Really, really weird interview...

I've just had a second interview with a local medium-sized company for the role of HR manager. First interview was standard with several 'Give an example of when you...' and 'What would you do if...' questions. So far, so good.

I was one of two asked back for a second interview. The second interview, which with the same two interviewers as before but also the CEO, was an hour of 'If you were an animal, what would it be', 'Who would you most like to have round for dinner', 'Where's your ideal holiday', and 'What's your perfect weekend'. 

Eh??? Did I miss the CIPD's briefing on new questioning regime?

Were they just trying to see if I'd fit in (which is what I was told) or were there ulterior motives behind each of the questions. Because I said 'hedgehog' to the animal question does this mean I'm prickly and hide from conflict; should I have said something more aggressive like Rottweiler or polecat? As 'Italy' was my ideal holiday does that mean I'm unadventurous and conventional; should I have gone backpacking in the Andes or building schools in Malawi? By the end of the hour I was absolutely drained. 

Joking aside, it was actually a surreal experience and made me wonder what I was getting myself into. Luckily, I didn't get the job. Anyone else had - or conducted - an interview like this?

  • In reply to David Perry:

    Totally agree and I'm not advocating the approach. I think the solicitors in question (central London, magic circle firm) had hundreds of applications for trainee solicitor roles from people who were all highly intelligent/Oxbridge types but no real experience to differentiate them. I suppose it was almost the equivalent of drawing straws (but with the possibility for bias/snobbery built in, so I'd personally prefer the straws).
  • In reply to Nina Waters:

    Straws are much better. Although I do agree with rejecting those who watch Love Island, Eastenders, Big Brother,.,,..././.././m, mm,,klskkl (Time to duck)...... ;-)
  • In reply to Alys Martin:

    Hi Alys

    I had forgotten all about this until I read your post, but I have also been asked what my father did - not parents, but father, because the man's job is obviously the one that counts. I was being interviewed by 2 men. One leaned across to the other and very quietly said, "She's applied for HR, not graduate trainee" but the the one who asked the question still wanted an answer. I was so taken aback I didn't have a ready reaction and said my father was retired. He pressed on and wanted to know what my father did before he retired. This was in 1998.
  • In reply to David Perry:

    David - as long as they are recyclable paper straws or reusable metal ones..... ;)
  • I wonder what would happen if one of the candidates challenged the result and wanted to see the scores to ensure they weren't discriminated against during the recruitment process. How on earth would the company have been able to prove that "a hedgehog" is a worse answer than "a polecat" and therefore the latter candidate got the job. Recruiting based on such nonsense shows extreme lack of understanding of fair recruitment, but also opens the company up for a tribunal case and potential fines.

    P.S. I used to work with a lady who would have said "a hedgehog" in answer to that question, and I am still in touch with her after almost 5 years of leaving the job, because she is amazing!
  • In reply to Kätlin:

    HI Katlin

    Just to point out that being discriminated against in this manner may well not be 'fair recruitment' but in itself it doesn't risk Tribunal action because affinity with particular wild animals isn't a 'protected characteristic' and therefore it wouldn't be *unlawful* discrimination if an employer discriminated against eg a hedgehog person and instead preferred eg someone with polecat or ferret or skunk or whatever identification. (And - being even more pedantic, but it's a similar important aspect of employment law - Tribunals don't have any powers at all to fine anyone appearing before them - they only have powers to order them to pay in full or part compensation claims directly to claimants according to the legal rules applying to each particular claim.)
  • In reply to David:

    David, I think Miss Tiggywinkle and Toad of Toad Hall would have something to say about that... ;)
  • In reply to David:

    Thank you David for clarifying the distinction between a fine and ordering that a compensation be paid, I will keep it in mind :)

    As for discrimination, what I meant was not that identifying with a certain animal can be classed as a protected characteristic. But, in a hypothetical scenario, if one of the candidates did have a protected characteristic, and they challenged not being given the job, surely it would be really difficult for the company to prove that the decision was not based on that characteristic if the interview questions were nonsense? If you have a proper interview and score the answers in a fair and consistent way, that gives you the proof you need to say that a candidate didn't get the job due to not having the skills, qualifications, experience, knowledge of a specialist area, ability to answer specific scenario questions etc. That will be impossible to do if they questions were silly, as there is no way of quantifying the responses to them.
  • In reply to Kätlin:

    Hi again Kaitlin

    But a Tribunal wouldn’t normally substitute their own views about the silliness or otherwise of the selection process for the preferred selection criteria of the employer. If they were happy that there had been some manner of selection process that however wacky was unconnected with any unlawful discrimination then they probably wouldn’t wish to intrude
  • In reply to David:

    It's true though that the burden of proof shifts to the employer when there is a case for discrimination - so the employer's daft questions will make it much harder for them to demonstrate that there isn't a case than if they had sensible and structured criteria they were working to.
  • In reply to Nina Waters:

    I'm well aware of the shifting burden of proof, but as I said, *if* the employer can demonstrate that they used selection criteria unconnected with any protected characteristic, the Tribunal is unlikely to want to interfere, however 'daft' they appear to be - eg astrology or graphology or affinity with particular countryside flora and /or fauna
  • 'If you were an animal .....'. A previous boss commented once that HR Consultants should answer 'Seagull' to that question (fly in, swoop about, make a lot of noise, s**t on everyone, and then fly off with your chips).
  • I once walked into an interview where I was asked to take a seat and there were no chairs in the whole room apart from the one the interviewer was sitting on.... apparently it was a "test" to see what i would do. I didn't take the job.
  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    19 Aug, 2019 17:09

    In reply to Alun:

    Maybe there wasn't really a job either ;)

  • In reply to Alun:

    I once interviewed for a very senior role with a trustee who was in banking. He was astounded when I set up the room with a chair for the candidate we would be interviewing. He made it clear that in their organisation, candidates aren't given the luxury of a seat (this was clearly despite the fact that the interview was quite lengthy, for our most senior role and that the rest of the panel would be seated).

    But hey, maybe it wasn't that weird if we weren't actually hiding the chair!