When I was looking for work elsewhere and had a job interview lined up, a couple of friends at my last place of employment told me about what they thought was one of the toughest interview questions they had been asked.
No, it wasn’t the one asking the job candidate to describe his/her greatest weakness and neither was it the one inquiring as to where the job candidate wanted to be five years down the road, both of which require a great deal more creativity than candor of the candidate. It was much more random than either.
“If you were a type of cereal, which one would it be and why?” I can’t imagine being asked that question during a job interview. A look attesting my feelings would quickly play across my face, straining my control of emotion. I would bite my tongue to refrain from commenting about the question. What information would the interviewer hoping to gain? To ascertain my propensity for lying?
According to businesspundit.com, the worst interview questions share one or more of the following characteristics: they are illegal, useless or hackneyed, “Good interview questions can help employers judge the technical qualifications, people skills, problem solving approach, and team fit of prospective employees. Bad interview questions do none of those. Instead, they confuse, irk, or offend the applicant (often in combination).” That’s pretty much what I just described.
Businesspundit.com cites the following 10 questions as the worst: What interests you about our company? Have you ever brought a lawsuit against an employer? Why did you take the pen from me? Can you work under pressure? If you were a “Lost” character, which one would it be? How would you define sexual harassment? What is the airspeed of an unladen swallow? Do you ever abuse alcohol or other drugs? What is your biggest weakness? Where do you see yourself in five years?
The last two questions were the top two worst interview questions, so I called that one pretty well. Along those lines, I think the “What type of cereal” interview question has a good shot at making the next Top 10 list of worst interview questions. Aside from giving a person a chance to demonstrate his/her creativity, the question measures nothing, except possibly how tolerant many of us have to be with those we meet along the job search trail.
Is there a good way to answer the cereal question? That’s a good question in and of itself. When answering it, I think it prudent for a job candidate to avoid naming any cereal that contains the word “flake” in its title. Another quick rule-out is “Froot Loops,” for obvious reasons.
I would also avoid fluffy, non-productive sounding cereal names, such as “Cocoa Puffs” or the substance abuse connotations that surround addictive-sounding cereals such as “Buzz Blasts” and “Krave,” both Kellogg’s products. Similarly, Quaker Oats’ “Halfsies” cereal implies poor follow-though. The manufacturer might just as well have called the product “Slacker Squares.”
My answer? I would keep things simple. Because my first name starts with the letter “K,” I would say “If I were a cereal, I would be ‘Special K’ because I am original with my thinking and resourceful (at answering stupid questions).” There, take that, you asker of stupid interview questions I am working overtime to tolerate!
A more generic answer would be to reference the Malt-O-Meal cereal called “Balance,” which might net you some points. Or you could always choose “Wheaties” as a way of subliminally referring to yourself as a champion.
Should you decide during the interview that you don’t want to work for a company that would ask such a random interview question, you might elect to amuse yourself by cutting loose and shocking the interviewer.
Try saying you’d like to be Kashi’s “Bear Naked” cereal. That provides the interviewer with either a highly pleasing or disgustingly disturbing visual image. Another thought is to name the ambiguous “Fruit Brute” or incestuous-sounding “Yummy Mummy” cereals made by General Mills back in the 80s. For that matter, “Trix” could also be taken a variety of wrong ways.
Are we having interview fun yet? More fun than a barrel of cereal-stuffed monkeys!