Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Stop Asking Bozo Interview Questions

BozoLet’s start with an admission: I have asked stupid interview questions.  I’m not proud of it. But now – I’m in bozo recovery.

Before recovery, the bozo question I often asked (that I nicked from another bozo) was, “if you could be on a cover of a magazine, what cover would it be”?  That, of course was before the TMZ, broadcast yourself on social media era). 

After a year of asking that question, I got some good answers (PM Network) and some answers that I didn’t know quite what to do with (Dog Fancy) .  But then -  I just stopped. 

No - I don’t find salvation from some great epiphany (or reading a blog post from a bozo like this one), I stopped because I realized that whatever answer they gave me to that question – it had no bearing on whether I would hire them (there were no obvious screen out answers like I want to be on Hustler magazine).

Hey man, Jaws was never my scene and I don’t like Star Wars

I was reminiscing about those Bozo Questions of Interviews Past after reading the CareerBuilder post Star Wars or Star Trek? Questions you just might hear in the interview .  It was all about bozo interview questions – with one being “which do you like better, Star Wars or Star Trek”?


In addition to the bozo question of the title – it offered up a few more:

“I was once asked what I would bring if the department had a potluck.” - Amanda L.

“What color is your brain?” - Connie B.

“Which Winnie the Pooh character do you relate with the most and why?” - Celie H.

“If we asked you to wear a bumble bee costume, walk around and hand out candy to employees, would you do it?” - Lisa M.

Oh boy.

I’ll add one of my own (that I witnessed):

“If it was a dark alley at night, and I was a little girl, would you throw rocks at me”

Can I throw them now?

Incoming (Prepare for the bozo, not the question)

The CareerBuilder post went on to offer some more great examples and some good suggestions on preparing (like bolt if they ask you an illegal question).  But really, I don’t think you can prepare for a question a bozo may ask.  You just need to be prepared for the bozo on the other side of the desk. 

That preparation looks like:

  1. Prepare for what you can Get your ducks in a row for the questions that are legit (and you are likely to get).  If you’re not sweating “why do you want to work here?”, you’ll have more time to side-step the bucket of confetti when it comes your way.
  2. Breathe  When the bozo question hits you – just breathe.  Take a moment to formulate an answer.  Really – the answer shouldn’t matter and probably won’t.  If your job hinges on “I like Star Trek because Tribbles are cute” – it may be best to move on either way.  Answer calmly and as intelligently as you can (just don’t say you like the Cardassians – or heaven forbid that you like The Kardashians).
  3. Don’t answer wrong  Don’t miss obvious wrong answers.  If you are asked, “What outdoor activity do you hate the most?” – don’t answer fishing if there is a large, taxidermied carp mounted on a board behind the hiring manager’s desk.  No reason to give a bad answer when other good answers (Lacrosse) are available in that spot.
  4. May not be a bozo question Some questions may just appear to be bozo-filled but may be legitimate questions.  If I ask you how would you get out of a stuck elevator, for certain jobs, that type of thinking may be important to know (your McGyverness if you will).  Based on your prep work – you should be able to deduce what they are looking for.

Outgoing (If you have orange hair, a bright red nose, and big floppy shoes and are asking the questions)

For those of you still asking the bozo questions:

  1. Stop it Right now.
  2. Don’t Be a Shock Jock You have heard it before, right?  I ask off the wall questions to see how people handle stress in their job.  BS.  You ask them because you are a bozo.  That’s artificial stress that likely has no indication of how they will handle real stress, or the real stress in the particular job.  You’re not probing – your dangling people (like Michael Jackson did with Blanket).
  3. Don’t Be Lazy Devise your interview question that get you the answer you need.  Using our stress example above, ask some probing questions about how they handled stress.  That looks like this: “talk about a stressful project were you had to resolve the problem…how did you resolve it, be specific…give me an example where a resolution did not go well, be specific….).   That should give you a better idea on how they think more than the “Boo!” approach.
  4. You’re not Zappos  Zappos is a very unique, very successful, and has a well-defined company culture.  So when Zappos asks a candidate something like “On a scale of 1-10, how weird are you? Why did you choose that number?” they can use that information to evaluate candidates (and after reading Tony’s book, I bet the second half of that question is the more important part).  At your company, how weird someone is more likely will determine the size of their cubicle.  That brings us to our next point…
  5. Be genuine  If your inquiry is on the edge of a bozo question (but you think it is important in the evaluation) put the candidate at ease.  Loosen the jar (not the one with the pop out snakes) and let them know it is coming.  If you’re not a bozo in the delivery, they won’t freak out and will be able to give you a more telling answer. 
  6. Stop it I mean it

Tell us (Shameless plug for Comments)

Have you asked a bozo question?  What made you stop?  What is the oddest question you were ever asked?  What is the weirdest answer you gave?

Please – leave a comment (share the bozoisty).


Melanie said...

I did NOT ask this question but was in a tag team interview with Bozo himself (and oddly enough, it was at McGladrey)..."if you had to construct a vehicle for a blind person to drive, how would you design it?" maybe there's some logic in there, but it's lost on me.

Is it ok to ask, "who is your hero?" - I like that question but maybe I'm a bozo....????

Looks Good! :)

In Limbo

Luke S. said...

My favorite interview questions that I have been asked:
"Why is a manhole round?"

Seems to be more appropriate for my wife the civil engineer.

Thomas Copenhaver said...

If the person was an engineer (builds software or large bridges) - I might let the question pass.

As for the hero - may be okay with a culture fit question (as long as you don't ask Super Hero).

Did anyone ever answer, "Who is Mrs Chef Charles" (to the hero question )?

Thomas Copenhaver said...

I hate the manhole question. The "correct" answer would include "you're a jack wagon" but that is best left for inside your head during the interview.

mbsweetzer said...

I've probably asked some borderline bozo questions, but I think they're legit in some circumstances. Dept. culture is important in marketing and if I'm trying to get a feel for someone's personality, those questions do it better than others. I've hired people with great skills who failed because they couldn't work with others.

I don't try to pull them out as an ambush though--they are usually presented in a casual way of "getting to know" someone in a more well-rounded manner and recognizing that hobbies, pop culture, etc. all intersect with marketing at some point...

Thomas Copenhaver said...

As a hiring manager, I ask mostly "culture" questions (I delegate technical and others). I am sure yours are not bozo. As long as those questions aren't of the "what kind of tree are you" - you're fine.

What I left out of the post was that MOST interview questions don't matter at all (but that's a post for another day)...

Jennifer said...

How the bozo costumes
was created and when it was created?