An office manager candidate reported on Glassdoor that Etsy asked, “If the world is a stage what role would you want to play?” during an interview in Berlin, Germany, this year.
The real question is, how good are you at improv?
To counter the canned, humdrum interview questions and answers, asking this kind of oddball query helps interviewers delve into the “raw, uncut you,” says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behaviour and Thrive in Your Job.”
“Many of these questions seem quirky, humorous, and some would say wasteful or irritating at best. But for many employers, they actually serve a critical purpose that no other interview method can yield,” she says.
Interviewers aren’t looking for the right answers, she explains, but rather how you answer to help them determine if you fit the company culture. They want to evaluate such factors as: how you handle the unexpected; your true personality without rehearsal; whether you panic under pressure, are thoughtful, self-aware, and have a sense of humour.
This isn’t to say the question isn’t relevant to the position at hand, either.
“Buried deep in a disarming, wacky question may be an inquiry on how much sensitivity you possess, which relates to a customer service position. Or if you ask for more detail on an oddball question, that may bode well for a job requiring a high degree of organisation,” Taylor explains.
How you answer can demonstrate key attributes necessary for a particular position like poise and quick-thinking, solid problem-solving ability, creativity, enthusiasm, and spontaneity. Taylor suggests you always show logic in how you think through the answer and explain how you came to your final decision.
For instance, if you’re interviewing for a customer service position and you’re asked this question, you might consider answering it in a way that illustrates that you’re helpful and supportive, she says. For example: “I’d likely be the Director of Set Design, making sure that we were doing everything we could to support the director and cast. I’d want to help create the best possible audience experience behind-the-scenes. The kind of show that would get repeated standing ovations.” This response shows empathy, teamwork and a passion for customer satisfaction.
If you’re in an interview for a sales job when you get this question, the hiring manager probably wants to know that you’re gregarious and enjoy interfacing with others, Taylor explains. “They want to know that you like being in the limelight, working with people (not a sound or light technician).” One approach to answering this question is: “I would play the lead actor. I believe that, like a good actor, I’m very convincing and authentic with my audience — while keeping their attention. When I believe in my product, no one can say ‘No’ to me.” “This response demonstrates confidence in your ability to sell, interest in having an audience — and also in being credible,” Taylor says.
And if you’re interviewing for an office manager role, for example, your interviewer would likely want to know whether you’re a take-charge person, “but that you possess people and organizational skills,” says Taylor. “You might consider a response like: ‘I’d be a Production Director. I would coordinate the schedule and process so that we all worked together to create a great production — on time and on budget. I’d constantly look for ways to improve our efficiency on the operational side of our amazing theatrical performance.’ The benefit of this kind of answer is that it communicates your interest and enthusiasm in running a tight administrative ship — and being able to interface with multiple departments,” she explains.
The worst thing you can do is freeze or say, “I don’t know,” says Taylor. And when in doubt, she says you should always smile, take your time, and use your sense of humour without coming off as glib.
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