What an awesome interview question. For me it would have to be the faithful F-word. None of the others are as concise and to the point. One syllable.

Most companies would never depart from the routine line of questioning to go with something as unprofessional and unpolished as this question. Afterall, we don’t swear in the office…do we?

Zappos! is not a typical company and this is one of their interview questions. I visited their Las Vegas office last week and learned about their extensive recruitment process which not only tests a candidate’s competency but encourages them to share who they authentically are. Zappos! has introduced holacracy as a management system which eliminates formal management hierarchy and introduces a system of self-management (more on this in an upcoming post). In order for this system to work, they must hire the right people. They need to have a clear and accurate picture of new hires to ensure they would be a good fit, will align to the company mandate to “wow” customers everyday and can be successful within their organizational structure.

It is curious that most organizations still rely on traditional recruitment methods that are so easy to game.  Here’s the usual process:

The resume: The first point of filtering. Many people today have their resumes professionally crafted by experts who pepper it with keywords and “action-oriented” verbs that match the job description to ensure they get through the initial screening.   

The Interview Suit: According to monster.com, navy blue is your best choice with grey coming in second. The online consensus is navy suit for the first interview and a grey suit for interview #2, if there is one. 

Body Language: There is a lot of information available on mastering the job interview before the questions begin. Present a confident image. Eye contact. Firm handshake but not overpowering. Smile, but not too wide. Take up space, but not too much.

Interview Questions:  Tell me a time when you handled someone with a challenging personality. What is your greatest strength? Name one of your weaknesses? How do you manage stress? Why are you a good fit for this role? Don’t pretend that you don’t have canned responses for each of these questions to convince the interviewer that you are a results-oriented professional who thrives in a fast-paced dynamic environment.

But, ask a candidate for their favourite swear word. There’s no advice online for that one (I checked). You can’t answer this question without exposing a bit of who you really are. Isn’t that what we want to find out in an interview? And, best of all, there’s no wrong answer. Unless of course you say something like “I don’t swear” or “balderdash”. In both cases, I wouldn’t want to work with you so it is good to get that out of the way early.

I challenge you to depart from the usual interview questions and include some character-revealing questions. Want some ideas? Check out the link to an Inc magazine article

By Dionne England – Published Author

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