Interviewing a Shoe-In
February 9, 2005 6:36 PM   Subscribe

Ridiculous Job-Interview Filter: We have a new person coming on my team at work. He's actually been filling in for someone (as a project manager) for a couple months and doing a great job. Due to HR formalities, we had to post the formal job opening for a week. No other people submitted for the job, and he doesn't have to interview to get hired, but he doesn't know that. We've decided to 'initiate' him with a stressful interview... (more inside)

Now I've heard horror stories about Microsoft and Google interviews, with questions such as "How many quarters would you have to stack to match the heigth of the Empire State Building" or "How many D size batteries are there in the U.S. right now". Obviously, questions designed to test the person's reasoning abilities. I'm wondering: What's the most ridiculous interview question you've ever been asked or heard of?

This will all be in good fun, as it is an initiation to our close knit, young team of project managers, but I would like to give him some zingers and really run with this. He's got a great sense of humor and won't freak out when we tell him it's a joke. Opportunities like this only come around once in a long while, so I'd like to make the most of it. Thanks Mefi for any help!
posted by skechada to Work & Money (62 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Worst interview question: "Why?"
Best interview answer: "Why not?"

You're going to make him take a swimming test. Right? For insurance purposes, all employees have to have a swimming test.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:54 PM on February 9, 2005

Get the most stoic person (a guy is better, but a lady works as well) in your department to interview him. Have one other person in the room to "take notes." While asking him the standard "please talk for awhile and sweat" questions, the interviewer should take some lipstick out of his (her) pocket and start to apply it. Liberally. Just keep slathering it around. If it comes time for the interviewer to ask a question, he must do so with a maximum of lip-smacking.

If the interviewee says something about the lipstick, the note taker must give that "Ah-huh" noise and record horrible, horrible things in their notebook.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:01 PM on February 9, 2005

Some MS interview questions can be found here. There is another site with more (and better) questions, but I can't seem to locate it at the moment.
posted by sanko at 7:06 PM on February 9, 2005

Whatever it is, it has to involve some kind of timed task. A rubiks cube? A lap around the floor? A series like this also works:

Q: "Design a house".
A: ...
Q: "For blind people".
A: ...
Q: "Who are over 7 feet tall".
A: ...
Q: "Who live on Mars".
A: ...

You get the idea...just keep going, no matter what they say. And make sure to incredibly overdress or underdress, just pick one.
posted by true at 7:09 PM on February 9, 2005

Here's a good site, although keep in mind, the site is serious. But I liked some of them, such as Why are manholes round?

In general, any question which involves ping pong balls is good.
posted by jeremias at 7:23 PM on February 9, 2005

"In what manner were ping-pong balls featured in the movie Priscilla: Queen of the Desert?"
posted by five fresh fish at 7:33 PM on February 9, 2005

Have an HR person enter the room and ask the interviewee to stand. Have the HR person approach him and sniff him stating “Body odor can be an issue in the work place”.
posted by arse_hat at 7:33 PM on February 9, 2005

Also, crank the heat in the office and, over the next two hours, remove all your clothing.

Liberally scratch your balls before shaking hands after the interview.

Eat beans and sour cabbage the night before. Especially if you're going to do the too-hot stripper act.

Tell him he's fired, a la The Office.

Proposition him.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:36 PM on February 9, 2005

You might want to read the book How Would You Move Mount Fuji which is all about the MS interview process and includes not just questions and answers but also a lot of good and bad interview stories.
posted by jessamyn at 7:39 PM on February 9, 2005

My worst interview question: "Are you willing to relocate to Florida?" I laughed and hung up the phone.

You should really work in a question involving codpieces, somehow.
posted by cmonkey at 7:42 PM on February 9, 2005

Why is the sky blue?
posted by planetkyoto at 7:43 PM on February 9, 2005

I wouldn't do follow through with a crank interview unless you really know this guy and his sense of humor well. You could piss him off and lose a perfectly acceptable employee.
posted by Doohickie at 7:47 PM on February 9, 2005

"If the entire company took a business trip to South America, and the airplane crashed in the middle of the Alps, which one of your co-workers would you vote for to be eaten first?"

