Most recruiters and interviewers have stooped to ask almost nothing but ‘behavioural’ interview questions these days. These are intended to give the interviewer a chance to gauge your behaviour in different types of stressful situations. They want to see whether the candidate can handle stress without quitting or turning into an axe murderer.

They are also intended to trip you up, make you lie, or at least create enough turmoil to make you vomit mid-sentence. Lying is OK unless you’re sitting on Oprah Winfrey’s ‘Couch of Truth,’ but losing your cookies will make you lose points.

A lot of these questions have to do with office politics. “Think of a time when there was someone at work who was really bothering you by stapling your shirt to the chair when you’re napping, and stuffing dead fish in your desk drawers when you’re not looking. What did you do about it and what were the results?”

What they want to hear is that you confronted the person, used your superior communication skills to be assertive rather than violent, and ate the fish. The result is supposed to be that the offences stopped and you and the co-worker became cooperative team members.

They don’t want to hear you say that you called a lawyer to sue the company for damages and pain and suffering unless they really like you. If they really like you, that may be an acceptable second alternative.

What you’re not allowed to say is, “I’m sorry, but I get along well with everyone, and I can’t think of an example.”

That answer is unacceptable because it happens to everyone, and saying that it never happened to you means that you’re a liar. You have to give them something. You need to make them believe you are honest, and you have to give them an answer.

I have been speaking to a lot of younger clients recently who really have never experienced this type of office politics. Most of them are card-carrying members of Generation Y (born between 1980 and 2000. These are people who went through school taught by Baby Boomers and Generation X, both of who were raised in a competitive education system. Those who went into teaching experimented with an education system that emphasised team learning. There were teams of students working on group problems. They learned collaboration and cooperation rather than independence to get the job done. They were coached while being taught. Some even had mentors in the community to help with problems such as the quadratic equation.

As a result, if they say they have never experienced dead fish in their drawers, they may well be telling the truth.

There is a chance that all this collaboration and team work has infiltrated into the workplace with Generation Y. If you are of this cohort, a possible way to answer such a question is to ‘know yourself.’ You need to imagine how you would react and deal with the problem in a manner that would satisfy the interviewers that their candidate can handle the business end of a behavioural question.

For the pain-in-the-ass co-worker question, say.
“I’ve really never had someone stuff fish in my desk before, but if I did, I would act in an assertive manner. I would say, ‘Every time you stash your fish in my drawers, I get upset. I feel like there must be something wrong with you that makes you mistake my desk for a refrigerator. Is it a cry for help? Are things OK at home for you? Later, over a steaming glass of bubble tea we would make amends and…’”

I’ve never met a Gen Y person who had any weaknesses. Asking a question like “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” might be difficult. Here’s a tip for a weakness:

I always thought I was good at computers, but the new Windows 8 is driving me up the screw! I am learning how to use it though.

Mike Broderick , a one- time archaeologist, is a Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor with the Fraser Health Authority in Port Coquitlam where he helps people with mental health disabilities find and keep full or part time employment .
He WAS the Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he found employment for people with physical disabilities, A Supported Employment Coordinator at THEO BC (now the Open Door Group), and a case manager at Community Fisheries Development Centre where he helped people move from the fishing industry to something else because there “aint no fish.” This means he is VERY familiar with how a modern day resume should look like.
He is an active ambassador with the Vancouver Board of Trade and a member of the Labour Task Force of the Burnaby Board of Trade He does some work as a field Archaeologist, is a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to Alive Magazine. He is always saying, “If you can’t be fit, you can at least be funny.”
He lives in Port Coquitlam with his spouse Cecelia. You can reach him at home at or at 604-464-4105 If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates.



  1. Sharon Says:

    Funny! And, to the point. I always hated those questions. I started to share an incident but it was way too long for this venue.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: