Answer Irrelevant Job Interview Questions By Relating Them To Work

Answer Irrelevant Job Interview Questions By Relating Them To Work

Sometimes during a job interview, the interviewer will throw out a strange question that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the job. Whether he or she is just warming you up for the real questions, the best way to answer irrelevant questions is to make them more relevant — tie them to work activities.

Photo by AIGA Austin

Johanna Rothman writes on the Hiring Technical People blog how to “bring the interviewer back from la-la land to the here and now”. For example:

What about if someone asks, “What is your passion?” Lord, save me. Do not say, “Sailing around the world.” You need too much time off from work for that. It is irrelevant what your passion is. Interviewers claim they want to know if you are well-rounded. Nonsense. Here are two possible examples:

Here’s how you answer this in a behaviour-description way in an agile environment, if it’s true: I’m a T-shaped or a comb-shaped person. That is, I really like (development, testing, whatever) first. But I want to help the team ship product. Here’s what I did in the last project to do so….

Here’s how you answer this in a behaviour-description way in a non-agile environment, if it’s true: I have a number of interests. I find as I get older that serendipity is a wonderful thing. I read a lot and I meet a lot of people. In fact, just last week I read something in (take your pick of a business mag or the Wall St. Journal) that could have helped us on our last project. See, here’s how the last project went. We did this, and it went pretty well. On reflection, I could have used that pointer to improve it . . .

Unfortunately, the onus is on you to keep the discussion on your skills and experience, but that’s what the job interview is all about anyway.

Hit up the link below for a few more examples of silly questions and possible answers.

How You Answer Irrelevant Questions in an Interview, Part 3 [Hiring Technical People]


  • “I’m passionate about working. It is the only thing I live for, the sole reason for my existence and the only thing i will ever do.”

  • I disagree partly with this advice. I once had a marvelous discussion about Vectrex programming with the manager of a team that hired me to do network programming on PC’s. Turns out he was a Vectrex fan as well. If you can find out what your interviewers’ interests are, and find out that you have a common interest, mentioning it can only help you…

  • “Passion” is the most useless fucking thing in a work / career environment. It’s the least tangible thing in the universe, and it means literally nothing in a practical sense, and yet people sell it as some kind of “ingredient X” that will give you whatever you want if you just hire me. So what does it mean? That you’ll have a smile plastered on your face while you do the work? That you’ll do it vigorously? Tell me about what you’ve *done*, not what your plans are or what you’re “passionate” about.

    I’m passionate about getting laid, that doesn’t mean it happens whenever I want it to.

  • I once had an interviewer who, after several questions about experience and such, asked me out of the blue:

    “OK, next question…how would you improve the yo-yo?”

    Uh, what? I came up with something about using ball bearings and putting the mass toward the outside to increase rotational inertia, and he said “oh, you’re the first one to suggest something technical, everyone else said stuff like ‘make it blue’ or ‘put flower stickers on it’.”

    That was the weirdest interview question I’ve ever had.

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