Stupid interview questions

I’m not far away from entering the job market again.  This means, of course, the joy of job interviews.  As a contractor I go through more job interviews in about two years than most people do in their lifetimes.  As a result I’m quite good at all the bullshit that’s required.

One of the key things that you learn from doing hundreds of job interviews is how useless the whole process is.  I suppose you can weed out the absurdly unqualified (programmers who can’t complete basic programming tasks, business analysts who can’t form a coherent sentence) however, they’re all but useless for finding the best person for the job. 

Really, interviews are little more than a thinly disguised popularity contest.  Who would the interviewers most want to spend time with?  If a workplace can actually admit that’s their hiring process and it’s done right, this is actually a pretty good way to recruit people.  After all, why hire people you can’t stand to be around?

But hardly anyone admits this.  So you end up with this standard way of doing interviews with more or less standard questions because of course this will produce standardised results. Except it doesn’t.  Interviewers ask stupid questions, interviewees lie in response and interviewers make an arbitrary decision.  And so the world keeps turning.

Here’s a few of the questions I’ve had to answer hundreds of times with the kind of honest answer I wish I could get away with giving:

Q: What did you do in your last position?

A: Kept my contempt for my moronic manager concealed for long enough to complete the required work and get out without killing anyone.

Q: How do you deal with difficult co-workers?

A: I’ve mastered the ability to speak calmly while fixing them with a stare that makes it clear I’d step on their throat and crush their fucking windpipe if there were no witnesses.

Q: What pay rate do you want?

A: What do I want? About double what you’re prepared to pay me.  Can we stop pretending you care what I want?

Q: What would you say is your best quality?
A: The ability to work with morons without killing them.

Q: What would you say is your worst quality?

A: The inability to take stupid fucking questions like that seriously.  What do you expect me to say?  That I’m a pathological liar, thief, addicted to crystal meth and prone to violent outbursts?

Q: That’s all the questions we have, do you have any questions?

A: Yeah, why do you ask such stupid fucking questions?  Seriously, did you have to fail an intelligence test to get your job?

For those suffering from sarcasm blindness (an unfortunately widespread condition) I don’t actually say those things in interviews.  9 times out of 10 I can work out exactly what an interviewer wants to hear and I’m an accomplished liar.  I think the interviewers know that too.  It’s just that, if I fuck up, they like to be able to say “but he interviewed so well…”

53 Comments

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53 responses to “Stupid interview questions

  1. “Q: What pay rate do you want?

    A: What do I want? About double what you’re prepared to pay me. Can we stop pretending you care what I want?”

    Ack that one drives me crazy they’ll ask that for the most mundane jobs too, even if you’re applying to be a McDonalds stiff.

  2. No-one ever asked me what pay I want, perhaps they just don’t care enough.

    I hate that “What’s your worst feature” type question… How exactly do they suppose you’ll answer that without lying?

  3. DOA

    Oh, that one’s easy Massif… “My worst feature is that I like to put in massive unpaid overtime and thus neglect my loved ones”

    Brilliant post by the way

  4. + 1, DOA: my worst feature is that i have a life outside work, don’t want to be rostered on weekend shifts, and don’t like being patronised.thankfully my current employer scores 2/3 on this pop quiz. good luck in the job market!

  5. Since I am looking for work for two month now, I think I got them all.
    My favourite is still: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
    Next time I have an interview, I’ll try your approach and see how fast it get’s me out of the room🙂
    Thanks for the laugh.

  6. Ahhh.yes..and here I am…the one with the JOY of being the Interviewer…not the interviewee.

    I actually believe in a “whole office” participation level when we are hiring (we are a small company, NOT big, corporate America) and quite frankly, it’s ALL women in my office and we ALL get along really well. So finding the right match becomes *very* important!!!!!! Do you have any idea how ugly it gets when you throw a cog into a good “women working together” situation? All hell breaks loose!