If he's quick on his toes enough to catch that the Alps aren't in South America, take that as a vote for himself.

Alternatively, you can ask him to define "undefinable". If he tries, remind him that it's undefinable.

If you have access to a remote with just one large red button on it which lights up when pressed, or can piece together one with Radio Shack parts, do so. Act as if you might press it anytime he answers. At some point, do so.
posted by Saydur at 7:47 PM on February 9, 2005

Look through the list of old questions on the Straight Dope website for inspiration.
posted by smackfu at 7:48 PM on February 9, 2005

planetkyoto: that one's too easy
posted by Quietgal at 7:50 PM on February 9, 2005

these are great. keep 'em coming! i think our point will be to administer a 'stress interview' more than to fuck with him. we've all worked with him for a couple months now and are friends, but we'd like to play up the 'seriousness' of the interview as much as possible...

this is going to be fun. thanks for all the suggestions and links so far...
posted by skechada at 8:07 PM on February 9, 2005

You could try a panel interview, where a few of you sit on one side of a table and he sits on the other side and you rapid-fire questions at him. For bonus points, shine a bright light at him during this interview.

Personality questions - such as "if you could be any tree, what tree would you be - and why?" are great for this purpose if administered with an air of gravity that indicates you are learning very deep things about him. Mix these with some hard-hitting questions about the job he's going to do - they will catch him off guard, but if you act serious enough he will take them seriously too, and he'll wonder what the hell their significance is.

Keep a dour demeanor the entire time you are interviewing him - no laughing, joking or familiarity. Pretend you are interviewing a complete stranger for a job managing your personal finances - grill him thoroughly and don't cut him any slack during the interview. He'll walk out sweating bullets!
posted by rhiannon at 8:19 PM on February 9, 2005

I’ll read to you groupings of words. Pick the best word.
Dog, tree, rock.
Mother, belief, freedom.
Earth, soil, ground.
Blue, grey, green.
posted by arse_hat at 8:25 PM on February 9, 2005

"Estimate the number of acres of trees needed for a complete print run of the New York Times." (This was an actual assigned problem in one my college engineering classes.)

"Why do mirrors invert left and right, but not top and bottom?"

"If sound can't travel in a vacuum, why are vacuum cleaners so noisy?"

"Thermos bottles keep hot things hot, and cold things cold. How do they know?"
posted by Wet Spot at 8:34 PM on February 9, 2005

"I wouldn't do follow through with a crank interview unless you really know this guy and his sense of humor well. You could piss him off and lose a perfectly acceptable employee."

I agree. Initiations are for fraternities, not jobs. Don't be an ass.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:35 PM on February 9, 2005

Geez, you guys sound like assholes. I'd never be so manipulative and crass to anyone, particularly somebody I was expecting to be working with. If this were done to me, I would probably quit. I'm not kidding.
posted by jokeefe at 8:44 PM on February 9, 2005

"Which is larger, seven?"
posted by kindall at 8:55 PM on February 9, 2005

In my most recent job interview, I was asked the question "If you were a cartoon character, who would you be?"
posted by kamikazegopher at 10:14 PM on February 9, 2005

I personally hate interviews where "role-playing" plays a part, as in "okay, let's pretend I'm calling the help desk with a question... Ring...Ring....ok that's the phone ringing, now you pick it up and say hello...."

posted by odinsdream at 10:26 PM on February 9, 2005

1. Have someone (wrong number if he picks up) call his cell phone while you're interviewing him. Get pissed off if he hasn't turned it off, and it rings.
2. Have a panel interview him. Have the team member he likes best leave the room to go to the bathroom; while (s)he is gone, tell the interviewee that he's replacing this friend of his, and ask if that's a problem. Talk a little smack while the friend is gone, then when the friend comes back, proceed as normal, winking whenever the friend asks a question.
posted by mistersix at 10:27 PM on February 9, 2005

jeremiah's page is great. Ask #3 because they won't find the answer on the internet (the Vault missed it).

