The real reasons you get asked stupid interview questions


I recently read about how to respond to stupid interview questions and thought, but “Why do you get asked stupid questions in the first place?”

You may reason that asking trick questions gives the interviewer the upper hand, or the interviewer wants to try to make you look inferior, or try to unsettle you.

Yet, at the core, these aren’t the real reasons you get asked these stupid interview questions. There are 3 main reasons why you actually get asked these crazy questions:

1. Most hiring managers are not highly skilled at interviewing. Most hiring mangers lack the expertise and knowledge of how to ask a question and then read the person’s body language during the response. They lack the ability to listen clearly (they may be distracted thinking about the email they need to write once out of the interview, or the project their boss has demanded they get finished in the next 30 minutes) and therefore they don’t pick up on everything you say. Due to their lack of interviewing skills, they depend on the interviewer’s playbook – a list of standard interview questions, such as tell me your strengths and weaknesses and tell me why you want to work here.

These standard questions unfortunately have been asked so frequently that candidates have learned how to answer with well scripted responses. The answers all sound the same and provide little insight into the candidate’s ability nor differentiate them from any other candidate. The result is the well scripted answers make the hiring decision even more difficult.

Turning to clever questions gives a hiring manager something you never thought of: an easy out in the interview process. Whoever answers with the most clever answers is remembered and in turn helps the hiring manager forget about what really matters – if you are a great fit, have passion, skill, expertise and knowledge for the job. Since most people struggle to determine the value of one candidate compared to another, the easy choice and decision becomes to ask a stupid question, and worst of all, let that be the deciding factor on who lands the job, or at least gets to the next round! (I will give you my answers to the stupid questions at the end of this article.)

The problem with this approach is that what you focus is what is achieved. The silly questions are an attempt to weed out less talented candidates, but the result is they weed out the better candidates. When you focus on not hiring a lesser candidate you end up with a lesser candidate. Focusing on hiring the best candidate is not achieved by asking the candidate what animal you would want to be or what is to be on your tombstone. You hire the best candidate by asking the tough questions and by being willing to dig deeper into what the candidate is saying by asking follow up questions.

What are the tough questions? Ask the candidate what drives and motivates them, what their passion is and where and how do they obtain their passion. Ask them what achievements are they most proud of and why. Listen how the candidate describes these achievements in detail. And have them tell you what they regret most in life. After all, the word “interview” is to get an look “inside”  someone. Wanting a clever response for a stupid question does indicate the internal fortitude, knowledge, wisdom, expertise and passion of a candidate. Instead, ask the candidate how they work under pressure and to provide examples. Unfortunately, these questions become an afterthought all too often.

2. Too much pressure to make the right decision. Consider this: have you ever wondered why you are required to go through 4, 5 and 6 rounds of interviews and multiple psychological testing? There is extensive pressure today to make the right decision, get the right person to hit the ground running, and add value to the bottom line yesterday. Our resumes are filled with cost savings, revenue created, efficiencies generated and the impact to the bottom line. And yes, even all resumes all look similar rather quickly. Hence, don’t ask the candidate silly questions; rather, ask questions that make the candidate reveal who they are. Asking insightful questions requires discipline, patience and great listening skills. The pressure is on to deliver the perfect candidate. After all, why does the job description require someone with the exhausting list of skills and knowledge?

But, how can a hiring manager deal with the pressure to not make a mistake in the hiring process and relieve themselves from the pressure of not making a mistake when hiring someone? By putting the pressure on multiple people and spreading the responsibility to many people.

Sure, having at least one other person besides the hiring manager interview the candidate makes sense to get perspective. But all too often the candidate ends up coming back for more and more interviews which only frustrates the candidate. Requiring the candidate to continually come back for more interviews is strong indication that the hiring manager and company is unable to make a decision and get it right. In addition the hiring is by committee instead of one person taking the lead and responsibility.

Consequently, the hiring manager can have everyone possible interview you, and from there these people discuss who they like and don’t and collectively the decision gets made. If the person turns out not to fit, anyone can easily state it was a group decision.

Finding and hiring the right candidate simply does not require 6 people to interview a candidate to determine if they are a great fit. The amount of time and energy used in the interview process can easily be offset by hiring someone with the right skills and teach them technical skills if needed. More on that in another article, but for now, let’s move on to the most important reason for stupid questions:

3. Companies are actually risk averse. Although companies like to state otherwise, most are risk averse. The big misconception today is that companies want their employees to take chances, take risks and be entrepreneurs in the business. Sure, companies such as Google and Apple thrive on their employees taking risks as they push creative boundaries. But most companies, and that means over 90% of companies don’t want risk takers, unless you are always right. Too many companies can’t afford for you to take risks because if you do and fail it costs the company money. And most companies today are all about driving shareholder value.

Consequently, all of the testing and interviews are an attempt to be absolutely sure you are the right candidate – the perfect fit. Yet, with closer attention in the interview process it will become apparent rather quickly which are the perfect candidates. Quite often, the interview process is so lengthy that great candidates move on and receive offers or opportunities elsewhere.

