The Perfect One-Question Job Interview

I’ve told you about the time I went on a job interview, back during my West Virginia days, and they asked one question:  What would you do if I gave you an elephant?  That was the entire interview, and it was for a bank teller position.  What in the long swingin’ crap?

Apparently I didn’t provide a satisfactory answer, because a form letter arrived in the mail a few days later that began, “Thank you for your interest in Magnet Bank.  Unfortunately…”  And it went downhill from there.  I still don’t know what the “correct” answer to such a question would be.  Any ideas?

I was thinking about that ridiculous episode last night at work, and started wondering…  If I were in charge of hiring at a large corporation, wanted to “weed out the shitty” as my brother would put it, and was limited to just one question, what would it be?  And I think I’ve got it pegged.

I’d ask:  What would you do if you won five million dollars in the lottery?

Is that perfect, or what?  Much better than a goddamn elephant, that’s for sure.  The person’s answer would tell me many things about him/her, and would allow me to gauge their intelligence, common sense, and decision-making skills.

For instance, here’s how I’d read a couple of the anticipated answers:

Buy a ludicrously expensive car A pure dumbass who doesn’t have a place in the company.  Especially if he starts talking about Italian sports cars, complete with model numbers, or mentions Bentley and/or Rolls Royce.  If that’s the first thing that pops into his mind, a rapidly depreciating piece of flash, he should be given the opportunity to work elsewhere.  Because he’s a bag of shit.

Continue working This person is a liar, and doesn’t have a place in the company.  He’s the type who tells people what he thinks they want to hear, with little regard for the truth.  He should receive one of the form letters that contain the word “unfortunately.”

Give most of it to charity Ha!  Even worse than the “continue working” folks…  Especially if the person provides this boolshit answer with a concerned, deeply saddened expression on his face.  It’s an Oprah-tinged manipulation, and the person doesn’t have a place in the company.  He should be escorted from the building by security guards, and thrown to the pavement in the parking lot.

You see, it’s easy to analyze every answer.  It’s perfect!  I should be heading up an HR department somewhere, with such innovative techniques bubbling up in my brain..  I really should.

Can you think of any other one-question interviews that would give you a window into the soul of applicants?  Since this is just imaginary, let’s not worry about ethics or laws, or any of that pesky stuff…  That’s for suckers.

Also, I’m sure we’ve all engaged in conversations with friends and coworkers about imaginary lottery windfalls.  “What would you do if you won five million dollars?” or whatever.  Why not attempt to analyze the common answers in the comments?  Do it, it’s fun!

And that’s gonna do it for today, my friends.  Please remember the ongoing Yurtathon 2010.  I sincerely appreciate everyone who’s already donated, or purchased shirts, to help me spend a week (or so) in a ridiculous roundhouse in the forest — and finish (finally finish!) my book.  If you’d like to chip in, every little bit helps.  Thanks in advance!

I probably won’t be able to post a real update again until Sunday, but be on the lookout for another blues singer exercise.  I’ve chosen the next room, and know it’ll be a lot of fun.  I’ll try to get that going on Friday.

Have a great day, boys and girls!

I’ll see ya next time.

Now playing in the bunker

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  1. Senor Kaboom says

    When life gives you elephants, you make elephantade. That should be smarmy enough to shut up anyone who would ask a question like that.

  2. Dave's not here, man says

    All those interview questions are bullshit. Just some HR drone trying to satisfy the urge they have to hold power over you.

    I have been fortunate to always go to interviews while I still have a job. I’m not desperate and I don’t put up with that shit. My last job interview had one of those type questions – “What’s bigger, 5/3 or 3/5?”

    My answer was, “I suck at doing math in my head. If you really want me to figure it out, give me a calculator.”

    I got the job, but that was the only bullshit question they tried. I’m now on the job search committee and I loudly object every time someone wants to put in a stupid question like that. I always ask them what psychological training they’ve had that allows them to interpret the different answers correctly. When they have none, it’s pretty easy to get them to leave that shit out.

  3. TILLY says

    I have never been to an interview where I was asked such things. I am not sure how I would reply to any of that crap.

    If I won the lottery I would get tucked, plucked, liposucked, buffed off, and painted over. After that I would travel.

  4. sunshine_in_va says

    I tried this exercise at least twice in college when I/we were hazing the freshmen. The first time I asked them to define “Love – at the college level”. You wouldn’t believe the variety of answers I got. One guy talked about just getting dumped by his high school sweetheart who was still back at home. Another wrote about his high school sweetheart and how they were going to make the long-distance thing work (and they did too; they’ve been married at least 20 years now). Another guy (yeah – this was all guys that were writing) said to beware of college roommates with brown stains in the FRONT on their underwear. Still another wrote about meeting women at bars: “The music is loud, the lights are low. You don’t notice the sores on her lips…..”. I should publish some of these. They’re in a box somewhere. Trouble is – some of them are X-rated.

    The next year I had the frosh’s attention, I told them to write an essay on what they would do if they were told the world was going to end in 24 hours. Some planned emotional farewells, others intimate moments with loved ones. But some openly expressed the desire for a multi-state killing spree. I guess Hell Week was really getting to them.