I'd post it here, but that wouldn't be right.
posted by shepd at 11:14 PM on February 9, 2005

This is a dumb idea. I'd quit.

That having been said, what the fuck us up with #2 on the Vault page? You can easily pick three socks and have them be the same color; it's nor even all that unlikely, let alone impossible. Am I missing something or are HR people just as dumb as I thought?
posted by IshmaelGraves at 11:20 PM on February 9, 2005

I agree with mr_crash_davis and jokeefe (and, on preview, IshmaelGraves)- doing anything of this nature really gets this guy's relationship with everyone in the office off to a bad start. Not trusting, not liking, hating the people you work with totally sucks (trust me). Why not set an interview time, sit down with the guy, tell him he got the job, and then casually chat with him about office stuff he'll need to know (where the good staplers are hiding). Make friends, not enemies.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:21 PM on February 9, 2005 [1 favorite]

While the naysayers have a point (you never know how anyone will react to something) whether this is a "bad idea" or not really depends on the relationships - if this kind of hijinx is part of the office culture and dude seems amenable to it, chances are he'll laugh it off. That being said, the things to mind to lessen the chances it would backfire are, don't string it along too far, tend towards the absurd/odd/interesting rather than the stressful/cruel/intimidating, and make sure that afterwards you're extra nice (take him out for drinks or something) and recognize it as a one-time joke to initiate him as a full-fledged member of the team, rather than, say, an indication that he can look forward to being the butt of cruel jokes as the office newbie.

On the practical side, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones is a good source of questions so difficult to answer that their contemplation may lead to transcendental enlightenment.
posted by nanojath at 11:45 PM on February 9, 2005

Take this opportunity to do something nice instead of something mean.

If you have to joke like that, do something simple, maybe hand the person a sheaf of "standard questions" (showing very difficult formulas and so on). But before true panic sets in, laugh, admit the joke, and use the rest of the interview time to go out for a drink and congratulations.
posted by pracowity at 12:00 AM on February 10, 2005

what the fuck us up with #2 on the Vault page?

they say you only need to pick three socks. that's either 3 the same colour, or 2+1. whatever, you have at least 2 the same colour.

i think the (unclear) assumption is that you pick N socks, then get into daylight and choose which to wear. is that's what's confusing you?

i couldn't get the lightbulb one, and the 17min bridge question took me ages. doesn't seem to have helped my insomnia either.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:06 AM on February 10, 2005

This has been found by psychologists to really piss people off.
In response to any personal statement of any kind, say "Why is that such an issue for you?" Listen to them talk, when they finish, say, "You don't have to be so defensive." After they finish talking after that one, say "We'll talk about this later when you are not so upset."

My professor told me that once he'd nearly gotten punched while using it as a demonstration.
posted by stoneegg21 at 12:36 AM on February 10, 2005

You are evil, evil people!

Of the odder questions I've gotten on job interviews are "Do you know how to drive a tractor?" That was in fact the only question.

On the interview to my current job I I was asked; "Can you read bass clef?" and "which radio channel do you listen to the most?". The last question almost lost me the job I've been told later, since I answered a snobbish classical-music channel. And I work as an archivist.

I also love interviews where they serve food (pastries are common) and ask a question just as I take a bite or a sip of coffee, leaving me to either finish chewing with their eyes drilling into me or talk with my mouth full of pastry.
posted by mummimamma at 1:41 AM on February 10, 2005

As Freud said, a joke is never just a joke. A Freudian would probably say that this joke was an outlet for your repressed feelings of spite and jealousy towards your co-worker. I am not a Freudian, but if this is your idea of a joke, I am very glad I don't work in your office.

(Sorry .. that came out sounding harsher than I intended. But my own career history, which has not been entirely happy, has made me very suspicious of the power-games that people play at interviews. Just be careful, okay? You may not realise it, but you are playing with fire.)
posted by verstegan at 2:45 AM on February 10, 2005

No, verstegan, don't apologize. You should have come off much harsher than you did.

