If you were an animal…?

I recently read an article in which a career consultant argued that a candidate may as well pack up and go home if an interview was “degenerating into off-the-wall” questions like “if you were an animal what kind of animal would you be?”

His reasoning was that the interviewer does not respect the candidate and they are unlikely to get any further.

I disagree.

These “killer” questions are often the best way to examine self-awareness and for two reasons. 1) there are so many variants that you can’t read a book to tell you how to answer them – you’re on your own, and 2) They are so disconnected from the role that you really do need to have self-awareness and the ability to think on your feet to answer them well.

Another version of the “killer” question is the one where there is no known answer. “How many sheep are there in Wales?” Of course, you’re not expected to know the answer, what the interviewer is interested in is how you answer. Three million? How did you come to that conclusion? A random guess tells them something about you as does the willingness to offer an immediate gut reply. Alternatively you might explain a process for finding out the answer like contacting the ministry for agriculture (or whatever they are called at the time you are reading this), or multiplying an estimate of the average flock size by the number of sheep farmers. It doesn’t matter what your answer is because the interesting thing is how you arrive at it.

Don’t under-estimate these questions. I can help someone to predict very accurately what they will be asked in an interview so far as it pertains to the role and the competencies required, but I can’t coach you for the killer questions and a good answer can make a difference because it is an open window on how you operate and how well you know yourself.

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2 Responses to If you were an animal…?

  1. Anonymous says:

    What animal would I be? Probably a tiger that would rip the interviewer's off for asking such ridiculous questions. I consider this kind of interviewing to be pure game playing, as it's unlikely the interviewer is qualified to assess the answers. Interviews should be competence based.

  2. Nick Gendler says:

    I'm afraid you probably won't get the job that way! Seriously, these questions are important. Interviewers make decisions based on how they are answered and I posted this blog because so many candidates dismiss them as you have, but they dismiss them at their peril. These questions are worth taking seriously.

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