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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?

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  • Depending on other factors I would see that interview as "They are complete numpties who I wouldn't touch with a bargepole" or "These people really need someone like me to show what good HR can do".

    I was once asked in an interview what my star sign was. I told her to guess and she got it on the 5th attempt then sat back looking smug she got it right. That was the same time I had decided I could not have her as my manager.

    I do wonder what kind of feedback you will get from that kind of interview though!
  • I think I've mentioned before the mortifying experience of interviewing with a trustee who decided to break the ice with a candidate by asking "if you were a dog, what kind of dog would you be?" And when she looked at him in a suitably bemused manner, started to answer for her - suggesting that she'd be a poodle. And when her face showed that this was hardly a compliment, qualified it by saying that maybe she'd be a hunting poodle.

    He did not interview for us again. There are some things you don't think you have to brief interviewers about, but it turns out ...
  • I'd take this as a sign of a company in desperate need of an experienced and professional HR leader. Perhaps a challenge best left to someone else.

    If you ever read Ask A Manager there are plenty of examples of this horrible interviewing method going poorly. It tells you nothing about a potential candidate, only that they have the patience of a saint if they sit through it.
  • Hi Teresa, what extremely weird questions. They sound more like someone interviewing a celeb in a newspaper. No, thankfully have never been asked questions like this at an interview. Maybe they are just trying something different, but I think it sounds very odd. You probably had a lucky escape
  • Personally, I'm pleased that interviews are moving more towards understanding fit and not simply a generic list of questions that emphasise a CV rather than add to it.

    However, it seems the company you have interviewed for have a strange grasp on how to assess fit. Do they grade the animal question on the breeds of animals already on their arc? Maybe they already had 2 hedgehogs?!

    Hopefully the person (random animal) they took can give them some better interview questions for future!!
  • I once went for an interview where I was asked which TV show I would binge watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I said Friends. I didnt get the job and it was actually mentioned in the feedback that they didnt like the answer to that question! I could have understood if I had said something with lots of sex or violence etc so I guess they just weren't fans!
  • In reply to Nina Waters:

    I'm currently running interview skills workshops for volunteers who have to interview, sadly it is necessary as although they are provided with competency interview questions there has a been a few instances of people chucking in inappropriate questions!
  • In reply to Jeny Parsons:

    I was chatting to some lawyers once years ago who said that they used 'what's your favourite TV programme' as an interview question for their trainee solicitors. They said it told them a lot more about the person's fit within the team than anything else they'd tried, it wasn't a question that anyone prepared for (so the answers felt more honest) and they could avoid the people who liked Big Brother (which probably dates this conversation - guessing it's not still running ...)
  • I get asking maybe one or two questions like that (although even two may be pushing it!) but a whole hour is crazy!

    I've got a few friends who work for tech start-ups and they always get questions like this in their interviews, but as a start of end of interview question, with 'normal' interview questions for the majority of the interview!
  • I once had the "If you were any animal, what would you be and why?" (I said cat after looking absolutely bewildered; I think the interviewer fancied himself as a bit 'Google' but was absolutely not)

    Thankfully, they asked if I had any questions at the end of the interview so I threw it back at them; he looked suitably uncomfortable so although the role never got filled (it got put on hold, then eventually just not recruited into) I like to hope the interviewer learned a lesson on inane questions that have no bearing on the role (it was an admin position in a regulated financial service company - and I was an internal candidate!).

    The other unfortunate thing was that it breached the interview standards set by the company for fair and equal competency based interviews, so although an external candidate maybe wouldn't have realised, I knew it and so did the scribe involved in it, so the recruitment team were made aware in case he went too far with someone else - mine was inane, but just think what he could've asked...
  • I've not had quite as weird as this, but I have turned interview questions back on the interviewer before, by asking "what information do you hope to glean from my answer that question?"

    NB/ I only do this when I've already decided I don't want the job.
  • Sounds to me like you had ticked the box for 'can you do the job' and this was more about getting to know you and if they could work with you/team fit, that sort of thing. I wouldn't over analyse the questions, there is no right or wrong reply to these type of questions - in fact, I don' think they were particularly interested in your answers, but it was probably more about 'how' you answered (reacted to) their ridiculous questions; getting to know what makes you tick and whether you would want to spend your weekends with them and if you were likely to invite them round for dinner! Of course, there are more appropriate interview techniques to determine your personality traits and culture fit!
  • In reply to Caroline:

    Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha ..... love it Caroline. I feel much better knowing that the reason I didn’t get the job was that there were already 2 hedgehogs - I knew I should have gone with the polecat :)
  • In reply to Nina Waters:

    Its vaguely possible that what you watch may reflect your intelligence, attitude or some other trait - I've no idea. But I cannot possibly see a link between what you watch and how you will 'fit in the team' or contribute towards the running of a business.

    I'm sure there are quite a lot of HR people on these forums who really enjoy things like Love Island, Bear Grylls, Friends, 'reality' TV and such stuff but are still very pleasant company to be with. ;-)
  • I was once asked on the way into a job interview what my parents did for a living. I assumed it was awkward small talk until I later saw 'Piano Teacher and Engineer' written on my CV with a big approving tick next to it. Very odd!