    Now…my fave thing about interviewing people? Their resumes! The weeding process alone is just a joy. Ummmm.. let me give people a heads up. If you put an email on your resume along the lines of “Daddyslittlegirl@aol.com” or “LovelyDiva@yahoo.com”

    I’m *NOT* going to hesitate in throwing your resume into the garbage immediately.

    Geez people! Get a clue! Get a freakin’ free email account with your name in it! Even if it’s just for job searching. Because I’m not going to hire Lovely Diva but I might, just might hire Sally.Clark@yahoo.com.

    DUH!!!

  7. I’m in the same boat. I too, am a contractor. And I definitely agree that most interviews are a complete waste of time. As long as you don’t freeze up or snap and gouge out the interviewer’s eyes with the dull end of a pen, you’re ranked by personality. (Which is why I work very hard to cultivate charm I don’t actually possess.) Well, that and expected compensation.

    If they’re foolish enough to ask about rates, I always answer with the highest rate I’ve ever earned anywhere for anything and watch their eyes roll up into their skulls. (I had one contract with a rate that was just north of ludicrous.) And seconds before they collapse (but after a there’s a good ring of foam around their mouth), I add that we can probably negotiate that figure.

    The opposite extreme is just as bad. The trivial pursuit interview; wherein the smallest, minute technical details that can possibly be considered connected the work is ruthlessly worked into an interrogation. Usually with a manager present, because the interrogating ass-wipe is more interested in impressing his boss (and eliminating competition) than finding somebody with the actual ability required to do the job.

    Fortunately, my own round of interviewing fun isn’t due until the end of the year.🙂

  8. RobM

    “The inability to take stupid fucking questions like that seriously. What do you expect me to say? That I’m a pathological liar, thief, addicted to crystal meth and prone to violent outbursts?”

    The truth will set you freeeeee…. Eh. Sorry. Was kinda begging for it though.

    I once saw an interviewer ask the “where do you see yourself in 10 years” question of someone due to retire in 7 years. That ended well.

    I like cinnkitty’s comments about sitting on the other side too. We went through an interview process recently and you get so many applicants that the first pass through the pile is just to thin it down to a manageable level.
    CV written in crayon – you’re out
    CV has teeth marks in it – you’re out
    CV returned after closing date – you’re out
    CV doesn’t show me quickly why you think you can do the job – you’re out.

  9. Pingback: The Truth About Interviews : David Paul Robinson

  10. Pingback: Tech interview questions » Blog Archive » Stupid interview questions

  11. Erica: Yeah, and as a contractor the rate is usually set by the agency before I even go into the interview so it’s doubly pointless

    Massif: Yeah, like Homer Simpson: “I take a long time to learn anything… stuff tends to go missing when I’m around…”

    DOA: I actually have a standard answer for that one, where I have a gentle indication to them that it’s a stupid question.

    Vetti: honesty! Innovative approach, I like it!

    Lapuce: ah yes, the “future” question. I always want to say “why don’t we just get me earning a wage for now and worry about the future later?”

    Cinkitty: I’m all for the “whole office” approach – a lot of smaller places do it. The smaller the office the more important it is that you can actually get on with people.

    Brian: Oh I HATE the jerks that are just trying to impress their boss with their tough interview style.

    Rob: Every now and then when I realise I really don’t want the job I go the “truth” route. It can be lots of fun.

    David: thanks! And thanks for the link.

  12. I like that your best quality is your ability to not kill the morons you work with. That shows restraint and a misanthropic love of humanity.

  13. Bruce

    I generally find myself agreeing with most things Mr Angry rants about. I am a software engineer who somehow became a project manager and at the same time found myself doing all of the recruitment interviews for the company – around 100 or so in the last 12 months – so I have asked my fair share of dumb questions.

