April 24, 2018

The Theme Song Question

by Brian Skory

"If you were to walk on stage, what theme song would be playing…?"

I find that most people in the field of technology are not fans of this type of interview question. "I'm a Java developer!" I can hear some of you saying. "Does an employer really benefit from knowing what theme song I want played when I walk on stage?" Like'm or not, candidates need to be prepared, because this type of question does come up.

The theme song question is a favorite of Nick Taranto's, co-founder of the successful start-up Plated. And he's not alone. Tony Hsieh is the CEO of Zappos. In addition to technical ability, he's looking for a cultural fit, so he asks candidates to rate themselves on a scale of 1-10 with regard to how weird they think they are. Someone who answers 1 is probably too straightlaced for Zappos, and a 10 might be a little too much weirdness for their culture.

Several other high profile CEOs are known for asking the tried and true superhero question: "If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be and why?" And it's been said that Larry Ellison, executive chairman and CTO for Oracle, is famous for having his recruiters ask new graduates, "Are you the smartest person you know in your class?" If candidates answer "yes," they stand a chance of getting hired. If they answer "no," the recruiter asks, "Who is?" and then goes and tries to hire that candidate.

Chances are pretty good that sooner or later you are going to be asked one of these or a similar question in your interview, so it would benefit you to spend a bit of time preparing for the inevitable. My recommendation is to dedicate 10 to 15 minutes of your interview preparation googling "oddest interview questions" and giving some thought to how you would answer them. Chances are pretty slim that one of the questions you reviewed will be the one that comes up in your interview, but having practiced answering a few of these, you won't be totally caught off guard if an oddball question does come up.

Although there aren't necessarily right or wrong answers to these questions, I do really like the following answer to the superhero question: "I think I would prefer to be a superhero like Batman who doesn't have superpowers per se but who relies on his intelligence and use of the right tools to get the job done." Who wouldn't want to hire that person?!

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