Job interview funnies

By Legal Eagle

In class yesterday, I was telling some funny stories about job interviews (various class members were in suits, having rushed back from interviews).

First, there’s the stupid questions you sometimes get: What kind of fruit are you? (The answer is supposed to be grapes, because they can work individually or in a team. Meh!)

When someone actually asked me this in an interview, I was totally flummoxed. I wish I had come up with something clever. My class and I amused ourselves for 10 minutes thinking up weird and clever answers:
I’m a cumquat (small and sour)
I’m a durian (spiky, smell bad, but very tasty)
I’m a dragonfruit (colourful and exotic)
I’m a holly berry (small and poisonous, but also bright and festive at certain times of the year)

I do hope that this question has bitten the dust after there was a bit of a furore about it in the Law Institute Journal a few years back…

Or that question: Tell us about the last time you worked in a team… Teams? Ugh. Teams are normally against my religion, unless I trust my team members implicitly. It’s taken me a long time to be comfortable with this aspect of myself, but there you have it.

Then there’s funny incidents in job interviews. Nerves make people act strangely. Including yours truly. Once I spilled a cup of coffee on the interviewer. I didn’t get the job, but a year later when they needed someone…they remembered me! Still, I wouldn’t recommend this as a general rule.

Once, in the general chit chat section of an interview, I was talking about my parents’ Jack Russell dog.

Interviewer: “Oh, I don’t like them, they have a tendency to bite people’s hands.”
LE: “Not this Jack Russell!”
Interviewer: “How did you get him to stop biting people’s hands?”
LE: “Er…um…well, I got really cross with him one day for biting my hand, so I bit his paw (gently) and he never did it again.”
Interviewer: “Oh.”
LE: “I brushed my teeth afterwards!”
Interviewer: “Oh.”

Believe it or not, I also got that job. Anyone else got any funny job interview stories? (You’re welcome to comment anonymously).

Update

I just thought of a story (which may be apocryphal, but I can’t find it on Snopes, so maybe it’s true…) A major law firm in Melbourne received a package. They opened it up, and inside was a single shoe, accompanied by a letter saying, “Now I’ve got my shoe in the door, perhaps you’ll interview me?” I never heard whether this poor one-shoed person got an interview?

45 Comments

  1. peter
    Posted April 17, 2007 at 3:16 am | Permalink

    Q: “What kind of fruit are you?”
    A: “I’m human, but since we are on the topic, how did you come to join the plant species?”

    or even nastier

    A: “I sued the last person who tried to psycho-analyse me. Can we move on to the next question?”

    Nicest interview moment: Being headhunted by an employer personally. Has to be the easiest interview in the world when the only question is what salary package do I want.

    Ugliest interview moment: Commenting on the employers’ bruises as a result of a martial arts practice fight and not getting his joke: “you should see the other guy”. A serious “duh!” moment.

    Saddest moment:
    Interviewee (not me, I was the interviewer) was very nervous and sweated badly. We later learned he had only recently overcome an alcohol problem related to stress.

    My friend who is an employer recently advertised for a lawyer and received a letter written on scrap paper from a person from Byron Bay threatening him with a lawsuit for not employing him – and this was in the application letter!

    That letter was not recycled.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted April 17, 2007 at 3:16 am | Permalink

    From a friend…

    Interviewer: Very impressive resume. So…what nationality are you again?

    Friend: Australian.

    Interviewer: Oh. I mean ethnical, ethnicness?

    Friend: You mean my ethnicity?

    Interviewer: Thats the word.

    Friend: Lebanese Arab.

    Interviewer: Ahh. Ok. Well, we’ll let you know if you’ve got the job.

  3. Legal Eagle
    Posted April 17, 2007 at 5:13 am | Permalink

    Peter, I like your responses to the fruit question – I wish I had the presence of mind to respond accordingly – but I was a lot younger then, and didn’t expect to have to field stupid questions like that…

    These days, I’d probably roar with laughter and say, “Are you serious?”

    Anonymous, your friend could bring a discrimination claim in respect of that conduct. Disappointing to know that kind of stuff still goes on…

  4. Jennifer
    Posted April 17, 2007 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    I once interviewed someone who had to stop half way through to go and throw up. He didn’t look that nervous, but he didn’t seem to be sick, either. It was a graduate program – I think he ended up in the second round anyway.

    But a much sadder story was someone whose interview was interrupted half way through by a fire alarm. Everyone had to evacuate, so when they got to the street they told him he may as well go, he wasn’t going to get the job. Probably the right call, but hard on the interviewee.

