Unusual Interview Questions

by Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio

Think "What's your favorite TV show" is an odd interview question? You'd be surprised what you can learn about potential employees with unusual questions like these. Read more in this excerpt from The Girl's Guide to Starting Your Own Business.

Book Excerpt:
The Girl's Guide to Starting Your Own Business:
Candid Advice, Frank Talk, and True Stories for
the Successful Entrepreneur

by Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio
Published by HarperResource; December 2003; $21.95US/$33.95CAN; 0-06-052157-0
Copyright © 2003 Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio
Click to Buy from Amazon.com

(and other interview questions that will tell
you about a potential employee)

What are your favorite magazines?
If you run a food-related PR firm like we do, and the person answers Scientific American, Astronomy Gear, and Rolling Stone, she is probably not the right person for the job. But if she answers Food & Wine, Gourmet, and Saveur, then perhaps she is -- unless she's just a savvy interviewee who did her homework. Hey, that's not a bad sign, either.

If I called your most recent former employer and asked her what she thought your greatest weakness was, what would she say?
Sounds harsh, but think about it. Candidates have to answer this one honestly because you might call that employer for a reference. If they respond with something generic and vague like, "I work too hard," then press them on it until you get something more telling. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and you want employees who are aware of the areas in which they could improve and will strive to do so.

If I called your former employer and asked her what she thought your greatest strength was, what do you think she would say?
This is a gift. An opportunity for your candidate to sell herself. If she wows you, that's a good sign. If she responds with a blank stare or claims she can't select from among her innumerable wonderful traits, move along.



What was your favorite course in college and why?
This is a great question for younger candidates, and you will be surprised by the variety of responses. We've heard everything from journalism (good answer for our business) to "I was more into the social life" (bad answer, even though it's probably true for many of us).

How do you organize projects and responsibilities?
This is a much better question than "Do you consider yourself an organized person?" If they are really organized, they will have a system to keep track of what they need to do each day (Palm Pilot, to-do list, desk calendar).

How much do you know about my business?
This question assumes that when you called or e-mailed to schedule the interview, you divulged the company information we suggested you withhold in your job postings. If the candidate doesn't know anything about what you do, that is a bad sign. If she doesn't know specifically what your company does but does know a lot about the field, that's not so bad. If she's researched you on the Internet prior to your interview and actually has good questions about you and your history, that's a great sign of initiative and resourcefulness.

What was your favorite job and why?
This is another good one for getting her to share how she works. If her favorite job was working at an answering service and she liked it because the phones were always ringing off the hook and she took pride in making sure that the doctor got to the hospital in the middle of the night to deliver a baby, then it shows she likes a fast pace and takes pride in her work. However, if her favorite job was the summer job she had as a lifeguard because she could sit in the sun all day, watch out!

Reminder: Check references, and be diligent at cross examination. One reference check can usually lead to a network of others that taken together should give you and accurate picture of your candidate.

Copyright © 2003 Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio

Caitlin Friedman started her own business in 1999 and hasn't looked back. A native of Amherst, Massachusetts, she has been a public relations and marketing expert for more than ten years. Currently, she divides her time between New York City and Chatham, New York.

Kimberly Yorio went out on her own in 1998 after eight years working for other companies, big and small. Her expertise publicizing cookbooks, food television shows, and culinary personalities led to the successful partnership with Caitlin Friedman and the creation of YC Media in 2000. She lives with her husband and son in Weehawken, New Jersey.

For more information, please visit www.smartbooks.com

 
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