Tuesday, 20 July 2010

If you were an animal what would you be and why?

Recently I was asked to be involved in the recruitment process at my place of work and had to, with the help of two of my team members, spend half an hour interviewing prospective job candidates. Now I've had a few interviews in my time and seem mostly to do quite well in that kind of situation, but this would be my first experience on the other side of the table.

I remember having read interview guides before now that had warned me to be prepared for silly questions like 'If you were an animal what would you be and why?'. So with the simple intention of using this very question as an icebreaker (and partly becaused I'd enjoy using such a cliché) we decided I could kick off with it.

We weren't hoping to get anything useful out of it at all, but in hindsight the animal question proved way more valuable than I could have ever expected, not because of any in depth analysis into the answers, such as lions as leaders or any crap like that, but purely on how the interviews handled such a ridiculous question (something the candidates would come across regularly in the role)!

Now some gave boring answers like cat or dog for various reasons. Now I wasn't judging them on imagination here so credit to them for playing along. What it did do though was trigger a stock response of 'oh, I'm a [if cat then dog and vice-versa] person', which generally got a chuckle which was kind of the point. Ice broken, lets move on.

In the worst case a candidate snapped back with 'What are asking me that for!'. Instantly showing just how intolerant they were to BS questions and showing a confrontational side which is never a good idea in an interview. Who cares about the animal, we've got a major attitude problem here!

Finally the best responses showed comedy, personality, or at least a little imagination. I didn't care which animal, or indeed why, but was just happy in the knowledge that the interviewee is a relaxed fast thinker with good people skills to boot, especially if they made us laugh.

So in short, don't dismiss silly interview questions, they can be more valuable than you think.