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Column: The most ridiculous job interview questions you’ve heard

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

Question: What is the most ridiculous interview question you’ve heard an employer ask a job applicant? What’s the best answer, and what do you think the employer was really looking for when they asked?

Nick Corcodilos: Ah, you want to know about “The Top 10 Stupid Interview Questions!” But there are more than 10! This has become an ongoing topic on Ask The Headhunter. It’s hard to pick the most ridiculous, but this common interview question ranks right up there:

What is your major weakness?

Here’s my suggested response. You should tune it to suit the situation, your personality, and your willingness to be a bit snarky and take a risk. And smile while you say it:

“By the time I’m done showing you how I would do this job profitably for you, my weaknesses won’t matter. If you think I have critical weaknesses when we’re done with this interview, then you shouldn’t hire me. (Smile again.) Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but I really believe that one thing matters above all: You should evaluate me based on what I show you I can do, not on some clever answer that anyone can find in a book about clever job-interview questions and answers.”

If that seems risky, well, it is. But so is fielding silly questions that will not help you get hired, and that won’t help the employer pick a new hire who can actually do the work!

Here’s another Top 10 Stupid Interview Question that’s always phrased as a challenge:

Tell me about yourself.

This open-ended query is justified by employers who claim it gives the applicant a chance to “reveal who they are.” I think that’s nonsense. The most useful way for the interviewer to find out who you are is to discuss the work with you and then listen carefully as the conversation naturally expands into other topics. I think the sad truth is that interviewers ask general questions like this because they have no idea how to assess a job candidate’s ability to do the job. Until an employer accomplishes that, nothing else about you really matters.

So, how should you answer this question? It’s a Zen sort of solution: Don’t give the interviewer a chance to ask it. Here’s a tip about how to calm your nerves and take control of an interview at the very start, from my PDF book, “Fearless Job Hunting — Book 6, The Interview: Be The Profitable Hire.”

“Most job candidates sit like cornered mice, waiting for the interviewer to start the action. Don’t wait for the employer to ask you the first question — the question that will bring your anxiety to a head. Speak first…Start an unexpected conversation. Ask the manager about himself, about his successes, or about the state of the industry. There’s nothing to be nervous about, because you are letting the manager perform. You’ve immediately handed him the ball while you acclimate yourself. In the process, you are learning something that might help you with this interview.”

Perhaps you’ve noticed an underlying message in my advice. When you face ridiculous interview questions, it’s up to you to raise the standard of the discussion. Help the interviewer learn what really matters–whether and how you will do the job.

For more about how to handle questions that leave you scratching your head, please see:

Dear Readers: What’s the most ridiculous interview question you’ve been asked? How did you answer it? Why do you think the employer asked it?

Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2019 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

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