    I’ve done a lot of interviewing over the years (I used to be the first interviewer for our graduate program) and I’m always embarrassed by how well the interviewees remember the interview compared with me. When we’re working together six months later, they’ll quote the whole thing back to me and I’ll have no idea what they’re talking about.

    I’ve never asked anyone what kind of fruit they are, though. I thought that kind of thing was only for management consultants.

  5. -k.
    Posted April 18, 2007 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    A friend of mine used to manage a mens’clothing store back in our uni days. He was interviewing a girl for a casual position.

    Q: What sort of people do you think would shop here?
    A: Men.
    Q; What sort of men?
    A: Men and boys.

    Needless to say, she didn’t get the job.

  6. Anonymous
    Posted April 19, 2007 at 4:05 am | Permalink

    I got asked ” Can you tell me 10 things you can do with a Brick..”

  7. Anonymous
    Posted April 19, 2007 at 4:05 am | Permalink

    I’ve never heard the fruit question, but I have been asked these gems: ‘How do you communicate?’ and ‘Tell me about a time when you communicated clearly.’ Advice on answering those would be much appreciated!

  8. Legal Eagle
    Posted April 19, 2007 at 4:11 am | Permalink

    Anonymous at 2:43 – unfortunately, I suspect the first things that would have come into my mind if I had been asked the brick questions would be highly inappropriate in a job interview situation…

    Anonymous at 3:24 – Again, terrible answers come into my head.

    Q: How do you communicate?
    A: Unlike you, I communicate via my mouth…

    Q: Tell me about a time when you communicated clearly.
    A: Here’s an example: If you’re going to ask stupid questions like that, take your job and shove it up your jumper.

  9. Martin
    Posted April 19, 2007 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    From the application letter of a bright applicant who had English as a second language:

    “I’m a straight person and seek straight relationships.”

  10. Ash
    Posted April 19, 2007 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    Back when I was applying for articles, my last interview – after a gruelling couple of weeks of enthusiastically telling interviewers what fruit I’d be – was at Blakes.

    The HR manager asked me a question I’d been asked probably close to a dozen times already:

    “So, Ashley, tell us what you’re looking for in a law firm.”

    Something in my brain snapped and, momentarily, I abandoned my interview face and actually because my real self.

    “It’s got to be this side of the City Loop,” I said, grinning.

    Both interviewers looked up from their evaluation forms, horrified.

    I didn’t get the job.

    Worse, though: they didn’t get the joke.

  11. Legal Eagle
    Posted April 19, 2007 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    Martin,

    Oh dear, the nuances of a second language are always the most difficult things to learn. I seem to recall someone at my high school saying “Ich bin kalde” (or some such sentiment – I never learned German) – they meant “I am cold” but said “I am frigid (ie, sexually repressed)”. The teacher couldn’t restrain his hysteria.

    Ash,

    I love the comment. Oh dear, oh dear, interviewers with no sense of humour. Most likely that it wouldn’t have been any fun there anyway!

  12. Posted February 1, 2009 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    That fruit question…. I’d have been tempted (although it would be a lie) “The type that just adoooores Judy Garland”

  13. Posted February 1, 2009 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    There was a study years ago which indicated that in job interviews the interviewer forms an opinion within 5 minutes and spends the rest of the interview affirming that decision. Not surprising given some of the stupid questions people ask. What type of fruit … . That is ridiculous. Who’d want to work for a firm where they think like that?

  14. Posted February 2, 2009 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    drosophilia melanogaster. The only fruit that can fly.

  15. Posted February 3, 2009 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Can you tell me 10 things you can do with a Brick.

    That’s a question that supposedly tests capacity for creative thinking. Or resembles one I’ve heard about. In the test you’re given a certain amount of time and you have to write down all the uses of a brick you can think of.

    I think Malcolm Gladwell refers to it in one of his books. Demonstrating that hi IQs don’t necessarily bring with them creative thought.

    So, Ashley, tell us what you’re looking for in a law firm.

    Ah in advertising the correct answer is: A better coke connection.

  16. Posted February 4, 2009 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    My least favourite one was “Give me an example of how you solved a problem working in a team.” A surprisingly difficult one to answer without sounding either like overly complying dead weight or a complete narcissist, and compounded by it being a graduate job when my undergraduate degrees were in two areas where competitiveness pretty much killed off effective teamwork.

