the worst job interview questions

The Worst Job Interview Questions

Anyone who has interviewed for a new job has likely encountered an awkward moment or two. Some awkwardness, like there being no one at the reception area to greet you, is short-lived and can be overcome fairly easy. But sometimes the awkwardness is baked into the job interview, like when the hiring manager asks a candidate to name his “spirit animal.”  In this post, we’ll focus on bad job interview questions (or cheesy ones) that can repulse top talent.

The Worst Job Interview Questions I’ve Been Asked…

One of the secrets to effective hiring is to ask candidates the right job-relevant, probing questions, but it’s also helpful to know which questions to avoid. Aside from avoiding the obvious illegal questions, we surveyed over 70 HR professionals and asked them to share the most ridiculous questions that they’ve encountered personally. Here are the best…err worst.

  • “I’m reading a newspaper about you, what is the headline?” – Mike Brooks, HR Director at National Business Furniture
  • “What is your favorite flavor of yogurt?” – Tricia Casey, Talent Manager at Briljent
  • When interviewed by a professional HR person at a state university, I was asked: ‘in your life what comes first…work, family or God?’ The woman next to her on the panel kicked her shin under the table.” – Don Crankshaw, Organizational Development Officer
  • “What music is on your iPod?” – Anonymous
  • “Draw your favorite cartoon character.” – Kristie Holmes, HR Manager at VeriFacts Automotive

“Tell me about yourself.” – Anonymous

Gasp! Do you still think it’s productive to make this blanket inquiry?

  • “‘Are you from a large family or a small family?’ Seriously! My response: who tends to do better in this role, people from big families or people from small families?” – Anonymous
  • “What movie most resembles your life?” – Anonymous
  • “Did you play sports?” – Anonymous
  • “Do you have a jewelry box? If so, what’s in it?” – Anonymous
  • “What is your personal motto?” – Anonymous
  • “What do your parents do for a living?”– Anonymous
  • “For a Director role: ‘Since you are a woman with two kids in your household, how can you assure me you can pull that off in combination with this high demanding job we have here?’” – Ingrid Waghemans, HR Director
  • “Would you like this office to be yours someday?” – Terri Wiksten, VP of Marketing
  • “If you won the lottery what would you do?” – Anonymous

“What is your spirit animal?” – Anonymous

Cheesy awesomeness!

  • “Why did you wear the outfit you are wearing today to this interview?” – Anonymous
  • “How many days per year do you plan to take off?” – Doug Craven, Senior Onboarding Coordinator at Citrix Human Resources Shared Services

“What is your political party?” – Bonnie Wedo, HR Manager


“If You Could Be A…”

  • “If you could be any dessert, which one would you be and why? (This was a small advertising agency–probably trying to be creative.)” – Jessica Stephenson, VP of Marketing and Talent at ExactHire
  • “If you were a bird, how high would you fly and why?” – Jim Carwardine, President at Omnia
  • “If you were a bicycle – what part would you be?” – Riann Decesaris, Salary and Benefits Coordinator
  • “If you were an animal what animal would you be and why?” – Anonymous
  • “If you were a dog, which breed would you be and why?” – Jeannette Hamilton, Business Support Specialist at EPIC Aviation, LLC dba EPIC Fuels
  • “If you were a color, what color would you be and why?” – Niki Suazo, Owner in fitness industry

“If you were a tree, what kind of a tree would you be and why?” – Anonymous

The most popular in this category–three respondents endured this one.

And Honorable Mention Goes To…The Candidates!

  • “The worst interview question I’ve had to ask was during an interview with a co-op student when he commented that we didn’t have a TV in our company break room. I asked, ‘Is that a deal breaker?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ – He didn’t get the job.” – Steve Browne, Executive Director of HR
  • “When do I get vacation time off? …As one of the first questions. – Anonymous

“What is the salary of your position? …As I am looking at several offers right now.” – Anonymous

One of our respondents said he was asked this question by a candidate during the first in-person interview. The candidate must have been kind of a big deal.

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