Pointless Interview Questions

The job market is a fun place. Well, it’s fun for me at the moment, mostly because I’m in no rush to start another contract.  This makes me very relaxed during interviews which tends to result in me coming across better.  It also frees me up to decide I don’t want a particular job.  I’m not desperate for money so I’m content to wait for the right opportunity rather than grab the first thing that comes along.

It also gives me a bit of freedom in my responses when I think the interviewer is asking stupid questions.  I don’t want to burn any bridges so I’m not actually rude.  I never actually come out and say I think the interviewer is asking stupid questions but it’s fairly easy to turn things around so they are in the position of justifying why they’re asking questions that are so, well… stupid.

For instance, there was the putz I had to see this week who thought he was being really clever.  It seems as though someone gave him the book of Microsoft interview questions and he was eager to show off his new “knowledge”.  This style of interviewing gives you abstract questions that have no relationship whatsoever to the work you’ll be doing.  Or to the real world.

Proponents say they’re trying to see how creatively you can think.  Normal humans say it’s a waste of time.  In my case, the interview went a little like this:

Annoying Recruiter: How would you move Mount Fuji 1/2 a kilometre to the South?

ME: Why would I do that?

AR: Uhhhh, it’s a project you’ve been assigned.

ME: As part of my work I’ve been asked to move Mount Fuji?

AR: Yes, so how would you do it?

ME: How could that possibly benefit the business?

AR: What?

ME: As an analyst, my first reaction is the project would be prohibitively expensive and take forever to complete.  The first thing I’d want is to see a business case that showed how this would benefit the business.

AR: But how would you do it?

ME: That isn’t the important question.  What you need to be asking is why would you do it?

AR: I just want to know how you’d do it.

ME: But if you can’t tell me why it should be done, that tells me there’s a problem.  As an analyst, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I let the project go forward without answering that question.

AR: I’m trying to get an idea of how you’d approach the problem.

ME: I’m telling you how I’d approach it: I’d try to find out why someone wanted to do this.  Seriously, even suggesting such an outlandish project tells me that things are seriously out of whack.

AR: No, this isn’t a real work project. I gave you an unusual example to see how you’d approach a problem that you wouldn’t face in your day to day work.

ME: So what you’re saying is the way you’re planning to work out if I’d be any good at this job by asking me questions that have nothing to do with the job and could never be of any value to the job?

AR: Uhh, yes.

ME: It never occurred to you to ask me questions related to actual issues I’m likely to face in this job?

AR: Well, this is a creative exercise.

ME: So you’re sticking with the plan that finding out how I deal with something useless is more valuable than finding out how I’d deal with something that actually matters to the business?

AR: Well that isn’t really the point…

ME: Is it hard to get your job? (extended silence) Wait I’ve got a better question: If I took this job, would I ever have to see you again?  Because I gotta tell you, that would have a pretty big influence on my decision.

I’d like to point out I’m not a cruel man.  It was never my intention to reduce the interviewer to tears.  But I think with the right therapy, he’ll come through this a stronger person.



Filed under Work

18 responses to “Pointless Interview Questions

  1. I’d probably move all the people who cared 1/2 mile north… then see if they knew the difference between miles and kilometres.

    Or maybe I’d bribe a newspaper to run a headline “Mt Fuji Shifted 1/2 kilometre south!” and then show it to the investors… Keeping the excess budget for any further stupid requirements they may add to future projects.

    Perhaps I’d go the bother of getting someone to dig a big flat area out 1/2 kilometre north of Mt. Fuji to at least make it look like I got it moved. Then drive up and down just to the south so it looked like someone was bothering to pile stuff up just to the south.

    Or I’d just pay a cartographer.

    Gotta love stupid questions though… I never get asked them, I usually get the more “are you lying on your resume” type questions… (So, you say you know C#… (Mr. Bond, stroke white cat) … what does static mean!?!?!?! (dramatic pause… zoom in on face for reaction shot.))

  2. I would probably just go with a simple.. “just what kind of job is this anyway?” but your rigorous follow through with question is perfect way to deal with this.

  3. This was hilarious. But maybe you should start your own business as an efficiency expert so you could go into companies and weed out all the morons. Seems like you’d have plenty of work.

  4. tom

    “If I took this job, would I ever have to see you again?” – how many times have I asked myself this question during an interview! outstanding …

  5. abbagrrl

    ha ha! that IS a dumb-ass question to be asking in an interview. props to you for calling that shithead on it!!

  6. This was fantastic. I used to do a lot of interviews. My favorite applicants were the ones from the Unemployment Office who really didn’t want to be hired. They just needed to get their cards signed to show that they were seeking work– that way, they could still keep the unemployment checks rolling in and stay happy and free. They’d answer questions by saying things like, “Fuck– I don’t know.” I signed a lot of cards.

  7. Your answer was good.
    It’s totally pathetic when a person with no creativity of his own is trying to judge other people’s creativity.

  8. Here is another case of interview Q&A, with more inclination towards programming:

  9. Javi Torón

    I agree to Vlad… it’s an example of “golden rules” lover. Lovers of rules that keep them away from actually understanding their jobs and business.

    Your answer was a perfect one but I think it wasn’t in the “possible answers” list. Haha!!

  10. this is probably why I’m so miserable as a public servant.

    KP: So why are we doing this

    Other public servant: Because the executive director told me to

    KP: but why, what does she/he want to achieve

    OPS: Just do it.
    As if channeling Nike was ever going to make the job more scintillating.

  11. Anthony

    That’d really piss anyone off who lived just south of Mt Fuji…

  12. Vladimir


    During a screening interview, I was asked how I would design a bike fit for someone visually impaired. I responded something to the effect of, “What, like, for blind people?”, and she answered yes.

    I thought for a moment and then I responded, “Well.. a blind person riding a bike doesn’t sound like a very safe idea, so I would make the bike stationary, maybe with a fan blowing in the person’s face. He probably wouldn’t even know the difference.”

    She was speechless.

  13. lol, while I agree with your reasoning, it’s not so fair for the recruiter. These guys have difficult jobs man… HR recruitment is not such a breezy area perhaps unlike you…

    Give him a break lol

  14. dogfriend

    Excellent response to a ridiculous interview question.

    A couple of months ago I was interviewing for a 1 year contract position. Near the end of the interview I got this question: “What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?” I was stumped. We were talking about a 1 year contract. “How the hell should I know?” was the first thing that came into my mind, but I knew that wouldn’t work. After I didn’t get the position, I wish I had adopted your approach, at least to preserve what is left of my sanity.

  15. Seerak

    Feng: then how are we to gently nudge the idiots out of jobs they shouldn’t be holding?

    The reason why that idiot was there today is because none of the previous applicants supplied the badly needed feedback.

    After this, the twerp might either mend his ways, or quit — both good outcomes from the standpoint of all future victims (and the company, most likely).

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  17. recruitinganimal

    Why didn’t you just tell him that you would order a giant laser from the planet Xylon to slice thru the base of Mt Fuji then hire a contractor from Mars to move it using his spaceship crane. That would show you could do a good job.

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