  17. Posted February 8, 2009 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    my undergraduate degrees were in two areas where competitiveness pretty much killed off effective teamwork

    Was one of them filmmaking? 🙂

  18. Posted February 8, 2009 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    As LE has said elsewhere, ‘teamwork is against my religion’. As John H will no doubt be able to inform us, there is now apparently quite a bit of evidence that a single smart person working alone will solve a given problem more quickly than a group of smart people working together.

    And the best solutions come when each individual in a group of smart people is given the same problem, but everyone is forced to work independently. They then pool their findings.

  19. Posted February 8, 2009 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    How about one smart person and many many dumb slaves to do whatever they’re told. 🙂

  20. Posted February 8, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    [email protected]
    “single smart person working alone will solve”

    There is an excellent book on this, “The Mythical Man Month” by Fred Brooks, which includes “Brooks Law” : “Adding more people to a late software project makes it later”.

    Brooks headed up the development of a major operating system for IBM mainframes. It is one of the few management guides that say “We did this. It cost squillions. I wouldn’t do it again”.

    Brooks argument applies to non-fungible work, where the effort to co-ordinate knowledge among the team can be a significant proportion of total project effort. Brooks goes on to propose that such projects should be based on a surgical team… chief surgeon who does all the cutting, assistant surgeon who is there to help a bit and take over if things go wrong, scrub nurse to make sure the surgeon has what he needs when he needs it.

    Of course, SOME, hate the idea, becuase the “project manager” is downgraded to scrub nurse rather than overlord.

    Legal analysis and preparation efforts are not dissimilar from software projects.

    Read the book, it’s brilliant and at times quite funny.

    BTW: The best projects I’ve been involved in are when I’ve just been giving my head, with others used as “apprentices” to do some of the hack work using my templates.

    BTW2: SL— you row, don’t you?

  21. Posted February 8, 2009 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    As John H will no doubt be able to inform us, there is now apparently quite a bit of evidence that a single smart person working alone will solve a given problem more quickly than a group of smart people working together.

    That research was done a long time ago SL and put me in a difficult position when I was on a project team with that maddening nonsense about team efforts blah blah blah. Many great breakthroughs have occurred through people working alone. A example dropped into my inbox last week. A friend of mine, a gifted clinical psychologist in Canada, sent me a wonderful paper by an Aussie based in Melbourne that takes a remarkably creative approach to understanding the pathogenesis of Parkinsons Disease. I have never looked at this pathology because it was just too hard, somewhere in my mind there was a big warning sign indicating that all current attempts to understand this condition are fundamentally flawed. This Aussie researcher has come up with “systems based” approach to the challenge. It is a very dense 72 pages which will take me a very long time to think about. Nonetheless, and this is extraordinary in neuroscience, a single author putting forward such a stunning approach is remarkable. Some people know how to work very hard.

    When it comes to expertise smarts take a back seat to sustained hard work. Some have suggested that in takes 10 years of disciplined practice wherein the individual must be constantly challenging their limits. Then expertise arises. So if you have ever wondered why early starters in music or whatever do so well, don’t presume it is just “genes” or innate ability.

    As I am sure many have experienced, it is very frustrating to be working with people who won’t get off their lazy backsides and do the requisite homework. Ya can’t beat hard work and lack of hard work by team members is a detriment. Disciplined and intelligent people end up doing all the work. When they do come up with good ideas they tend to face problems with the doofi who don’t even have the wherewithall to recognise the potential of a good idea.

    So then, let us put it to the test. Just how many good ideas did come out of the 2020 Summit Mr. Rudd. Surely that great assembly could solve the financial crisis?

  22. Posted February 8, 2009 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, could you please correct the italics.

  23. Posted February 8, 2009 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Sorted, John.

  24. Posted February 9, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Teamwork = regression to the mean(in both senses of “mean”)

  25. Posted February 9, 2009 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Just how many good ideas did come out of the 2020 Summit Mr. Rudd. Surely that great assembly could solve the financial crisis?

    How dare you run down the glorious Jabberfest of the Chosen Kilo!!!!

    Outrageous.

    Of course it achieved something. A photo op for Kevvie with an Oscar winner and…

    Um

    She said maybe she can some tickets to her next premiere and would go and see the footy with him if she liked footy.

  26. Posted February 20, 2009 at 4:26 am | Permalink

    “What type of fruit … . That is ridiculous. Who’d want to work for a firm where they think like that?”

    Couldn’t agree more.

    I would walk out of an interview where they asked any kind of bullshit question like this. I’m there to work, not jump through hoops for their amusement.

