Tricky questions

18 March 2010
I was intrigued to read Portsmouth City Council’s approach to recruitment in procurement in the latest issue of SM. Potential candidates are posed the following question: “You’re trapped in a cave with a group of strangers and water is coming in. There isn’t time to get everyone out: three people will die. You learn the profiles of the group (one is a multimillionaire, another is a vicar and father of five children, you know the sort of thing). Who do you think should survive?” I have to say I don’t think I would pass the interview process. I must have changed my mind each time I thought about it. There are lots of questions like this, although I haven’t personally ever been asked one. “If you were an animal, which one would you be?”, or one of my personal favourites, “If you were a type of cheese, which one would you be?” Part of the problem is you don’t know the interviewers are asking for an accurate answer or a predictable cliché which would point to supposed character traits:  “I’m a tiger because I’m always on the hunt for sales”, for example. In addition there are now plenty of websites offering advice about what sort of answer to choose to give the right impression (this site offers some interesting questions and answers). All said, with £350,000 in cost savings and a glowing report from the audit commission it seems to be working in Portsmouth.
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