"If you were a box of cereal, what would you be?"
But does finding out that applicants think of themselves as Rice Krispies, Cap'n Crunch or Count Chocula reveal whether they would make good employees? Of course not. Yet these sorts of interview questions crop up frequently — and some employment specialists defend them.
Employers are inundated with resumes, and off-the-wall questions can be a way to find candidates who stand out and can think on their feet, employment experts say. Some employers, experts say, actually believe a quirky question will uncover a candidate's personality, or at least liven up a boring interview — albeit at the applicant's expense.
"It is truly a buyer's market. The companies are so much in control right now," says Howard Leifman, a career coach and senior consultant with New York-based BPI Group, a human resources consultant.
"Candidates are becoming more desperate. They're worried about the job market," Leifman continues. "There are so few jobs available, you will put up with people's idiosyncrasies."
We asked readers via Twitter to tell us the most bizarre interview questions they have received. Among them:
"Ravens or Redskins?"
"What is your astrological sign?"
"We enjoy doing office potlucks. What would your contribution to the potluck be?"
"If you were a fruit, which one would you be?"
(A grape because they grow in clusters and I'm a team player. An apple: My skills are highly polished. A banana — people say I have a-peel.)
Glassdoor annually lists its top oddball questions. Last year's winners include:
"Does life fascinate you?" "Are you exhaling warm air?" "How do you feel about those jokers in Congress?"
Microsoft and Google are notorious for asking unusual questions. Microsoft has asked: "How many pingpong balls can fit into a warehouse?"
The software company is likely trying to gauge an applicant's "critical thinking" skills, says Debbie Shalom, owner of Amazing Resumes & Coaching Services in Baltimore County.
"Sometimes these questions can have a very good reason behind them," Shalom says. "Usually, there is a psychological reason behind them."
I asked Shalom — who sometimes goes on job interviews just to find out what her clients are up against — what kind of fruit she would be.