**Warning: Long Post**
When I was a teenager and interviewing for my first job at a grocery store, the interview was pretty simple. First, because I was a teenager and didn’t have any work history, the questions were pretty straightforward “traditional” questions that every employer asks of every candidate they see. Throughout college, the part time jobs I interviewed for were filled with these “traditional” questions as well – to be short, none of the questions ever really made me think. Between the last time I interviewed for a job and the last couple of months, the interview questions have become a little more personal, and have actually engaged my brain and taken the interview “off script” from those “traditional” questions. Now, the interview starts before you even walk in the door. You need to check out the company’s website and maybe even some reviews to get a sense of the kind of place it is.
The first time an interview question threw me was when I interviewed for a temporary position that eventually became (semi) permanent (since I was let go just two months after becoming a permanent employee of the company). The interviewer asked me to pick a job off of my resume (any job) and say what I liked and didn’t like about it. The answer was easier than I thought, as once I picked a job and thought about it for a couple minutes, I was able to answer clearly and in as few words as possible (no “ah” or “um” or the like). Another question during this same interview was what I liked about the company I was interviewing for. I studied their website pretty thoroughly before the interview, so I knew a lot about the company and was able to give another brief but detailed answer without stumbling over my tongue.
Since losing that job, I’ve taken to the Internet job boards and so forth, but my latest lead came from a friend who worked at the company I had recently applied for. He told me the company had recently filled the position, but said he heard Company X was hiring and I should check it out. So I hopped over to the website to check it out, first because I wanted to make sure the job and the company even interested me, and second – if it did – to fill out an application/post my resume.
When I went to fill out an application for a copywriter position, I found myself faced with some more interesting questions. The first couple questions don’t seem to have anything to do with the job: “if you could be any type of cereal, what would you be?” and “what do you like to do for fun?” Not the usual questions employers ask, but think about it. They’re open-ended questions that cause the applicant to think. They don’t hold the famous “and why” tag, but at least the first questions could easily have it tagged on. I had to take time to think about the cereal question, because I like a lot of cereals, but if I had to choose which one to be, which one would I pick? I’m keeping the answer to myself, not because it’s embarrassing, but because I don’t want to influence your answer. What do I like to do for fun? At first I sort of thought “why do they care?” but I thought about it again and what you like gives insight to the kind of person you are. If I told you I like sitting in the dark and staring at the wall, you’d probably immediately think I’m a lonely loner who doesn’t like other people much less myself. But When I answer reading, writing, golf and swimming, my interests sound varied and specific to me and, now that I think about it, are different enough from each other to reflect a person willing to try different things but related enough that one like developed others related to it.
So, what kind of cereal would YOU be? (And why?) Maybe thinking about the kind of cereal we want to be will help us interview a little better – or at least remind us to think about answers and not expect the traditional anymore.