This kind of power game is guaranteed to piss a great many people off, no matter how great a sense of humor they have.

If I were the subject of this kind of "joke" - I'd wind up walking out in 20 minutes or less. I don't have time for people who are jackasses or their jack-assed sense of humor.
posted by Irontom at 4:23 AM on February 10, 2005

I have to agree with several other people here... unless this kind of joking is part of the office culture--and more importantly, he has already been on the receiving end--this is not a wise idea.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:35 AM on February 10, 2005

Don't listen to the naysayers!

Oooh, how about a psychological evaluation? You could get a fake shrink to come in and asks questions about his mother, then frowns to himself while writing "things" on a clipboard.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:44 AM on February 10, 2005

I'd wind up walking out in 20 minutes or less.

Me too, and I'd also file a complaint about hiring practices at this workplace with the Better Business Bureau, and also maybe call the state attorney's office to see what else I should do. What's funny on TV or in theory is so often unfunny and unreal in real life.

What industry is this, anyway? This sounds so old-school, the kind of thing Company Men thought was funny in the '50s.
posted by Miko at 6:19 AM on February 10, 2005

file a complaint about hiring practices

But the guy's already got the job.

Might as well file a complaint about the "terrible working conditions" you have to put up with when someone tinfoils your cubicle. "I shouldn't have to live like this!!" Gimme a break.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:50 AM on February 10, 2005

I was once part of a team interview process that was being headed up by an outside behavior consulatant. His final question to the candidates always was "Is there anything in your past that you would like to tell us today and that we could accept if you told us now, but if we found out later, it would ruin your credibility with us?" He would then stare at them with this suspicious look and watch them answer. That was stressful.
posted by brheavy at 6:55 AM on February 10, 2005

But the guy's already got the job.

No, he doesn't -- employment law says he's being interviewed for a job. He hasn't been granted it yet, hasn't signed documentation, and hasn't had a change in status. In the eyes of employment law, he's the same as anyone else walking in off the street. That's why company policies requiring interviews for internal candidates exist - to make sure the company is using fair practices and not just handing jobs out. The poster says:

Due to HR formalities, we had to post the formal job opening for a week. No other people submitted for the job, and he doesn't have to interview to get hired, but he doesn't know that

So, he's being required by the company to go through a hiring process. Calling it "an HR formality" does not adequately stress that this process is requied by fair employment law. Nor does not make turning an interview into hazing any more legal.
posted by Miko at 7:14 AM on February 10, 2005

From NoLo: Employment Law - General Information and FAQs

A useful article from the above: Asserting Your Employee Rights

Finally, I'm surprised with someone with the name Civil_Disobedient isn't aware of this, but an employee definitely can bring greivance for activities like having your cubicle tin-foiled. Of course, there are many workplaces with a casual atmosphere where this stuff is tolerated and even encouraged. I've worked in them myself, and enjoyed it. The only problem with that is that when someone comes along who doesn't enjoy it, and finds it a hostile environment, they are entitled to challenge those workplace practices. When they do, there are investigations and there is gathering of evidence. Even if no one pressed a suit against the person posting above, how comfortable would it be for that person and his cronies to go through the depositions and internal investigation that this would bring about? How comfortable would it be if this thread was discovered and brought into evidence? Sure, it really sounds fun and it's funny to think about. But as someone who is in the position to hire and fire, I know that this is a potential minefield, and it's incredibly unprofessional to play games in this area. Save the pranks 'til after he's hired.

Just FYI, below -- a quick legal guide to what can be considered 'harrassment', also from Nolo. Maybe this guy is a white male and doesn't seem to be in protected group; you might be surprised if he's litigation-minded.

What is harassment?

Harassment is a type of discrimination. The same laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics (such as race, gender, religion and so on) also prohibit harassment on the basis of those characteristics.

Harassment occurs when an employee or group of employees must endure a work environment that is hostile, offensive or intimidating to them because they have a protected characteristic.