    You would be amazed at the amount of seemingly well prepared, well presented candidates who spectacularly flame out on some of these questions. I think it comes down to a lot of peoples need to fill awkward silences with some sort of noise. So you ask a dumb question, wait, and let them bury themselves. If they’re competent and composed, they answer the question, shut up, and look back at you.

    For most of the vacancies we advertised last year, about 75% of the responses go straight into the bin. With the ICT market being what it is in Australia at the moment, after the interview process you only end up with one or two anyway, at best. All of our best hires have come from networking / poaching.

    So yes, they are all dumb questions, but there are a lot of dumb people out there who get tripped up by them.

    Cheers and keep ranting🙂

  14. abarclay: I like to think I’m well-balanced that way🙂

    Bruce: good point! If you can trip people up with dumb questions, it sure makes your job easier!

  15. MJ

    Sometimes interviewers just ask stupid questions to test how stupid interviewees are. Some to double check the info in resume like “You graduated with Honours in [what]..”

    “Yeah, can’t you see it in my resume?”

    Or they are just plain duh themselves.

  16. For a view from the other side of the interviewer’s desk, see my article “Interview Performance Doesn’t Equate to Job Performance” at http://www.makingitclear.com/newsletters/newsletter34.html#article

  17. And of course, let’s not forget the complete “opposite” of the spectrum here.

    The people (like you Mr. Angry) that have perfected the interview process to a “T”. You know what people want to hear, you know what answers to give, you know what personality to show during an interview, because — after all — you *are* selling yourself (your talents that is).

    But then you hire the “perfect interviewee” they come to work and guess what? They are NOTHING like the person you interviewed! Crazy, huh?

    In the last 2 years, my company has hired and fired 4 people. Each and every time, the same thing was said “They interviewed so well, what went wrong?”

    Sooo…selling yourself in an interview is one thing, but unless you plan on always hiding *who* you are as a person while working there, it will eventually backfire on you!

    Just my 4 cents worth (I’ve fired 3 of those folks personally…wheee..)

    • BH

      Some people talk the talk but they don’t walk the walk. I see interviewing as acting. Meryl Streep has played so many different characters and she is so good at acting people are convinced by her. People are attracted to the actors and those who speak well.

  18. Ben

    One time a manager asked me to tell him something that I really wasn’t good at.

    I paused for a moment and said

    “I am a horrible painter. If you asked me to paint a picture of you it would look real ugly.”

    I was actually being sincere. He looked at me a little funny and laughed.

  19. As an admin guy I was once asked, by an interviewer in an aircraft engineering outfit how I’d feel working with engineers.
    I replied: ‘Intelligent.’
    I stayed.

  20. cinnkitty says:
    “Just my 4 cents worth (I’ve fired 3 of those folks personally…wheee..)”

    Wow, talk about success…

  21. Nah Leo…not success..just necessary.. My boss is extremely non-confrontational and couldn’t bring himself to do it. He made the decision, but the action of it was too much. So he turned to me.

    And as his HR person, it’s better for me to handle it so that it’s done correctly in the eyes of the local, state and federal laws. Both for the company and employee’s protection.

    I don’t like to do it, but I’ll step up to the plate if I have to.

    Cinn “The Hatchet” Kitty

  22. MJ: Good point, although I’ve never understood people who lie on resumes – it’s so easy to be caught

    Harwell: I’m with you on the title alone – most interviews are next to useless for predicting job performance

    Cinnkitty: Absolutely, I’m a consummate salesman of myself. I’m very slick at interviews these days – I pity the fool who gets taken in too easily.

    Ben: That is an absolutely awesome answer! I’m stealing it for my next interview.

    Anthony: another awesome answer, I’ll have to see if I can use that one too.

    Leonardo: One would be wise not to take Ms Kitty too lightly!

    CinnKitty: At least you do it professionally, some people compound their error by handling sackings really badly.

  23. Vladimir

    >Q: What would you say is your best quality?
    >A: The ability to work with morons without killing them.

