If You Were an Animal…

Local career expert Lisa (a.k.a. Recruiter Uncensored) shares some of her knowledge with us every Monday. You can read this post in its original form along with comments here.

I spend a lot of time chatting in round tables with professionals looking for work. I’m hearing some interesting stories these days about interview questions. Employers are actually asking questions like, “if you were an item in a grocery store what would you be and why?” And, “if you were an animal what animal would you be and why?” Another was asked, “if you were a superhero what would be your super power?”

I’m not going to lie, I’m horribly embarrassed for companies posing these types of questions. Interviews are business meetings not game shows. They are also a two-way exchange. How would that interviewer feel if the job seeker returned the question? So, potential employer, now that you know that I view myself to be a Spanish olive, what grocery item are you? How about the other employees you supervise? Since this is a team environment, I’d like to know if any of your current staff is, say, Cool Whip. Cool Whip and olives don’t mix all that well, after all.

I’m sure there is some logic behind the strategy. Perhaps the goal is to measure how candidates respond to the unexpected or how they deal with requests that don’t seem to make sense. That said, it seems to me there are better ways to accomplish this without compromising the employer’s credibility. It’s easy to understand how a job seeker might wonder if other business situations within the company are handled in such a, cough, interesting way.

The biggest issue I have with these types of questions is that I personally think they invite discrimination. I’ll give an example. Consider how many adults seeking employment at any given moment are potentially on the spectrum of Autism. They’re perfectly good employees and function well in their roles. Their brains dissect information in different ways. In an interview setting asking that person to pick one thing in a store of thousands of items he would identify with is overwhelming, if it’s even understood. Many who I’ve encountered and suspected of being on the spectrum are noticeably missing the ability to bull****, which is exactly what some of these questions require. Do companies really want a screening device that favors those more inclined to spit out baloney? I know I wouldn’t.

For job seekers faced with these questions, answer them as well as you can. Don’t get mad or annoyed. It’s just a question. That said, you may want to ask some questions of your own that shed light on the company’s culture and business strategy. The company you align yourself with will be a business partner. They’ll be contributing a check and an opportunity to make yourself useful, while you’ll be contributing your talent, connections, energy and time. Make sure the business partner has the good judgment necessary for a successful outcome down the road.

– Lisa W-P, CADL Guest Blogger

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