Last Word

The questions we really should be asking on job interviews but don't

Personally, I don't give a FAQ about Frequently Asked Questions, but I do want truthful answers to the most important ones

12 July 2020 - 00:00
By AND Paige Nick
The writer notes that there aren't many situations that wouldn't benefit from a little forced honesty.
Image: 123RF/easyclickshop The writer notes that there aren't many situations that wouldn't benefit from a little forced honesty.

"Frequently Asked Questions" or, because I'm a little rude, as I like to call them, "FAQs", is a relatively new acronym, coined by Nasa at the start of Internet times. But we were actually asking the original Frequently Asked Questions way before the Internet even existed. Mostly on childhood family road trips in the form of "How much further?" and "Are we there yet?"

And again in our early 20s, when we hit our communal existential phase, drinking cheap wine, taking long, thoughtful drags and asking, "Is there a God?", "What's the meaning of life?" and "Wanna shag?"

Although they say the average four-year-old asks two to three hundred questions a day! Approximately 90% of which are probably about boogers. No wonder parents drink so much wine. That means kids ask around 40,000 questions between the ages of two and five. So maybe those grubby little FAQers should hold the prize.

Me, I have frequently asked questions of my own. Such as "Have you seen my keys?", "Are you going to eat that?", "Does my butt look big in this?" and "Can you make that a double?"

Hey, no judgments. As every third-grade teacher says, there's no such thing as a stupid question.

Or is there?

The only entity likely to answer more questions than a kindergarten teacher is Google. Google responds to around 40,000 searches every second! That's like going on a road trip with half a million toddlers in your car.

The most FAQ on Google, asked over three million times a month, is: "What's my IP address?" I'm semi-surprised that's the most asked question, although not really. It is the Internet after all, and I guess all the world's dodgy people are worried they'll be traceable through their IP when they download the bad porn, a recipe for Molotov cocktails, or try to hire a hit man to take out their aunt who just won the lotto.

Another frequently asked question on Google is: "What is love?" That's more like it. Although if you have to ask …

The rest of the FAQs Google fields range from the sublime to the ridiculous. "Is an egg a fruit or a vegetable?", "Does farting burn calories?" There are more thought-provoking ones too, like "Is cereal soup?" or "When will I die?"

Education has always been so focused on learners giving the right answers that I wonder if we've sacrificed learning how to ask the right questions

Here's the problem as I see it, education has always been so focused on learners giving the right answers that I wonder if we've sacrificed learning how to ask the right questions. And surely that's the more valuable skill?

On dates we always ask the same old questions: "What do you do for a living?", "What's your favourite food?", "How did your last relationship end?"

Surely a question like "Have you ever killed anyone?" is more useful than knowing what kind of car they drive or their favourite colour? Unless they say "cerulean", which is as good as admitting to being a serial killer. At least if we ask that, then down the line, when they do actually kill someone, and you say, "Oi, you never told me you were a murderer!" they can't say, "Well, you never asked!"

The same goes for job interviews, where we ask things like "Where do you see yourself in five years?" or "If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?"

Why are we pussy-footing around the real questions: "Have you ever stolen a stapler?" Or "You're working late, you're the only person in the photocopy room, what do you do?"

Of course we don't ask these questions because us humans can't be trusted to tell the truth. But I have a solution. We should get hooked up to lie-detector tests on job interviews and first dates; in fact there aren't many situations that wouldn't benefit from a little forced honesty.

Imagine how much time and trouble we'd save ourselves if we knew for sure whether the candidate for either the job or the date had ever worn a paisley tie?

Although I'd much rather nobody was hooked up to a lie-detector test when I ask if my butt looks big in this.

Follow the author of this article, Paige Nick, on Twitter: @Paigen