    I think I’m going to try this answer next time…. Not sure if such a quality should really be considered good – just imagine a world where all the morons have been killed by their co-workers! – but for the sake of interwiev lying….

  24. Pretty good.

    Over here in Taiwan, as a non-Caucasian foreigner, it’s the racism that kills me every time. Still, once it starts, I start a mental recording and blog about it.

  25. Vlad: I suggest you paraphrase rather than use it exactly😉

    range: yeah, from my limited experience, that’s a problem in most asian countries.

  26. Vladimir

    How about: “I appreciate alternatively gifted people, even if I completely fail to see their gifts”?🙂

    What is the answer to “where do you see yourself in X years”?

  27. Nicely worded. As for the “x years” question, it depends on the sort of job. If it’s permanent, you have to tailor you answer to sound really interested in the job. As a contractor it’s slightly less important but I usually try to make it sound like I’m interested in the general work I do.

    I avoid saying I’ll be managing somewhere, just in case that sounds too aggressive or threatening. Usually I phrase it along the lines of “I want to be involved at the strategic level.” That makes it sounds like you’re a big thinker, eyes on the future. Without tying you to a particular job or level of management.

  28. esther

    Vladmir,

    There are a couple of decent answers to the “where you do you see yourself in 5 years?” question. One of them — which only appears to be smartass — is, “I’ll have your job, of course!” This may shock the interviewer, which is fun; but if he or she thinks about it for a moment the assumption is that the interviewer will have moved up by that time. I haven’t actually been asked that question since I found that answer so I’ve no idea what response it would truly get.

    There *is* a serious component to that question, though most interviewers don’t actually care about your answer. If you’re a techie (say, a programmer) it’s worthwhile to know whether your ambitions are to stay a techie, to move up the tech management ladder, or to move into non-tech management. Or at least they like to imagine that they’re talking to someone who is thinking or planning ahead.

    One way to (seriously) get over the dumb questions is to start asking questions yourself. If the interviewer is someone to whom you’d be reporting, then it’s your time to turn it around. Okay, here’s *my* “best and worst qualities” — what are yours? They probably aren’t ready for that question, and they’ll probably point out that the question is dumb… and now you have a real conversation. It _is_ relevant, since you’re going to be working with these folks and you don’t want to accept a job you hate any more than they want to hire someone who doesn’t fit in.

    I wrote an article about this topic about a year ago,
    The Best and Worst Tech Interview Questions: http://www.devsource.com/article2/0,1895,2027748,00.asp
    I’m no longer at that publication, in part because I took some of the advice given in the article. In particular, I asked my (now) boss “what’s the best thing about working here? what’s the worst thing about it?” He gave me very honest answers — which have indeed turned out to be true. (And for the record, this is the best job I’ve ever had.)

    Esther
    senior online editor, CIO.com
    http://advice.cio.com/blogs/youre_the_boss

  29. Thanks for the input, Esther!

  30. Pingback: Interview questions « I am Rainbow

  31. Vladimir

    esther

    >Or at least they like to imagine that they’re talking to someone who is thinking or planning ahead.

    Thinking ahead always makes me very depressed, so I’m trying to avoid it as much as possible.
    (I wonder, how’s that for an answer?…)

  32. hahahaha, I’m sure plenty of employers are looking for employees with clinical depression.

  33. Vladimir

    Interviewer: “What’s your worst quality?”
    Me: “Clinical depression.”
    Int.: “What do you do about it?”
    Me: “Avoid thinking ahead.”
    Int.: “Uhm… well… were do you see yourself in 5 years?”
    Me: “I’ll tell you, where I see myself in f*k*n’ 5 years!…” (screams, thumping sounds)

  34. Boo Boo

    Here’s a stuuupid question for you…
    “What motivates you to get up in the morning?”

    I know what answer I’d love to give
    …my bladder is full and my stomach empty! This situation needs to be reversed and urgently each and every morning!!