  5. Limey says

    When I occasionally had to interview people I’d take them to the pub for lunch. You learn a lot more about someone (and whether you’d actually want to work with them) over a pleasant pub lunch then a stroll back to the office than you ever could in a formal interview. Plus you can expense lunch :)

    Obviously this wasn’t in the USA were people who go to the pub for lunch are considered reprobates.

  6. says

    With 5 million in lotto winnings one could purchase 7,299 half ounce pure gold coins. That should be enough to fill small kiddie pool and conduct a small scale Scrooge McDuck style swimming in gold event.

  7. WB in OH says

    Off topic but I’m headed to Boston next weekend for the Patriots/Bengals game and I’m looking for suggestions of places ya’ll think I need to see while I’m there. Any suggestions?

  8. Herman says


    I do interviews for engineers and we ask off the wall questions for personality assessment [in addition to sane ones] The lottery question is one I use. Ya just have to know how to interpret the answer

  9. Lee Harvey Ramone says

    Boston: Go to the Isabella Gardner Museum, the Bukowski Tavern (Dalton St), and the Mapparium in the Mary Baker Eddy Library at the Christian Science Plaza. With all three located in the same part of town (Back Bay), its wicked-easy to do all three.

  10. WB in OH says

    Thanks LHR, not sure I can talk the guys into the Gardner Museum, but I know they’ll go to a tavern and the Mapparium looks pretty cool.

  11. Taiwan On says

    WB – If you want some local flavor, head north from Gillette Stadium on Route 1 , through the first traffic light (by McDonald’s), then bang a U at the next traffic light and then stop at the Red Wing for wicked good fried clams.

  12. says

    I knew I’d get a rise outta that. You wanna watch Rosie eat pussy? Me too. I bet sh’s real aggresive. And that’s hot. Betcha eight dollars that her nipples are shaved. Betcha! Doesn’t matter. I keep getting ripped off. The only pussy munchers I know look like Earnest Borgnine! Not fair. I’m sure everyone here would agree!

  13. t-storm says

    I heard her girlfriend shoves a krueller up there, lays on the bed, and then calls rosie in. After she gets off she has to use the safe phrase “I wish Sarah Palin were president” which turns off rosie. Rosie then goes sulking into the other room to lick off the pussy/krueller glaze from her face with her lizard tongue. Much how she’d do if she were into men, just different glaze.

  14. Greg says

    OSU beat marshall 45-7, but that’s what we all kind of expected. Too bad Doc Holiday, from WVU, Marshall’s new coach, had to lose his first game. Oh well, OSU is expected to do really well this year. He probably knew he’d be the victim in this game.

  15. Craigbob says

    WB – It doesn’t sound like you’re into the museum scene, but the JFK Library is outstanding! Grab a lobster roll anywhere you can. Also, The Granary (cemetery) on the Freedom Trail is pretty cool.

    Regarding interview questions, I like to toss in offbeat question every now and again. These questions seem irrelevant and have no correct answer. What I like is seeing where people go with them. Some people freeze and have no idea how to answer – it’s a good bet that they have a hard time thinking on their feet. Not good. The joy is the occasional person who provides an unexpected and well reasoned answer. Most of the time, the job is theirs.

  16. t-storm says

    I was once asked not in a formal interview setting but at lunch following the interview who I voted for in the last election for president. This was May 2006. I responded that I’ve never voted for a winning president, which is still true.

    Technically I believe the question is illegal, but whatevs. I got the job and it was the best boss I ever had.

  17. Jenny Piccalo says

    I interviewed to work at the new SteakEscape in our local mall when I was 16. The guy interviewing me (he looked about 20) gave me some line of bs that went something like this… “working here at Steak Escape , is like being a Shakespearean actor…” . I didn’t know what the hell he was on about. I didn’t get the job. I wish I knew just what he was smokin’ cause I wanted some too !!! I wanted to get baked in the back room with him , put a “Tatiana” , “Ursula” , or “Juliet” name tag on and sling some grand gobblers!

    By the way he owns about half of Charleston today! Who’d a thunk it .

  18. clintcurtis says

    Seriously, the “continue working” option is what I would go for. I’m in my 50s, but through sheer luck, had enough money to retire very comfortably when I was 28. Unfortunately, all my friends still had to work their regular jobs. They had to get up early, then be at work all day, and at night were too tired to go out and have “fun.” If one truly enjoys what they are doing, the option to continue working is totally justified.

  19. Ian the Errolite says

    If I won that much money, I’d invest it a decommisioned Russian nuclear sub, go to Marseilles to hire a crew of villains, buy a nuke on the black market, get myself a nehru suit and a white cat, sail it to New York and hold the world to ransom for 1 trillion dollars.
    Easy Peezy.

    At an interview I’d ask;
    ‘You are at a music industry award ceremony and have a gun with six bullets in it.
    Which contemporary artists, and I use that term loosely, would you shoot?’

  20. johnthebasket says


    Sounds like your boner detector is in fine working order, but you might want to do a little maintenance on your subtlety detector apparatus. There were zero matches out of 15. I should know better: this isn’t the best forum for sardonicism.


