Absurd and stupid interview questions never to use

  • Post published:06/03/2024
  • Reading time:9 mins read

17If you were a doughnut, what kind would you be? Are you a nerd? Can you count to 50?

I couldn’t stop laughing when I recently read the list of naive and brainless interview questions that are used by insane HR departments around the world.

The list was compiled by Anne Fisher, a contributor to Fortune magazine.

But it gets worse. Be annoyed or have a laugh.

  • Will you keep sober at our New Year Party?
  • What leadership skills are needed to cook a chicken?
  • Would you go out with me?
  • Do you have a bird?
  • How much can you drink?
  • What would make you leave your husband?
  • How do you get along with your mother-in-law?
  • If you could be Batman or Robin, which one would you be?

Needless to say and unfortunately these and similar questions are truly very poor predictors of job success (as famously noted by Google’s former SVP of People Operations Laszlo Bock).

From Glassdoor’s Top 10 oddball question list

  • Used by Cisco: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you want to have with you?
  • Used by Bloomberg: My clock is nine minutes slow every hour. At noon, it tells the correct time. After how many hours will it again tell the correct time?
  • Used by Goldman Sachs: If you have five red balls that contained four red balls. And those red balls contained the original five red balls, then how many sets of sets of balls would it take to have a double set of red balls of varying sizes inside each next largest red ball?

Way too many people-turned-recruiters make it easy for candidates to guess what is the right answer.

I mean, is it not obvious what you must answer to these following three questions, if you want to stand any chance of being considered for the job:

  • Can you sell?
  • Do you work well under pressure?
  • Are you a team player?

Industrial psychologists studying traditional interviews have concluded that traditional binary interview questions were not effective as they were often hypothetical or theoretical.

Answers did not represent what a candidate had actually done in real-life situations and what the candidate would most likely do again on the job.

Don’t waste the little time you spend with your candidates and don’t play games. Focus on getting facts and achievements from the candidates.

And of course, you can ask the candidates about real-case business or technical issues to solve. These problem-solving questions are fair and not at all curveball questions.

Most used questions by professional recruiters

Now, ladies and gentlemen: introducing behaviour-based interview questions.

Probably the most used question technique in job interviews, used by real professional recruiters, is known by the names behaviour-based interview or competency-based interview or even sometimes called performance-based interview.

The technique is based on a simple premise: A look at the past provides a glimpse of the future.

If you did it before, you’ll do it again.

We say that past behaviour and performance are the best predictors of future behaviour and performance.

The basic idea calls for the interviewer to prompt or press the candidate to recall and describe in sometimes excruciating details real-life incidents that provide evidence of a skill or experience relevant to the new job.

Here are some typical behaviour-based interview questions to use when you develop the questions to ask at the interview.

The answers will reveal his or her true self by providing details of relevant real-life experiences:

  • Can you give me an example of when you [insert].
  • Could you tell me about a time when you [insert].
  • Tell me more about when you [insert].
  • Have you ever had to [insert]? What was the situation, and what did you do?
  • Describe a situation where you [insert].
  • Let’s go back to that situation you just mentioned; can you elaborate a little more about how you [insert].
  • Your resume indicates that you [insert]. How exactly did you do that?
  • Have you ever had the experience of [insert]? Can you tell me about that?

Techniques to make your next interview the best ever

Finishing off this week’s blog, here are some great tips to make your next interview successful.

Use prepared questions: This will help you provide a structure, allow you to treat all fairly and to compare candidates with one another.

Get the full story. If you can’t get an answer at all, or it is vague, use different choice of words. Or come back to the question later in the interview.

Handling silence: Wait five to second seconds after asking your question, and let the candidate have a little time to think about the answer.

Control the interview: The goal is to gather relevant job-related data in a short period. Be careful of too much soft talk.

Evaluate candidates after the interview: The interview is geared toward gathering facts and documenting those by taking notes. Do not make too early judgments but wait until after the interview.

Take notes: Listen carefully to the responses and stick to the facts. Don’t write your opinions or what you think was said.

Tom Sorensen

Tom Sorensen is an executive search veteran with over 25 years of experience recruiting in Asia, Europe, and Africa. He has worked in executive search in Thailand since 2003 and is recognized as one of the country’s top recruiters and most profiled headhunters.