  35. Booboo: I don’t think that’s the angle they’re looking for but I’d love to see their reaction.

  36. I forgot to mention that when I go for job interviews, I like to say “that’s none of your business” as much as possible. Like if they ask me how I plan to help the company or what strategies I might use to increase business, I just say, “That’s really none of your business.”

  37. that seems a tad aggressive. How does that work out for you?

  38. simon

    You get similar questions on application forms, i equally despise it when you open an app form and its ten pages long with 5 pages of one question, an a4 space and a note informing you to use another sheet if necessary -_-
    The question i love to hate is “Why do you want to work for us/
    I’d love to answer, Because i need a fucking job you moron, why else would i apply, i want to work and earn money so i can buy…food!!!

  39. Rich

    Fair play, utter genius. The where do you see yourself is always a difficult one for me. I’ve been asked in my last three jobs where I see myself in 5 years time and I spent less than 2 in each of them. Maybe ‘Moving on somewhere better’ is not what they want to hear.

    I was asked in one interview.
    ‘Where do you see yourself in a year’s time?’
    Then
    ‘Ok, what about two years time?’

  40. What those questions say to me is “We don’t have much imagination.” I’d be tempted to turn it back to them and say “What do you expect from me in my time here? To provide a path for me to develop in a way that I’d like to stay here for a long time or are you more interested in me filling the same role for as long as possible?”

  41. Michael

    They ask the stupidest questions.

    What is your desired salary? My DESIRED salary? $900,000,000,000.00 per year? WTF? I’m supposed to low-ball myself knowing I need work and if I ask for too much I won’t get the position?

    Oh and I love how they ask “What makes you want to work for _________ ?”

    A: Because I need a JOB and in INCOME you stupid fuck! You think I’ve been dreaming to work for you since I was a kid? No asshole. I sent out 200 resumes and your’e company needs and employee. Stupid!

    AND BEST OF ALL: Here is the question I was asked last week:

    “Describe your thinking proces to us in a procedural way”

    WTF??????????????????????????????????????

  42. Alex

    I‘m glad to see I’m not alone regarding silly interview questions.
    Another gem would be:
    “How do you deal with some-one who is difficult to deal with at work?”

    I always try to pretend I am a caring considerate person who takes their feelings and insecurities into account and try to get them involved and make them feel important…but I’ve never been able to avoid grinning at the end of the sentence.

    Cumulatively, the results of such piercing questions was…”could not really get to know him”…are you surprised???

    I’m currently looking for work so I’m sure I’ll get a few more gems…keep you posted.

  43. Alphonse

    I was given the old “How would you improve _____, over other areas in _______ company?” My first response was “I assume you don’t mean sabotage.”

    Surprisingly I got the job, probably because he had never heard that response and figured that I’m an interesting thinker or some bullshit.

  44. Well said. I love your Q and A bit. I’ve always thought this myself at lot of interviews.

  45. Stone

    Aint it the truth!!! What are these overpaid incompetent managers thinking?? I went for some job I really didnt want and was asked “What salary do you want?” 2 which I replied “Dunno. what do you get?” Also the question “How do you cope under pressure”. To which I replied “If HR gets it right there should’nt really be any” How much pressure do you get here then?” ***holes!!!

  46. Stone

    Here’s a few more dear readers, to try……

    Q. Tell me about youself.

    A. Read the CV. What was the point of me going to that effort sending one if this was to be a viva voce interview only? What do you mean, ‘In my own words’? Those are my words in the CV. I wrote it. Why don’t you ask questions that are more specific and extensive about my work history and how I could apply those transferable skills and experience? (Oh but that would mean reading my CV and preparing for the interview first, wouldn’t it.)

