We’re finally in a position at work now to take on some much needed additional help. We’ve got four (!!!) open positions in the department, and I’ve been tasked with doing the interviewing and making hiring decisions. That’s the only downside to the situation – we asked for 2 with a note that “4 would be nice,” HR approved 4. It’s win-win, but you can imagine how I’m not looking forward to the next two weeks.
So I’ve been preparing some interview materials for our first batch of applicants, all coming in on Monday. I thought back to my own experiences on the other side of the desk, and drew on some of that. Which reminded me of this question that I’ve seen on pretty much all of the pre-employment screening questionnaires:
Would you steal a loaf of bread to feed your family?
In retrospect, I can only recall encountering this question on retail job applications. My current job doesn’t do this kind of “advanced pre-screening questionnaire” (thank god.), but I’ve answered this question at least 4 times before. I’ve always answered “yes,” and I was called on it during two interviews.
The first, the interviewer said “I noticed on your pre-employment screening you said yes to this… that must have been a mistake right? Why’d you say yes?” I explained that it wasn’t a mistake, and that the situation would need to be pretty dire before any kind of bread-stealing would occur, with all other options exhausted. I got the job.
The second, the interviewer said “How can we trust you to work here, knowing that you would steal for your family?” I explained that, being an electronics retailer, they don’t sell bread, so it’s unlikely for the situation to ever come up. That, and I can’t imagine a situation where a family member would be in a life or death predicament if they didn’t get an iPod. I got that job, too.
Needless to say, I think it’s a poor question (and I would never consider using it during one of my interviews). Personally, I might be biased into looking for a positive answer – I’d probably harp on the ones who answered “No” as to how they could justify letting their family starve to death over something so cheap and trivial.
Anyway, what’s your take on this cliched question? I think “personality assessment” questionnaire-type activities are overwhelmingly useless and reveal very little about people. I’ve never been the interviewer for a company that’s used them, and I’m glad.
Come Monday, I’ll be face to face with the applicant and have their resume in hand. I think that’s all I’ll need.