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How (Not) to Hire

Today’s London Times has a great story about a very strange job application, the six-page “minefield” form for wannabe British “Apprentice” stars.

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Writer Andrew Ellson suggests that, right or wrong, unconventional answers like admitting to backstabbing in pressure-filled situations (potential worst quality) may get you hired for the no-holds-barred circus of a job under Amstrad’s Sir Alan Sugar.

In addition to generic “why do you want to work here?” questions, the application asks the more disturbing “what would you do if you knew you wouldn’t get caught” and requests the contact information of people who would give horrible recommendations.

While reality telivision tends to focus more on weird people than qualified ones, this still makes me wonder about the purpose, and success, of various approaches to the hiring game. What are the right questions to ask on an application? What are the wrong ones?

In one interview, I was asked how my mother’s death affected my academic performance. I was shaken by the question but knew my honest answers revealed more than stock responses to bland queries about mentors and goals would have done. Questions like that catch the applicant off-guard and although they can be shocking, they work.

What are the craziest things you’ve been asked, and what have you answered?

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