In summary, hiring managers are much too careful to take risks in hiring and therefore spend far too long in making the decision out of fear of selecting the wrong candidate. If they select the wrong candidate and projects don’t get completed, their own job is in jeopardy. To be risk averse makes managers spread the risk to others. Employees today are not often rewarded for even being successful at taking risks, so with much more downside than upside, the hiring manager feels pressured to depend on others to make the decision for him/her. Even if you had a string of positive risk taking, so much is about what you have done lately.

But just in case you were wondering, go ahead and ask me the stupid questions and I will tell you what animal I want to be (a dog, because they possess a keen sense detecting genuine character in someone); what I want on my tombstone (I am reincarnating so don’t touch any of my stuff I will be right back), my weaknesses (if I had a bunch do you think I would have gotten this far?) and why do I want to work here (because from my experience I have seen the same problems at previous companies, know how to fix the problems and am excited by the challenge to help fix them at your company). And I can provide examples of being creative (developed and created a website for one company where I worked that is now their main form of communication to the media, press, customers and employees. And I have Finance expertise!)

But when you get done with those questions, be sure to really listen to me (and all of the other candidates) explain and provide examples on how I can directly and immediately impact your company. Sense how my keen business acumen has made impacts on companies from top to bottom. Read my body language, my handshake, how I look you in the eye, feel my passion and excitement combined with the calmness of my self-confidence and sense my perseverance. Gain awareness of why my negotiation, analytical and communications skills are top notch. Feel my desire to build and develop a great team, have proven leadership skills and yet can work side by side with anyone. Go ahead, ask me the tough questions.

The company bottom line will be glad you did.


6 reasons why the unemployed will be your best performers

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????We hear many stories that companies shy away from hiring someone who is unemployed, especially if they have been unemployed longer than 6 months. Some companies may only consider candidates that are actively working or at best unemployed for 1-2 months. A recent newspaper article said the average duration for those unemployed is 9 months. Bypassing these candidates is often eliminating those who will most likely be your best performers

The belief has been if someone is unemployed for a long time that there might be something wrong with them or their inability to network, job search, or they are lacking other skills. There is also the mindset that a company wants someone with immediate relevant experience to their industry or the open position and someone unemployed does not meet that requirement.

There is no doubt that the best person to help any business is someone who is unemployed, especially if they have been unemployed more than 6 months. I am not referring to a job seeker who barely has a resume, comes unprepared to an interview and demonstrates all of the other classic mistakes job seekers can make. Those job seekers are at best a tiny percentage of all job seekers. To the contrary most job seekers that have previously been employed more than 10 years are extremely talented people who have sharpened their skills while unemployed.

Here are 6 reasons why someone who is unemployed that you hire will end up being one of your top performers:

1. Ability to face adversity: Why is a job seeker who has been unemployed for many months the best person to come in and make a powerful impact on your company and business? Because someone unemployed has obtained the ability to face adversity, get up every day to sell themselves again, deal with the emotional, mental and physical stress of the unknown, and take another step toward their goal each day. And isn’t adversity, constant change, the biggest challenge businesses face every day? Job seekers possess the capacity to remain balanced and keep moving forward with a clear and even mindset to deal with ever changing market conditions, threats to the business, setbacks of projects and turnover within a company. Someone unemployed develops the capability to remain emotionally balanced while under stress.

2. Motivated to learn: Companies today are often looking for someone with industry or specific technical skills that match the company’s needs and can consider job seekers as lacking these vital skills. Whatever a job seeker may be lacking in technical skills or industry knowledge is more than compensated by their over whelming desire to perform at their highest ability for the company and desire to learn in a new job. Most managers will agree that the key to building a great team is to hire someone who is motivated as you can teach them about the business along the way. This is often in direct contrast to hiring someone with the necessary skills, but lacking the desire to be the best they can be.

3. Tenacity: These dedicated job seekers rapidly acquire the skills of perseverance, patience, persistence and tenacity. They have learned to face rejection and continue on toward their goal. They have acquired this major skill because of the tenacity required when in a job search, waiting on the phone to ring, not being called back with no reason given, dealing with rejection, and getting back up on their feet easily 30,40 or even 100 times in their job search. And they do so with a smile, faith, confidence and belief they will succeed.

Job seekers face rejection and setback on a daily basis. There is no better teacher in life than rejection and failure. From each experience, job seekers evaluate what worked, what didn’t work, remix the formula and try again. Job seekers have the resilience to get back up and potentially face rejection again, yet keep adjusting their sails, their mindset, their approach and their skills all to be the best employee a company will ever have.

4. Presentation skills: Job seekers aren’t just polishing their resume, tweaking their LinkedIn profile, and rehearsing an elevator speech with other unemployed people. In reality, they are continually growing and learning, taking courses, attending seminars, and especially receiving feedback on their speaking, writing and presentation skills. Most important they are improving their skill on how to sell an idea, a concept and approach – selling a hiring manager that they have the ability, passion and desire to make an impact on that company. It is said that the number one fear of all people is public speaking, yet these people learn to excel at presenting every day, and selling one of the most difficult things to sell – themselves. Given the opportunity, job seekers are some of the best at selling to anyone.

