The Craziest Interview Ever?

What would YOU say?


The Craziest Interview Ever?

Interviews do seem to scare people.  

I haven’t had an interview for a long time but I prepare people for interviews every week and have been doing so for more than 20 years.  Interviews are important; they can be life changing.  But as far as I am concerned interviews are fun.  They are of course a challenge, but those butterflies in the stomach are your friends, because they make sure you are on the top of your game.  And I am completely positive that there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to be afraid of an interview.  I’ll tell you why in my next BLOG.

In this BLOG however I thought I’d tell you about the first big, proper interview I ever had.  It was also the craziest interview I’ve ever had.  What brought it to mind was the story in the news last week of a young man being “made to dance” during an interview for a position working in a store of a very well known UK Retailer.  He was very upset at being subjected to this somewhat unorthodox selection procedure, and took to the Social Media to vent his displeasure.  The episode has now gone viral and it is clear from what I have read and heard, that condemnation of what happened to him is nearly universal. Here’s what happened to me.  

I was in my last year at University, approaching Finals (no coursework in those days – Finals really WERE scary!).  The Graduate milk round was in its prime and unless you tried very hard getting a graduate job was not too hard.  I had set my heart on a career in Retail, for reasons I can also talk about another time.  I had an interview, in Central London, to join the Graduate Programme of what was then (and still is) a very big Retailer.  So, I pitched up all shiny and keen, ready to tell them why I loved Retail, why I loved them and why it would be the fulfillment of all my dreams and ambitions to join their scheme and earn the princely sum of £5,250 per annum. The chap who interviewed me was very smartly presented and seemed quite normal.  The interview didn’t quite go as I expected.

Question 1: If I gave you £250 how would you redecorate this room?

Question 2: What’s 25% of 450?

Question 3: How long is a piece of string?

Question 4: (My favourite) What would you do if a hand grenade came through the window right now?

And so on.

Nothing about me or what I had to offer the company.  Just a series of seemingly random, unconnected questions.  I answered them all to the best of my ability.  I thought the interviewer was mad. The climax of the interview – and I kid you not, this actually happened – the very nicely suited and booted interviewer fell onto the floor groaning and thrashing about clutching his chest.  He was not the world’s best actor, but in fairness I feel in retrospect that his performance gave in energy what it lacked in realism.  I just let him get on with it.  After a minute or so I simply said: “it’s OK, you can get up now”, and he stopped. He brushed himself down, thanked me for coming, and told me that they would be in touch. I thought it was marvelous. And when an offer came in the post I accepted.  

Now I do realise that this says as much about me as it did about the company.  Perhaps I should have run a mile.  But I was looking for some excitement, and I clearly remember thinking that any company mad enough to recruit people in that crazy manner must be a great place to work.  And so it proved.  You may be amused to see which company it was – it won’t be too hard for you to find out. Subsequently I asked the chap who interviewed me what the heck he had been playing at.  He explained that he had been brought on board to recruit the business's first ever cadre of graduates.  He explained that he had also read a book by some American guru about “stress” interview techniques.  I think that the results he achieved with this approach might charitably be described as “mixed”.  I don’t recall him being around very long, and I do remember that out of the 40 odd graduates recruited there were only 3 of us left 6 months later.  

I had a very happy and successful 9 years at that company, and learned a lot.  Many of the people for whom and with whom I worked have been running the UK High Street for the last 25 years. I don’t know what I would have done if I had been asked to dance.  What I do know is that how you approach an interview is all about positive self-expectancy.

I suspect that the 20 year old me would have burst into a rousing bout of ‘pogoing’  to an internal soundtrack of “Something Better Change”, by the Stranglers. Or so I would like to think.

Please let me know if you have had any unusual interview experiences, I would love to hear about them. If you have an important interview coming up and would like some help check this out: "Live Interview Practice".

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