Harassing conduct includes things like:

demeaning jokes and cartoons, and
implied and explicit threats of violence.
posted by Miko at 7:27 AM on February 10, 2005

It is interesting how many people would be offended by such an interview prank. Your HR department did make you go through a formal search for candidates, so they seem to be taking this all very seriously. I think at the least you should let your HR department know about your plans before the interview. They are the hiring experts and can shield you from any possible problems.
posted by joelr at 7:28 AM on February 10, 2005

Miko, I am sure glad I don't work with you.

I would personally make the whole thing as serious as possible, ask all the usual questions, and just throw in the odd/unanswerable question to keep him off balance.

Also, each member of the interview panel should bring smart and casual clothing, and when you see what the interviewee is wearing, wear the opposite.

And finally, don't make him stew over it. Offer him the job immediately afterwards and buy him a beer. You'll owe it!
posted by salmacis at 7:41 AM on February 10, 2005

I don't know -- if this were to happen to me I might not find it funny.
posted by xammerboy at 7:42 AM on February 10, 2005

It is interesting how many people would be offended by such an interview prank.

It is, isn't it? Predictable, even. I'm one of those who would walk out, no matter how much I'd enjoyed working with the guys who were suddenly acting like assholes. My reasoning: if they're assholes to me before I'm even hired, what's it going to be like once I'm here for good? Civil_Disobedient's jovial remark about what "you have to put up with when someone tinfoils your cubicle" is a pretty good indication of what I'd expect, and wouldn't want to have to deal with. I join with those who say you'd better know this person really, really well -- better than I think you could possibly know him under the circumstances -- to go ahead with this. Job interviews are serious things.

Suggestion: play the interview straight, then after he's hired take him out for drinks and boyish fun. It's win-win!
posted by languagehat at 7:50 AM on February 10, 2005

Miko, I am sure glad I don't work with you.

Well, the 70 people who do seem to be pretty happy with not having their basic rights fucked with.

Seriously, if you're an employer, you need to know what you can and can't do with respect to the law.
posted by Miko at 8:01 AM on February 10, 2005

Yo, instead of indulging all of your personal grievances against office practical jokers in this thread, why don't you re-read the question:

This will all be in good fun, as it is an initiation to our close knit, young team of project managers, but I would like to give him some zingers and really run with this. He's got a great sense of humor and won't freak out when we tell him it's a joke. Opportunities like this only come around once in a long while, so I'd like to make the most of it. Thanks Mefi for any help!

You just have to trust Skechada's judgment on this one already. It sounds like his office is indeed laid-back and as though they feel the new guy is also laid-back. I, personally, would find this totally hilarious if it happened to me, but that's anecodtal evidence that has nothing to do with the question. Saying that _you_ would freak out in his situation is kind of meaningless, IMO, since the question was not "Would you freak out if we did this to you?"

I think it's a great idea myself. I remember an interview question where applicants were asked to construct four (?) regular triangles using six (?) pencils, and the answer (shh!) was to form them into a three-dimensional pyramid-type thing. I like those tactile type ones. You could use that one, or be like, 'form ten parellelograms using these thirty pencils.' Hahahahahahahaha.
posted by josh at 8:20 AM on February 10, 2005

I'm not going to take sides as to whether this is appropriate or not, since I don't know the people involved. I just want to add the link to the site with the "brain teaser" questions that Jessamyn referred to.
posted by matildaben at 8:36 AM on February 10, 2005

Save the pranks 'til after he's hired.

The impression that I got was that the job was his save for an actual handshake. We don't know this person, but sketchada's implication is that he has a better sense of humor than a lot of people in this thread. As for the questions of legality: provided they aren't doing something dangerous or illegal, you'd have a pretty hard time convincing a judge of malicious intent.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:59 AM on February 10, 2005

No one's sense of humor is at issue. The question would be whether this is a good idea. The answer would be no, because this can always get you into legal trouble. An aggrieved person doesn't even have to go as far as actually filing a suit in order to make everyone in the HR office panic and scurry for weeks on end, and cause the joke perpetrators to get called on the carpet.

