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The other day some friends and I got to discussing the most dreadful of life's experiences. Not the big, horrible, tragic ones, just the little things that almost everyone has to suffer through at one time or another during the course of their lives, like root canals, common illnesses, and standing in lines at the DMV. Nothing terribly dramatic – just annoying.
Someone suggested job hunting and job interviews, and I totally agreed. Job hunting is horrible and has gotten progressively worse. Every job seems to require a background check, to which it is difficult to object on principal, but rightfully or not, they are another cog in a huge paranoid wheel that slows the process down to an even more painful crawl. In the course of a working lifetime people can end up having more background checks than if if they had applied for the CIA. Unless you want to buy a weapon, in which case, here you go and Bob's your uncle.
Not only have jobs become ridiculously specialized with demands for educational and experience levels that sometimes seem to far exceed the requirements of the position, but the interview process has evolved into something utterly crazy. A job hunter may have to go through up to 4 interviews with different people with a progression of questions from the interviewers which are increasingly bizarre. I think sometimes that they run out of salient questions and start asking things that are worthy of a beauty pageant.
My favorite silly questions is, “What is your greatest weakness?” I find this question absurd. Who answers this question with complete honesty? Is anyone likely to tell the truth if their greatest weakness happens to be something really bad? In answering that kind of question it is a matter of thinking of something that sounds humble and plausible but doesn't endanger one's chances of being hired. Let's face it, no one is going to admit that their greatest weakness is that they drink too much or like to go on social networks while they are supposed to be working.
I have been asked, or know people who have been asked, very strange questions during job interviews. One of my favorites is, “What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you?” Really? My first inclination, when asked this, is that it is really rather personal and none of their business. The people asking such a question are usually complete strangers. Frankly, I usually don't go around baring my soul to complete strangers, and what does it have to do with my ability to do the job, anyway? Every time anyone has asked me what is the worst thing that has ever happened to me I want to say, “This silly interview.”
Interviewers like to ask you what you would do in a given situation, and that is fine if it is related to the job in question. What I hate is when they ask you questions about what you would do in situations that appear to have no rational relation to the job for which you are interviewing. I once had someone ask me what I would do if I were stranded in a lifeboat at sea with two other people I didn't like and didn't trust? What kind of question is that? I suppose some consulting firm the company hired for a huge fee told them that how someone answers this question is an indication of their character or how they might react in some kind of difficult situation requiring team work or something, I don't know. I wanted to answer, “Throw the other two out of the boat and row for shore.”, but I was pretty sure that wouldn't go over very well. Would have been funny, though.
I imagine that these kind of bizarre questions are all carefully worked out by people with nothing better to do who feel they are terribly relevant and can be graded on some kind of psychological scale. There might not be a right way to answer them, but you can bet that there is a wrong way. My problem is that they inevitably seem like straight lines to me and I am always tempted to answer them in a manner that would be comedic, and no doubt, completely unappreciated. So when someone asks me, “Can you name one of your heroes and why?”, I want to reply, “Groucho Marx, because he found people like you utterly ridiculous and made fun of them all the time.” Or, “What would be the first thing you did if you won the lottery?”, I want to say, “Buy out this company and fire the lot of you for asking stupid questions.” I wouldn't get the job, but the satisfaction quotient would be immeasurable on any scale.
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