Why Are Manhole Covers Round? by Casey Jones, CAPP

Why are manhole covers round? This question and many others make a list of the 100 most ridiculous job interview questions ever. Here are a few of my other favorites:

  • If you were a box of cereal what would you be and why?
  • Who would win in a fight between Spiderman and Batman?
  • If there were a movie produced about your life, who would play you, and why?

A quick Google search reveals many such lists offering hundreds of equally ridiculous interview questions from all kinds of companies, not just the quirky ones that seem to thrive on being viewed as weird.

I stumbled onto these lists after a friend let me know that she was preparing for a job interview and asked for help. My first instinct was to find some questions she might be asked and help her prepare the best answers. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that cramming for the interview by anticipating questions was not the best way to prepare.

The most important question to answer is whether we really want the job at all. This may seem like an altogether too obvious first step but to answer this question, one must do some soul searching and understand the job inside and out. There’s a big difference between running away from a job and running to one, and we should know in our hearts that we really want the job. Being desperate to leave a position clouds our objectivity and judgment and may create blind spots regarding a prospective employer. Worse yet, we might say things we don’t mean or embellish on our experience, creating expectations we may not be able to meet.

We should also seek to understand the value system of the people we’ll be working for and with and whether our values and theirs are compatible. This means doing our homework about the team we might be joining and preparing before the interview so we can have ready pertinent questions that will shed light on what environment we’ll be walking into.

It’s also critical to ask ourselves if the job we are seeking is one we are only willing to lease or one we want to own. Leasing suggests that we view our job as temporary while owning our career conveys an entirely different level of commitment. And if our prospective job is one we only see ourselves keeping for a few years while looking for another, better position, we should probably be looking elsewhere.

Once we’ve answered these fundamental questions, it’s time to turn our attention to what we bring to the new job. We need to be prepared to answer how we are uniquely qualified for the position and have facts to back this claim. We should objectively demonstrate how we’ve produced results, whether in overcoming challenges, creating positive outcomes, or leading innovation that has helped reach broad company or organizational goals.

The pursuit of a new career, position, or promotion requires intense circumspection, self-awareness, and preparation. No quirky quiz will ensure that you and your new job are a great fit.

Incidentally and maybe obvious to most is that manhole covers are round instead of square because a round cover won’t fall through the hole. Oh, and I’m picking Batman over Spiderman but please don’t ask why.

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