At the last interview I was at, a HR-rep kept asking followup questions to technical questions that struck me as blatantly stupid. Questions like "who do you ask if you get stuck?". My answer was "I hope I will have the opportunity to find that out."

During the course of the day I kept coming back to those questions. The HR-rep was quite young as well, and I assumed she probably just didn't know what to ask. But some part of me still believes there was a hint of guile in those questions.

Is there a point to asking a seemingly pointless or even stupid question?

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    @BSMP: For me the question was stupid because at that point, I did not know anything about the position, what kind of team I would be working in, and it would be my absolute first job in anything related to that field, which everyone there was aware of. I realize now that question was a really poor example. But there were others, I swear. – BigBadWolf Jul 20 '17 at 21:53
  • @Eric - I don't know that it disturbs me, I said I was amused, their weak game are pathetic. I wouldn't consider working with such people and don't send any work within a block of such places causing them all to close (baby and bathwater) - I hope I'm not screeching at you, I just wanted to convey thanks. - It's tough to make a couple of hundred an hour thumbtwiddling, usually some work must be done. I don't doubt myself. EG: Interview: I can do the job, hire, offer top dollar, stay out of my way otherwise you close. Accept the offer quickly, or the consequences slowly. Within 6 months closed. – Rob Jul 21 '17 at 4:03
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    Possible duplicate of How do I answer interview questions about overcoming difficulties? – gnat Jul 21 '17 at 20:33
  • @gnat can you explain how this is a duplicate? I'm having a hard time with understanding the connection. – BigBadWolf Jul 22 '17 at 10:45
  • "who do you ask if you get stuck?" is a question about overcoming difficulties – gnat Jul 22 '17 at 11:31

Is there a point to asking a seemingly pointless or even stupid question?

Sure - it shows how you respond to seemingly pointless or even stupid questions.

Some people may respond badly. If you want to assume the worst, then assume the HR person was deliberately trying to annoy you to see how you would react. If you want to assume the best, then assume the HR person was new and didn't have any good questions prepared.

Personally, I choose to assume the best.

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    Another possibility that a higher up read/saw something that had bad advice on how to hire and the interviewers are being required to ask questions that aren't great. – BSMP Jul 20 '17 at 22:00

Why is that a stupid question? It's intended to get a feel for the way in which you work. In your current job, who do you turn to if you have a problem you can't resolve? Your boss? Your peers? Do you pass the problem to a subordinate or just slip it back into the backlog? (Red flag) Do you just keep hacking away until you eventually get an solution? (Bigger red flag) The answer you gave seems to imply that you've never been in a situation where you've been truly stuck on a problem, which may have thrown the interviewer somewhat...

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    This isn't really an answer, but rather a (correct) explanation of why the example question isn't bad. – Erik Jul 20 '17 at 21:37
  • That makes sense. That explains why she might ask it, however in the context of my interview it was pointless, since I have no prior experience in anything related to that kind of work or company structure, which everyone there was aware of. So I guess she probably was asking questions that might have been a little out of place. – BigBadWolf Jul 20 '17 at 21:39
  • @BigBadWolf The question is trying to figure out your problem solving process in general. That you haven't done that exact type of work before or in that company structure doesn't make the question out of place. – BSMP Jul 20 '17 at 21:55
  • @BSMP I guess you're right. Up till now, my only problem-solving tasks were in conflict management and deescalation, which so far never needed the input of another person. Also I am usually alone at my current job, which makes it difficult to ask someone. In the interview, I was aware that I would ask someone, however at that point there was simply no way for me to know who there would be to ask. – BigBadWolf Jul 20 '17 at 22:01
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    @BSMP That sounds reasonable too. Now I feel like I managed to give a bad answer to a pointless low-stakes question. Quite the achievement! – BigBadWolf Jul 20 '17 at 22:14

I think the key word in your question is "seemingly". The situation here is that you were asked a question you didn't really understand, so gave a flippant answer. That potentially tells me quite a lot about you - rather than trying working to understand the meaning behind the question, you'd decided to basically ignore it. Just about OK if you do it once. When you're asked the question again, it's time to realise that somebody thinks this is important, and it's time to dig a bit deeper into what they're asking, not think "they're asking a stupid question" or "they don't know how to do their job".

I also don't believe you've never been stuck on anything - certainly your Stack Overflow profile reveals a whole number of questions where it very much looks like you were stuck on something. Why not say "I use Stack Overflow"?

In summary: this wasn't a stupid question. The responses you've given would mean I wouldn't want you working for me, so it's served a very useful purpose.

  • Fair point. I wasn't so much flippant as confused, I hope that wasn't received differently. And I did actually say that I use stackexchange before I was asked that question. Before that I believe I said "if my own research doesn't do it anymore, I will ask someone who knows." But point taken, thanks for that brutal honesty :) – BigBadWolf Jul 20 '17 at 22:52
  • The trouble is your questions here doesn't sound like you were confused: "I assumed she probably just didn't know what to ask". That attitude almost certainly came through in the interview as well. – Philip Kendall Jul 21 '17 at 10:04
  • You're probably right, maybe I need a lesson in humility once in a while. – BigBadWolf Jul 21 '17 at 10:10

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