  21. Lee Harvey Ramone says

    I’d play OSU in football 5 times in order to obtain 5 milion dollars. It’s more of a sure-fire way to get the 5 million than playing the lottery. I’d let OSU win all of the games, too.

  22. Dave's not here, man says

    OK, I admit I don’t know how much they actually got paid. But believe me, it was a huge amount of money. I know last year the Naval Academy got paid 1 million to play Ohio State.

  23. says

    I’m not naive, I understand this is how schools make money. But they also care about win/loss records and bowl appearances which bring in even more cash. I just don’t understand this matchup knowing you probably will get blown out. Which is what happened.

  24. says

    I’d probably answer…”Funny you should ask. An elephant wandered into my backyard one day and I asked my buddy what should I do. He told me I should take it to the zoo. He came over a few days later and saw the elephant was still in my back yard.
    He said…” I thought I told you to take him to the zoo?”
    I said…”I did…and he had so much fun I’m taking him to a baseball game tomorrow.”

    Never had an actual job interview. Something about that kind of thing just doesn’t set with very well i guess. Probably has something to do with my… “Go fuck yourself”… tourettes.

  25. Root 66 says

    @Dave’s Not Here, Man

    …and the Naval Academy ALMOST beat the Bucks last year. That’s why they do it (along with the dough)! Remember when Appalachian State beat Michigan? No one thought that could happen, but it did.
    Anyway, I’m gald to see the Buckeyes did not take their foot off the gas and coast to a 21-7 win. They need to trounce other teams to get some respect!
    That is all…

  26. WB in OH says

    Wait just a fucking minute Chuck. Do you mean the university is whiny when the lose or the fans? I don’t think Jim Tressel ever whined about a loss but a lot of the fans act like whiny little bitches.

  27. WB in OH says

    Oh and thanks to everyone who gave a suggestion, I think I should be able to visit a few interesting places during my brief stay.

  28. t-storm says

    DTO, you should take him to the Tuskeegee Airman Museum! Ha!

    Remember when OU almost beat OSU? About 2 or 3 years ago. I would have laughed my ass off. I still did.

    Go Bearcats.

  29. WB in OH says

    t-storm, what about when UC just about beat em? I think that was the year “we” went and won a national championship. They had a lot of close games that year but remained undefeated. Hey, you can say what you want about the buckeyes I don’t care, there just the team I grew up rooting for and it’s blossomed into a good excuse to start drinking before noon on a few Saturdays each year! :)

  30. t-storm says

    I’m from Buckeye country, never been a fan. I’m UC all the way. The football team has made it easier lately. UC will never have a chance at a national championship.

  31. WB in OH says

    never say never t-storm, keep playing like they did last year and everything starts to get easier. BTW, I enjoyed watching them last year, I like all things Cincinatti.

    Time to get my beer on! Peace out fools!

  32. t-storm says

    I really like all things cincy right now. I’m headed there tomorrow for the fireworks.

    The Reds give me a huge boner right now.

    You’re a jerk for going to get beer while I’m at work.
    That goes for all of you currently drinking.

  33. Ed says

    One: I’m wondering what Jeff’s answer was to the elephant question, when he interviewed for the bank teller position.

    Two: @clintcurtis – you are obviously very happy with your job. May I ask what sort of work you do?

  34. mountie9wv says

    Let’s Go Mountaineers!!!! Eat shitt pitt. I would have followed that with an exclamation point but it wasn’t earned.

  35. clintcurtis says

    @Ed…I work at a weather station. No degree, but the Air Force taught me enough so I can wing it pretty good. Got into the field sorta by accident. I wanted to be a diesel mechanic, but the Recruiter said, “with test scores like THESE, you could be anything we have to offer.” I had taken a weather class in college, taught by my metal shop teacher, so I picked a weather career. Great job in the Air Force, and after I got out, I hired on with a contractor at a remote weather station in Alaska…where I met my best friend, who was from WV.

    It was just one of those fork in the road type things…coulda gone either way, but I’ve spent a lot of years in Alaska..but along the way Wintered at the South Pole, worked on a mountaintop in the Cascades in Washington…yet still found time to be an auctioneer, and a bar owner in WV.

    Throughout it all, just because of the wonderful people I have met back there, I still consider WV my home. When I turn off I-70 and head the rental car south on Rt. 2 heading towards St. Marys, my pulse rate jumps, and if you promise not to tell Buck…I get tears in my eyes every time!

  36. johnthebasket says

    I don’t believe I could make use of a boner detector, but should you need to lease one over the upcoming three day holiday you might try emailing

    That’s just a shot in the dark, but I figure anyone who needs one needs it pretty bad, so even a scrap of hope is better than despair.

    I offer this comment not because Sammy thinks I have a boner, but because a Reporter could think that I would use a dime-novel word like soulmate seriously.

    OK, I feel better.

    Happy long weekend to all.


  37. Patti says

    I have to say all of these responses are too funny :) I’m laughing out loud here. You are all quite creative. I wish the job interview process could be a little lighter. It’s just so full of b.s. I honestly don’t know if there is a better way but….there must be somewhere out there…