    Q. Why do you want this job?

    A. Ok. I am from a planet called Earth. At present our technology is not as advanced as some other species in the Galaxy. (A galaxy is a very very big place with lots and lots of stars.) Now we don’t at the moment know how to get energy in it’s purest form from matter. (matter is that stuff that lays around here and there, like rocks, bus stops, paper cups, twigs, old magazines etc) If like some civilisations, we had free energy by this method, we would not need to work and poverty could be eliminated. Unfortunately, energy is the key to the economy of our world So I (or we)need a job or (jobs) to pay for food, rent, clothing you know, that sort of thing.

    I mean, I don’t particularly only want this job to the exculsion of all others, you understand, I havn’t been dreaming about working for your company since I was ten, it’s just that it seemed near enough, hours seemed ok, it’s work I am familiar with, and you will pay me money to do it. (If I use hard long words like ‘galaxy’ ‘lunch’ and ‘particularly’ then get a grown-up you know and can trust, like the policeman outside the school or the lady in the sweetshop to help you.)

    Q. What salary are you looking for?

    A. £10 million a year. Well, you asked, didnt you? Why are you so surprised? Why ask me that when its bloody obvious you won’t ever pay me what I’m worth, just enough to keep me crawling back every Monday morning? Please! Next.

    Q. What are your weak points?

    A. If everyone you interviewed honestly told you the answer to that you’d never take on anyone. Besides, why should I tell you my achilles heels so that you can put the knife in when you realise that after I’d been working here for a few weeks I’m revealing you for the lazy incompetent idiot you most likely are? Not applicable. Move on.

    Q. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

    A. What?? Well it depends on what time of day or day of the week really. I mean I might be going shopping with the missus if its a Saturday, having a drink in the afternoon or at Church if its a Sunday. Do you mean to the day and time exactly? (Ooh trick question!) Well,what plans have you got for August 2015, any ideas that you think might help me?

  47. j.willis

    I just got done with a phone interview with the ‘Mattress Firm’ and some twit who’s name wasn’t worth remembering, but was something along the lines of ‘like totally ZOMG Christy like’. The phone interview was a prerequisite to the actual interview, which I’m sure is a prerequisite to some training time and blah blah blah.

    The interview ended when I told her I couldn’t find anything relevant about the question “name the top three things you look for in company”. Immediately, I was thinking that’s about as important as the top three things I look for in lunch or a prom date. And it’s not as if any employer wants to hear about the bullshit I DON’T want to deal with in a company, like HR interviews that test my ability to pour ego out of every last orifice in my body, managers that forget to take out the loans they need to make payday happen or believe they only need to show up to open and close the building, and employees with adult ADHD and an inability to simply focus long enough to do their work. But I was already pissed off from answering all the other ‘character-oriented’ questions, so I just gave the standard ‘ a job is a job when real unemployment is %15’ (she replied that she didn’t understand) and that ‘I just don’t find that question relevant (she replied again that she didn’t understand…what the hell is there to get?). The only thing I could think: selling f*&#ing mattresses with customer service cheerleaders doesn’t come close to placing in the top three. At all.

    So much for my college experience. I don’t know whats worse: these interview contests or my inability to just blow these questions with pure bullshit.

  48. YJ

    Awesome responses. But what do you think I should have said to the question “What motivates you to get up in the morning?” if I actually wanted the job?

    I know it was primarily intended to make me squirm (he was grinning) and show that I can think on my feet, but here’s what I said:

    A: “….Err….Breakfast?”

  49. Great post angry man, some very funny LOL answers!

  50. When I was getting interviewed for a TEMPORARY 2 month job by no less than 3 HR guys, 3 because apparently they have nothing better to do. When I told them I’m unlikely to finish the entire 2 months because while I’m looking for a real permanent job elsewhere they reacted as if they heard an extraterrestrial talk. it was at that time I’m become entirely convinced that hiring no longer has any common sense.

  51. Jeff

    This article was spot on. I just had a phone interview for a low paying job at the University of San Diego and the woman who interviewed me asked the dumbest, most redundant questions imaginable. The whole interview process is a load of horseshit.

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