20 August 2019

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UK Workers Share the Unusual Things Standing Between Them and Their Dream Careers

Unusual Questions, Wardrobe Blunders and Bizarre Interview Tasks

Mary Poppins
Mary Poppins (image via KettleMag.co.uk)
  • Half the UK population (48 per cent) are currently open to a new job, but research shows interview questions and tasks are getting increasingly more bizarre wardrobe fails and bizarre interview requests standing in the way of Britons' perfect jobs
Nearly half of employed Britons are open to finding a completely new career, according to research revealed today, but are jobseekers prepared for increasingly strange styles of interviews?

A survey of 2,000 working adults in the UK, conducted by employment industry leader Adecco, discovered that the questions and tasks in interviews are becoming increasingly unique, unrelated to the role – and sometimes downright weird.

Despite growing awareness around employment law, 6 per cent claim to have been asked illegal or un-PC questions about their religion, sexual orientation and even plans for starting a family during an interview.

Other interview questions focused on surprising interviewees with curious questions, such as, 'would you rather' style, e.g. 'Would you rather be a butterfly or a bear?', 'Would you rather be a rock or a sponge?' or 'Would you rather have fingers as toes or toes as fingers?'

A further popular theme included, 'If you were a biscuit which biscuit you would be?', with topics covering anything from cakes, fish, crisps, fruits, flowers, animals or trees.

Outer space scenarios are also commonplace these days, with respondents sharing bizarre questions they've been asked such as, 'Can you fly a spaceship?', 'Have you been to the moon?', 'Explain making toast to a Martian', 'If a UFO landed out the front window, how would you avoid distraction and remain focused on the task at hand?' and 'If you were an alien in a spaceship where would you land and make home?'
Shelley Preston, Head of Adecco Retail, said: "The UK job market is really competitive and we've found that companies are forgoing the standard experience-related questions in favour of curve-ball, off-topic questions to catch interviewees off guard and test their mental reflexes.

Candidates are completely unable to prepare for such random enquiries, meaning they can often answer nervously and anxiously, leaving the job open for the more assertive to grab. Remember there's no right or wrong answer to most of the strange queries – remain calm, confident and cool and be sure of your ability to do the job you're interviewing for."
Some interview task themes were even more random, with 8 per cent of interviewees being asked to perform in front of their potential bosses, despite the prospective job having no link to the arts. Some were asked to act, some told to sing, others had to draw, while others claim they had to tell a joke or even do an animal impression.

One in 20 (5 per cent) were asked to construct something seemingly random, e.g. a bridge out of straws, a house out of lollipop sticks, a racing car out of building blocks, a tower out of toilet rolls and even flatpack furniture.

Others were asked to showcase their balancing skills e.g. stand on one leg or balance a book or a cup of water on their head and walk around the room.

These weird and random requests have clearly got the better of many unprepared candidates, leaving many to perform embarrassing blunders they'd rather forget.

When asked about their most embarrassing moments in an interview, UK workers said circumstances beyond their control are often to blame. 11 per cent admitted to leaving the interview red faced with profuse sweating, sneezing fits and endless coughing listed as top blunders.

Others claimed having a mind-blank (8 per cent), spilling a drink (4 per cent), falling over (3 per cent), stumbling over words (2.5 per cent) or arriving late (0.8 per cent) were near the top of the list.

While for some respondents (3 per cent) disastrous wardrobe malfunctions were to blame, such as trousers or skirts splitting, flies undone, or blouses unbuttoned.
Shelley Preston added: "While you may not be able to prepare for questions like 'would you rather be a rock or a sponge', you can ensure you're prepped in terms of the basics. Research the company thoroughly, keep an open mind, prepare your outfit the night before and ensure you arrive early so that you start proceedings on the right foot and assert confidence throughout."

Top 10 most unusual interview questions:

  1. Can you sing the theme tune to Captain Pugwash?
  2. Have you ever seen an invisible man?
  3. How do you build a tower out of spaghetti?
  4. How many elephants can you fit in your car?
  5. How would you climb out of a giant bucket?
  6. How would you respond to a random person asking to lick your armpit?
  7. What side of the bed do you sleep on?
  8. Why are manhole covers round?
  9. Where do you see Arnold Schwarzenegger in five years' time?
  10. Who is more important – Father Christmas or the Tooth Fairy?

Top 10 most unusual interview tasks:

  1. Form a line youngest to oldest without talking to anyone
  2. Write your name backwards
  3. Act like a plug
  4. Clap like a duck
  5. Count backwards
  6. Copy the sound of a fax machine
  7. Do the 'I'm a little teapot dance' every time someone is late to a group interview
  8. Lick your elbow
  9. Sit still for 30 minutes
  10. Stack cereal

Top 10 most embarrassing interview moments:

  1. I was asked to give an example of when someone broke my trust and I blabbered on about my ex cheating on me
  2. I called the interviewer Dad
  3. I caught my trousers in the window chord
  4. I got stuck in the loo
  5. I got my finger stuck in the chair I was sitting in
  6. I hugged the boss
  7. I went to a party the night before with gems on my face which burnt my skin so I looked like I had the letter Y branded on my forehead
  8. I walked out of the door but it was actually a small cupboard
  9. I accidentally displayed my holiday photos instead of my presentation
  10. The chair I was sat in collapsed

  • Research conducted by Opinion Matters, 31 July-8 August, 2019 of 2,013 employed respondents.

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