3 smart answers to stupid interview questions

By May 15, 2016 Employment No Comments

job interview

We have hit a strange period in the working world. We are waking up to the obvious fact that people go to work, and not machines. We don’t need to adopt machine scripts or to stop being human just because we are at work. Work is a human place, and we can celebrate that fact, rather than pretend that people operate the same way machines do. 

One of the biggest differences between people and machines is that people deserve to be treated like people wherever they are.

We all know how to talk to people, how to be casual and friendly, how to tell jokes and how to be human. The problem is that lots of other people, including lots of people in management positions, are stuck in an outdated mindset. They think that at work, we have to be stiff and formal.

These fearful folks don’t have the confidence to allow themselves to be human at work. They stick with the old-school business script, including the lame, tired script for a traditional job interview.

Some interviewers still read their questions from a typed list on a clipboard, a brutal experience for a job applicant with a pulse and a personality. This type of interviewer barely glances at you as s/he scribbles notes on your answers on a clipboard. That’s no way to interview people! I have hired thousands of brilliant job-seekers and I’ve never used an interview script.

If I’m not qualified to sit down with someone and have a warm, human conversation with them, why would anyone allow me to interview job applicants and represent the company?

Interviewing job applicants is a mix of vetting and wooing. Anybody who can only vet without wooing should not be allowed near an interview room.

We don’t send salespeople out into the field to talk to customers before they’ve learned how to have a conversation. We don’t put customer service people on the phone if they can’t make their way through a simple telephone give-and-take.

The only reason we treat job-seekers less carefully than we treat customers and prospective customers is that many employers still cling to the outdated notion that job applicants are a dime a dozen, and somehow less than human.

Even as employers wail about imaginary talent shortages, they still mistreat job-seekers in the hiring pipeline. They abuse job-seekers although doing so is bad HR, bad leadership, bad PR for the company and simply bad business.

The standard job interview playbook is fifty years old. It is useless and insulting to job-seekers, but it is still in wide use.

If you’ve been on a job interview lately you know that you have to be ready to answer stupid and demeaning interview questions. Here are sample answers to these ridiculous interview questions.

Pick the answer that feels right for you based on your mojo level on the day of your interview. If your mojo level isn’t all that high, you can respond with our low-mojo answer. If you feel pretty good about yourself, try the medium-mojo-level answer and if you’re feeling great, use our high-mojo reply!

Why should we hire you over the other applicants?

Why is this a stupid question? It’s a stupid question because you will not meet the other applicants for the job, and have no way to compare yourself to them. Apart from that, you are just on your first interview.

You don’t know a lot about what the job entails. Why should you be expected to sell yourself before you have any particular reason to want the job?

You’ve never worked for this company before. This is the kind of question that springs from the mindset “Prove your worth for this job!” That mindset comes from fear — fear of not being in control of the hiring equation.

Low-mojo answer: From what I’ve heard about the job so far, you’re looking for someone to do (X) and (Y), which sounds a lot like what I did in my job at Acme Explosives.

Medium-mojo answer: If I’ve been understanding you, it seems as though the biggest short-term challenge for the person you hire into this job will be handling [X]. I have a pretty good feel for what you’re up against, I think, and what you’re trying to achieve. In fact, can I ask you a question about that?

High-mojo answer: That’s a great question! I think that’s what we are here to figure out today and of course, you’ve got the advantage over me since you’ll meet or have met the other candidates for this job. Shall I tell you what I’ve heard you say so far that you’re looking for? You can tell me if I’m in the ballpark.

What’s your greatest weakness?

This is a stupid interview question because nowhere it is written or decreed that human beings have weaknesses.

Who says we have weaknesses? I don’t think you have any weaknesses. There are plenty of things that any person doesn’t do well, but so what?

That is not a weakness. I don’t play golf well and I don’t want to play golf, so how is my lack of golf-playing skills a weakness?

Low-mojo answer: I want to get better at business writing. I’ve written correspondence and reports but I’d like to learn to write a newsletter and marketing pieces.

Medium-mojo answer: I’m having a lot of fun learning html, but if you ask me what I don’t do well, I’ll say creative writing. I try to avoid creative writing whenever possible and get back to html coding as fast as I can!

High-mojo answer: I used to obsess about my weaknesses until it finally hit me that there will always be literally millions of things I don’t do well. I need to focus on getting better at things I love to do and do well now, like creating executive dashboards! What about you?

What would your last manager say about you?

This is a stupid question because with this question the interviewer elevates any past boss of yours to the status of an adviser — someone whose opinion they value.

Your last boss is a complete stranger to your interviewer, but for some reason their opinion really counts!

That’s an insult to you, if you think about it. Is there an International Society of Bosses now, such that your ex-boss’s opinion carries lots of weight? What if your last boss were a creep who got fired from the job two weeks after the creep fired you? This is a very rude and presumptuous question.

Low-mojo answer: He would say I’m a hard worker and a great teammate.

Medium-mojo answer: My old boss would probably say that I was a good collaborator and that we challenged one another in a good way.

High-mojo answer: She’d say that we kept one another on our toes. What do the employees in your department say about you?

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