And you wouldn't have a hard time at all with a judge; all a complainant has to show is that the environment is hostile. That's it. Interpretations of 'hostile environment' have run the gamut from e-mailed jokes, to cartoons on the cube wall, to out-and-out threats. I understand that the people planning this joke think the risk is negligible; but it would be wise to understand all the potential implications before turning a process that is heavily protected by state and federal law into a joke.

Consider also that this guy may think this is a fabulous joke now. But say, two years from now, there are cutbacks and this guy's let go. And he's angry. Maybe he's had a falling out with someone in the office. His feelings have changed. Even at that late date, he can go back and use this 'practical joke' as evidence that someone had it in for him from the beginning and that he was wrongfully dismissed. Sure, a lot of people would think I'm being overly realistic; it's just that I've been doing this kind of thing a long time, been dragged into court myself, fired and hired a lot of people, and I've heard all the horror stories.

Once again, saying 'the job is yours' and making a formal job offer are two different things - as different as telling someone you're going to marry them, and signing a marriage certificate. It's a bit more than a 'handshake' because it's a change in the status of the relationship between employee and employer. It ain't done til it's done, and the fact that this guy has been working at-will up until now does not change the employment policy or the employment law. But you don't have to believe me - it's all on the employment law site.

If you decide to go ahead, have fun. It's just important to know what the risks you're taking are.
posted by Miko at 10:13 AM on February 10, 2005

I think this can be successfully pulled off IF within three minutes of starting, the jokes get progressively more weird and "candid camera"-like. Whole thing should be over within ten minutes, and y'all head out to the pub.

The point would be to get him to say "You guys can't be serious!" at which point you 'fess up.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:21 AM on February 10, 2005

But say, two years from now, there are cutbacks and this guy's let go. And he's angry.

I see your point; I'd just like to say that it's pretty sad we have to live like this.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:35 AM on February 10, 2005

Similar to the idea about making him think he'll be replacing someone else, you and another person in the office could pretend to have had some sort of big, heated argument before the interview. Maybe the day before or even the same day but before the interview and then have this conflict spill over into the interview. Pretend to be in a bad mood as a result of the fight at the start of the interview, occasionally showing little bits of disdain towards the co-worker you "fought" with little remarks or gestures that seem like you might not realise you're doing them, and then find some way of bringing the conflict to a climax. Maybe the other person walks in having to give you some papers or something, or keeps interrupting the interview somehow, and it just blows up from there. Or if both people having the conflict are involved in the interview, have the interview gradually go from being about the interviewee to the two interviewers issues with each other. Maybe even ignore the interviewee for a while, then quickly come back to him with some absurd question.

Aw, this makes me miss my old job. My co-workers there and I used to pull this kind of stuff on each other fairly often. Another employee of equal level and I faked like we had an argument the night before once (we were the last two out of the office) and made little snide remarks and other rude things towards each other throughout the day. No one seemed to be paying much attention, so we fessed up and said something about our failure to generate any drama, but as it turns out every time we were out of the room, the rest of the office was going crazy over what was going on between us.
posted by DyRE at 10:37 AM on February 10, 2005

I did a lot of interviews at my last job, and occasionally we'd interview employees who were switching jobs within the company to try something new. If we knew them very well, we'd ask them to whiteboard a small program or system design, and after about 30 seconds, would say, "faster, faster!" over and over until they got the joke. That was about as far as we went, although we had talked about wearing old school IBM uniforms on interview days (black slacks, white collared shirt, glasses, and maybe a slide rule or pocket protector as a prop) and using outdated terms/technologies in our interview questions. "Would you please compare/contrast fortran's floating point implementation with cobol's?" Heh heh.

But I have to add another vote for the this-is-probably-ill-advised camp. Practical jokes in the office seem like something you should get out of your system by the time you're 25. I enjoy a lighthearted office environment as much as the next person, but practical jokes and pranks have a way of escalating, and some people don't know where the lines are. I enjoy joking with coworkers, discussing non-work stuff, etc, but we had a few guys who were really into the pranks, and it kind of held them back professionaly. That sort of environment implies to me that people aren't working on interesting problems, or the company has too many people on their staff. Guess who's the first to go when layoffs come around...
posted by beaverd at 10:47 AM on February 10, 2005

The question would be whether this is a good idea.

