I have a lot of friends who are job-hunting (doesn’t everyone?), and I’ve heard some very interesting interview stories recently. Apparently, there are still some lame, useless interview questions in use out there. Here are four of the worst:
- What is your greatest weakness? I always want to answer this one, “Rolling my eyes at people who ask stupid interview questions.” Seriously, what is the point of this? Nobody is going to say, “I steal office supplies,” or “I call in sick every time the Packers lose” or “I really like to look at internet porn from my work computer.” Seriously, what is the point of this question? Everyone who has ever read an article on interviewing gives the standard answer, which is some variation of “I’m a workaholic.” Even if that really IS your greatest weakness, no one will believe you, because it’s such a canned answer. The answer I usually give to this one is, “I can be blunt sometimes.” It’s true (duh), and if you don’t like that trait, you will probably not want to work with me. I figure I’m saving everyone time by letting them know up front. Give some thought to the traits you have that are unlikely to change, and that might be deal-breakers for some people. Somewhere on this list is a good answer to this question-and that means you can be refreshingly honest when answering this stale question.
- Where do you see yourself in five years? I think this is left over from, like, 1950, when people had nice, neat, linear career paths with a single company. I don’t know any of those people anymore, and if I did, I probably wouldn’t hire them, because they’re dinosaurs. That said, there are still people who ask this question. If the truth is that you hope to be with this company you’re interviewing with, maybe with a promotion or two—well, great. There’s you’re answer, and you’re all set. For some people, though, the answer is, “I hope to be in a completely different line of work,” or “I hope to be home with a couple of kids” or ” I’ll be retired by then.” In a perfect world, you could share those facts…but an employer who asks a question like this is probably hung up on finding a candidate who wants to pledge its everlasting loyalty to this company (and good luck getting the same pledge in return). A truthful answer in that case will probably eliminate you from consideration. If that’s your situation, a more vague answer like, “I’m looking to continue to expand my skills and grow in my field for the rest of my career; learning is a lifelong thing for me” is probably the best you can do.
- We have a lot of candidates who are way more qualified than you are. Why should we hire you? I worked with a hiring manager who wanted to ask this question, in the same condescending, confrontational way, of every candidate. He was part of the school of thought that said you should rattle people’s cages to “see what they’re made of.” He was a jerk. That said, there are lots of members of this same school of thought out there, so you should know that they sneer at everyone, not just you. Don’t take it personally, and simply tell them why you are fabulous. Then go home and consider whether you really want to work for someone like this, because in my experience their interview style is also their management style, and it’s not fun at all.
- If you were a cookie, what kind of cookie would you be? Seriously, someone asked me this once. I said, “A smart cookie,” thinking I that since he was being funny, I would be a good sport and play along. Nope. Dude was serious. My policy is to never work for anyone who bases their hiring decisions on these kinds of questions (whether it’s a cookie, a tree, an animal, a car, or the latest one I’ve heard about—a Muppet). I don’t think there’s a “right” answer with these, because they’re just…too stupid. I have no suggestions. Sorry.
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