  27. Posted February 20, 2009 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Dr Marla Beigenflur
    Human Resources Consultant
    Psychological Performance Review #12 – A65

    Subject: Attitudinal disposition appropriation evaluations viz CheeryPalace Inc

    Candidate: A yobbo

    Evaluation: Re. I’m there to work, not jump through hoops for their amusement.

    Subject displays misperceptions about the nature of the workplace policies of CheeryPalace Inc.

    Recommendation: Call security.

  28. Posted February 20, 2009 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Answer: “I’m not a fruit. I’m straight. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. My best friend is a mango, honest…”

  29. Lizzie
    Posted February 20, 2009 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    I did get a security escort once from a workplace. It is was no big drama. I mean I’d resigned with notice for personal reasons. I wasn’t sacked. I’d committed no crime or misdemeanor, except for being a damn good union rep. And yet on my last day the employer didn’t want me saying my goodbyes. Or something. It was quite humiliating and funny at the same time.

    Escorting sacked people from a workplace still happens though and at the highest level. I’m talking SES level in state government. And I’m talking about people given no warning, who were sacked by email, who had no prior or subsequent charges laid against them and who’d committed no wrong except, I guess, to embarrass the Minister, though their work was simply about trying to serve public interest.

  30. Lizzie
    Posted February 20, 2009 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    LE, I wish someone would start a blog about workplace atrocities. Perhaps they already have. The things I’ve witnessed and experienced in workplaces beggar belief and would make any reasonable person want to crawl into a dark place and weep. There should be a Royal Commission into workplaces.

  31. Lizzie
    Posted February 20, 2009 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    LE, why are my comments always held up?

  32. Lizzie
    Posted February 20, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Le – “Surplus to requirements” Such a callous thing to say. The preferred term is usually “supernumerary” and I’ve seen people described that to their face by management.

  33. Posted February 20, 2009 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] On retrenchment jargon…
    What if obituaries were written like layoff announcements? from Business Pundit.

    Here is a taste:

    The body decided that its former business model, known as homeostasis, was not “with the times” in terms of sustainability and operational resources. As a result, Bibb’s body will undergo a carefully managed restructuring process that includes cost-saving rigor mortis, bloating, and eventual decomposition. In the long run, according to Bibb’s former CEO, who goes only by The Soul, the actions announced will make Bibb a leaner and more efficient competitor.

  34. Lizzie
    Posted February 20, 2009 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, LE.

    One of my best moments was when I told a HR executive I was leaving, but not for a couple of months. He said they’d prefer if I left immediately. I responded that there was this not inconsequential thing called a work contract and that I would legally exit from that contract when it suited me.

    The look on his face was pure gold, LE.

  35. Lizzie
    Posted February 20, 2009 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    It probably wouldn’t happen nowadays in a lot of places, but in one of my first jobs I and another worker were sacked on the spot for a political indiscretion. We were reinstated within an hour following the intervention of the workplace union delegate who pointed out the indisputable truth that we had not been warned what we did was out of order and that it was a first offence.

  36. Posted February 20, 2009 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    [email protected]: “why employers treat employees badly”.

    Because they are stupid, and obviously don’t keep up with Harvard Business School.
    The New Math of Customer Relationships
    It’s the E=mc2 of customer loyalty.

    And the prize-winner for smart management, adapting to make the most of autism-spectrum folk who make EXCELLENT testers unless you put them through the stresses that normal employees barely cope with, I discussed here
    Deeply satisfied employee = deeply satisfied customer = lifelong profit.

    Read em and weep

  37. p**sed
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Recently I attended an intense interview, 1.5 hrs of the sole practicioner/ interviewee ranting on about his views of the world…

    qu’s included –
    “I can see your married, do you have any children?”
    “are you planning to have children? – you should”
    ” how old are you?”

    with barely enough time for a one word answer – I was treated to an extended rant about why he considers pay between the sexes isn’t equal because (&. I. QUOTE.) “women go off to breed”…

    The interviewee/ a**hole let me squeeze about 3 words into his lecture.

    A week later the sole practicioner called my manager at my current job informing them that I had applied for a position and asking for a reference.

    I can’t believe this guy is a lawyer – his behaviour during and post interview breached nsw privacy and anti-discriminatioon laws –

  38. Posted September 18, 2009 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Ah, to start with I wouldn’t want to work there, not so much for the toxic opinions but because working with someone who talks nineteen to the dozen about their pet political views is not fun… and when it comes to the toxic views, it may be worth reporting the interviewer to the relevant authority in your state. In fact I’d go further and not just drop him in it with the discrimination people, but the law society as well.

    I believe that fine Yiddish word ‘schmuck’ is appropriate here.

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