. Asking them what colour they are today simply serves to make the interviewer look irrelevant.

Comment by Valentino Martinez on September 15, 2013 at 12:01pm

...not only does the interviewer look does the employer they supposedly represent.

Comment by Martin Ellis on September 15, 2013 at 12:42pm

Spot on Valentino.

Comment by Valentino Martinez on September 15, 2013 at 12:54pm

Looking stupid in an interviewer's role is bad enough...DOING STUPID in an interviewer's role will have repercussions and consequences.

Good post, Martin.

Comment by Richard Peterson on September 15, 2013 at 2:59pm

"Asking them what colour they are today simply serves to make the interviewer look irrelevant.," AGREED!

However, some of those "Stupid Questions" clearly have no right or wrong answer.

The interviewer simply wants to see the honesty and clarity in the response.  Furthermore, by taking the interviewee out of their comfort zone by asking them something that is not in their domain of expertise, one can hope to see their creativity in forging a response.  Can they think outside of the box?  How do they handle "existing" outside of their comfort zone?  I think it can be a useful technique when applied to the correct interviewing situation.

I had a client who would often ask," If you were a pencil and can write one thing, what would it be and why?"

If the candidate said, "I want to solve world peace or hunger, they were  "Dinged" for being unrealistic and not candid.

One candidate said, "I want to go to the Circus today!"

He was hired.

Go figure.

Comment by Martin Ellis on September 16, 2013 at 3:07am

Got to say Richard. I have no idea how that works. I'd be interested to hear how the "circus" candidate performed when they started the job for real - or even how the interviewer fared in the long term.

And was the interviewer in commercial line management, or from HR related position.

I'm going to take an educated guess at the latter.

Comment by Richard Peterson on September 16, 2013 at 9:44am
The company was a trade association. Trades represent a "body of people." (American Lawyers Association, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, National Rifle Association, etc.)

The candidate did exceptionally well and the association was very supportive of his candidacy and employment. The interviewer, was from HR, and he retired there after 30 years.
Comment by Valentino Martinez on September 16, 2013 at 1:36pm

Rather than putzing around asking inane questions with no right or wrong answers -- as job related interviewers let's ask straight-forward job-related and past work experience & education related questions. In this way the interviewee may actually respect our intention for finding the best person for the job in question.  

And if you were to ask me "If I were a pencil...?", during a job interview -- I'm sure I'd be happy to tell you where to stick that pencil... No wonder the dude wanted to go to a circus...TODAY...somewhere away from there.

I guess opposites attract...go figure.

Comment by Richard Peterson on September 16, 2013 at 3:29pm

The candidate was "Put Off" with the question, but immediately took the position, "Just Go With It!" At that point, what did he have to lose.

And, in the end, he won.

He actually, developed a very good relationship with the interviewer during his tenure.


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