What are your hobbies? And other stupid questions
I have a friend - let’s call him Jeffery - who has been anonymously toiling at the same company for two thankless years.
Last week, he decided he wanted out, and applied for a job at a funky new ‘web 2.0’ outfit. Mild and self-effacing, poor Jeffery had no idea of the ordeal that awaited him.
I got a call after the interview. The voice on the other end sounded sad and despondent. ‘I really stuffed up’…
Now, Jeffery’s a smart guy, can think on his feet and knows his stuff. I was dumbfounded. ‘What! Why?’ I cried down the phone.
‘Well’, he began; ‘they started throwing these weird questions at me.’
‘Well, what do I like doing during my leisure time … and how would my family and friends describe me. That sort of stuff.’
No, I thought, that can’t possibly be true. Do companies really draw much information from such banalities? Where on earth had poor Jeffery gone? Wernham Hogg? Was David Brent asking the questions?
But Jeffery isn’t the only unfortunate soul I know who got the third degree. My girlfriend Esther was quizzed about her living arrangements when she went for a retail job.
‘Do you still live at home with your parents’ they asked. Woah, hold on a minute here Barbara Walters. Were they planning on getting her to sell stock from her bedroom, and thought having mum and dad in the background might be a bit of a turnoff for the hipster crowd?
Who asks that? You can’t seriously think who you live with provides any clues into your ability as an employee.
Another friend of mine, Jack, was asked ‘what initially attracted him to the company’. After a few drawn out minutes he replied, ‘the job ad’. Needless to say, Jack is still out of a job.
Now, I thought those sorts of things only went on in sitcoms’ like The Office. How wrong I was. All across the corporate world, smugly ensconced behind big mahogany desks, sit a job seeker’s worst nightmare: the middle managers with a macabre delight in demolishing the helpless creature grinning desperately before them.
Then there are the general managers, HR people and countless other office regulars who sidle into the interview room unannounced, with those clichéd questions they throw at you. It’s their lame way of trying to discover to discover ‘the real you’…and if you can ‘think outside the box’.
But you’d have to be mildly delusional to actually think an interviewee will answer questions like what their family or friends think of them honestly.
Can you imagine if they did? “Well, my partner always complains how lazy I can be! And he thinks I tend to get a tad homicidal under pressure. Is that what you meant?”
Are they trying to see if your personality will mesh with the rest of the staffs’, because you know (everybody smile now): ‘We’re like a big family ‘round here.’
No thanks, Sigmund, I think most people would rather stick a fork in their eye then have to work with their aunt Beryl or cousin Roger. Let’s face it, not many people are that enamored of their co-workers, but they get the job done, and make the best of it.
That’s what work is – the best people for the job, not necessarily the people who get on best with you. And that, ‘tell me do you have any hobbies’ one. Give me a break, unless a company plans to let their staff practice fly fishing on a slow day, or Brazilian capoeira dancing in the main conference room, what someone does when they clock off, is their own business.
Perhaps the moronic quizzing serves a purpose. Could it be a non-confrontational way of seeing how you cope under pressure? Or maybe how quick you can spin the truth with a smile on your face?
Unless you’re looking to become a press secretary for a NSW politician, I highly doubt it.
Now, I’m all for applicants getting a grilling in interviews, but only as long as it relates to the position at hand, not pseudo psychological assessments, or way too personal queries like ‘what do you do to unwind?’
Pleeeeeease, if you want to get to know me, let’s do coffee. Job interviews shouldn’t turn into some kind of amateur census to see if someone makes the grade to join your social clique, girlfriend.
And now, in honor of David Brent wannabes across the globe, here are a few more of those asinine queries that have actually been asked by employers at interviews (for full effect, imagine them being said in a deadly serious tone):
1. ‘So tell me, if you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?’
2. ‘How would your friends and family describe you?’
3. ‘What do you like to do during your downtime?’
4. ‘Are you a good team player?’ Or ‘How do you feel about working in a team environment?’
5. ‘What are your energy levels like across the day?’
6. ‘Where do you see yourself in five years time?’
7. ‘What would you say is your worst habit?’
8. ‘When you’re using the computer at home, what kind of websites do you like to look up?’
9. ‘How do you like to take care of yourself?’
10. ‘Would you say you’re more of a homebody or a social butterfly?’
I’m sure nay, I know, there are more of these imbecilic gems. So, here’s my question, what curve balls have you been thrown?
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