I’ve been working with students and graduates on mock interviews. The one question I always get asked is, “What is the strangest interview question you’ve ever been asked in an interview?”
- Well, it’s not, “If you were an animal what would you be?” (A Lion by the way.)
- “Which cheesy 80’s song do you listen to the most?” (Anything Richard Marx.)
- “Which Muppet do you most closely identify with?” (This is a toss up between Kermit the Frog and Fozzy Bear, and is a constant source of disagreement between my mother an myself.)
The strangest interview question I ever received came from a man I never thought would hire me, at a company I didn’t think I was qualified to work for, at the first interview I thought I’d blown. One question threw me into such a tail spin, I didn’t know if I was coming or going.
“So, I’m going to give you three minutes to ask me anything you want to ask, then you get 60-seconds to tell me what you’ve learned.”
I spent three minutes shooting off questions trying to discover family, home, hobbies, education, religious, and political information about my interviewer.
“Time’s up,”: he said. “What did you learn?”
My response? “Well, did you want me to find out about you personally or professionally?”
His response? “You probably should have asked that question first, shouldn’t you?”
OUCH! I began to shot off all my Holmesian conclusions and with a look of sheepish satisfaction, craving a fatherly approval, he looked at me and replied, “Thank you. We’ll be in touch.”
I forgot to mention this was my last interview of a day-long round robin of interviews for what I thought was a dream job and I just blew it, or so I thought.
I believe all stories should have a happy ending. Needless to say, I did get the job, and within 2-years, he was my direct supervisor. He promoted me to my first department head position and became my best, most influential and beloved mentor. One day I got the gumption up to ask him about the question.
“Jim, what was the point of that question? What were you looking for in an answer?”
“Bets, there is no right or wrong answer. It is a question to see how you can communicate in a stressful or uncomfortable situation with executive level leaders. You did great. You didn’t stop. You fully used your time. Your answer was full of humor and insight, and you spoke articulately.”
It’s not always about the right answer. but the right attitude. Be positive, be confident, and take risks. You never know where they can lead you. Mine lead me to a career path that, if I had hesitated trying to find the right answer, I might have missed out on.
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