5. Been there, done that: Technology has changed business to some degree, but challenges companies face remain the same. Standing in the way of achieving goals and growing the business, companies and managers continually face not having enough resources, time constraints, tight budgets, an ever-changing economic and political environment, supply chain logistics and providing excellent customer service. Unemployed candidates with more than 20 year’s experience have battled through all of these challenges. They didn’t just save the company money, they did it with limited resources or with deadlines and little budget. This valuable experience will quickly provide your ROI.

6. Staying current: A hiring manager may require current experience which is understandable. Yet, some people in her/his department are not current on technical skills such certifications, degrees or instructive seminars. Quite simply, they often just do not have the time nor the budget. At the same time many job seekers are expanding their skill set automatically. They have taken courses, obtained a degree, added new certifications, CPA credits or learned the latest in social media. They come to the interview and a company armed with the skills, mindset and business perspective ready to make an immediate impact.

You may ask if these job seekers are this talented why have then not been hired? They can be quickly overlooked when submitting a resume as too old, over-qualified or not having current experience. And yet they have extremely valuable experience, the knowledge of having been there before, knowing the problems companies will face, and the emotional and mental fortitude to get the job done.

And, most job seekers will have researched your company, contacted people who worked or work at your company, and learned about the company culture, all to determine if they are a great fit for your company AND that the company is a great fit for them. They are looking for the best opportunity as well.

I have met hundreds of job seekers at networking meetings and a host of other venues and they all have one thing in common: a burning desire to be the best they can be, motivation to never stop learning and growing, and determination to prove once again that they can and will add massive value to another company.

Pay It forward and Thank You backward


Bearing Gifts

A good business friend of mine loves to reference a scene from the movie “The Mexican” where Julia Roberts screams from the window to Brad Pitt, “It’s all about you!”

When in a job search it is human nature to not only feel it is all about us, but feel the urgency to make it work for us now.  Although there are millions of people unemployed everyone’s specific circumstances are different. Therefore, we feel as if our situation is unique and because of its uniqueness, it must be resolved immediately.

When we face any challenge in our life it is very natural from a human behavior perspective to lock in on the challenge, almost with tunnel vision. Every waking minute is used thinking about this challenge accompanied by a long list of emotions leaving us with only one constant thought: We must do something as quick as possible to remove this pain and frustration of being unemployed.

Our reaction to all of this frantic and complex mental energy and exertion is the desire to overcome this problem immediately. We set out as good students to learn everything we can, diagnosing the issue in hopes of quickly coming to a resolution. During this activity we become sponges, soaking up every bit of information and ideas from everyone and everywhere.  We hope to be able to condense the information and put together the right formula to instantly land that job offer. Our urgency and push is to be relieved of the anxiety, stress and frustration that goes with being unemployed.

In our haste to gather this information, we may forget the very fundamental principles involved in building long lasting personal relationships, confidence, gratitude, appreciation, the power of putting others first:

Pay it forward, and Thank You backward.

Most everyone has heard of the concept of paying it forward. Paying it forward is in essence, passing on the good deed someone did for you. You in turn now do a favor for someone else. This method is never more important than when in a job search. Why? Because just as I alluded to earlier, becoming self-focused is extremely natural when in a job search and it can work severely to your disadvantage. For most people, there is nothing more important that landing a job for all of the obvious reasons. 

However, the more you focus on yourself, the less you may focus on others.  Often one of the biggest mistakes job seekers makes is to be so immersed in their own plight that they lose interest in helping those around them, paying it forward and saying thank you backward. 

Yet, there actually is a magical result that occurs when we focus our attention on others. Why? When we focus our attention on others, and truly seek to find ways to help them, we not only feel great in the process, but our self-esteem rises as we recognize our value in the world. This increase is self-esteem and self-confidence is not lost in helping someone. We carry that self-confidence into our next meeting with a new connection, the next email we send, the next smile and handshake we deliver and of course, in our next interview.  In addition, paying it forward opens you up to receive, yes, receive, because when you give help you will find more help will come to you. Hoarding actually by its nature is that of constriction and contradiction – the exact opposite effect you might have attempted to generate.

At the same time, a thank you backward – thanking someone who helped you so you can then pay it forward on to someone else is just as vital in a job search process. You again recognize and are grateful for someone taking the time to help you. Be absolutely sure you follow up with an email or even a phone call specifically thanking that person for any help or support you were provided. If you met in person, did you buy your new networking connection a cup of coffee? If they paid for yours, take the time to mail them a gift card as a special way to thank them for taking the time out of their busy schedule to help you. Do you think you will be remembered?

Taking the time out of your busy search to specifically thank someone who might have taken the time to send you an email checking on you, providing emotional support or describing recommendations is just the right thing to do. Taking the time to say thank you says much about you, that this job search is not “All about you”.  Paying it forward is important, but when you say thank you to someone in words or actions, it is perceived as something special by the recipient. Saying or taking action to provide a thank you demonstrates your character.

One of the unique benefits of a job search is the wonderful people met along the way. Some of these relationships will last many years, and continue to provide support and assistance in many ways.  As you radiate the real you in all directions, more people will see your value.  Your value is seen at its best when you pay it forward and thank you backward.