No, no, no, this is not the question! The question is, "What's the most ridiculous interview question you've ever been asked or heard of?"

This thread is making me really, really glad that I don't work in an office any longer. The ridiculous over-litigousness of work environments is something we ought to be fighting against with ever fibre of our souls, not capitulating to like beavers before the flood! The treatment of the office as though it's some kind of sacred cathedral is a terrible development in our over-worked culture. If we can't even joke with our work buddies, then the terrorists have already won. (I haven't written that phrase in, like, years.)
posted by josh at 11:58 AM on February 10, 2005

I think if you make it absurd, not stressful, this could be fun and not an issue. But making a guy sweat, then saying "just kidding" is wrong.

I say do one "legit" brainteaser, then a couple of ridiculous ones. Then, of course, the pub.
posted by sachinag at 12:05 PM on February 10, 2005

This is very unprofessional and most likely displays what your company has to offer. With that said, in the AskMeFi answer with no criticism creed -- ask them non descript questions and clarify with even more non descript information. This is the anti-thesis of good communication, and someone sane will see it as such, but someone less communicative will break down and become confused. This will give you an up hand, which it appears you are seeking.

Bottom line, tell your candidates how it is and you'll get what you want. Play games with them and you might realize they are talented and you'll get very bit in the ass. Be careful with this, stress isn't fun, in some countries it's considered unlawful torture.
posted by sled at 12:56 PM on February 10, 2005

I have nothing to contribute to this thread.

Well, there is one thing.

Inability to see the humor in difficult situations is a character flaw. There is more than enough real harassment in the workplace without imagining it where it doesn't exist.

I would sweat bullets during this interview, I would also repeatedly include it in an amusing anecdote until everyone I knew told me to stop.

BTW josh, the simple fact that (seemingly) more than half the people here are appalled means that the terrorists have won.
posted by Octaviuz at 2:04 PM on February 10, 2005

The only way to do it and NOT piss him off and try to do it with goodwill is to make the questions as silly as possible. So ridiculous after three he's snickering and five he's laughing out loud.

How would you move an elephant?

Are you ticklish? Are you telling the truth? Let me find out...

Jesus, Mohammed and Ghandi have a barbecue - who brings the pork chops?

Answer the next question in a funny voice/pig latin... then some normal serious question.

You've been granted your choice of microscopic myopia, x-ray vision, aural sight, or extreme far-sightedness. What do you choose?

here's some really silly ones
posted by Dome-O-Rama at 5:44 PM on February 10, 2005

Wow. I'm not sure why I'm surprised at the overwhelming pc-ness of the response here, but I am. Too everyone that voiced a word of caution, I assure you that we are playing in safe territory. The bottom line is that he has the job, and that the interview isn't necessary, since no other applicant qualified, but we're taking the time out of our extremely busy days to officially bring him on board, and having some fun with it. He's been a colleague in a department we staff for over 3 years and has a great working relationship with us and has tried for 2 years to get on our team. And is kicking ass in the position. And YES we're of course going out later to the pub. Like a few people pointed out, I was asking for RIDICULOUS questions. Thanks Josh for reiterating my point. It's all a j o k e, because we like him, not because we're intimidated by or passive-aggressive toward him. sheesh Also, being the most senior member on the team, I've interviewed everyone else I currently work with (in real situations, that is), so us interviewing him is a bit of a right of passage...everyone goes through it.

That being said, there were some great suggestions from everyone. Definitely some stuff we'll work into the interview. We'll probably limit it to some of those brain teaser questions and step up the drama right at the end, then tell him on the spot he got the job and hit the bar. :)
posted by skechada at 6:19 PM on February 10, 2005

I'm tellin' ya: a treading water swim test. 'Cause you never know.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:43 PM on February 10, 2005

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