Most interviews last about 30 minutes, and candidate selections—even at the entry level—can be expensive business decisions with serious consequences. So responsible employers don't usually waste precious time by asking silly questions with minimal value. Questions like "what cartoon superhero do you admire most?" aren't very helpful, and they can serve as a red flag if you hear them during a professional job interview.
But there's one question in this category that's stubbornly popular, despite its frivolity: "If you could be any animal, which one would you be, and why?"
Even executive-level candidates sometimes hear this question during interviews, and if they want the position, they answer without missing a beat. If you're faced with this challenge, here's what your answer may say about you.
1. Choose an animal that represents power, aggression, and competition. ("I would be a tiger/lion/attack dog/wolverine! Because I'm ferocious!")
This answer shows that you don't care for nuance, and that you see aggression as the only path to professional success. On the upside, you adhere to a clear-cut, transparent definition of "success"—destroying whatever you identify as the competition.
On the other hand, you may choose questionable role models, and your lack of complexity may be a problem. An attack dog is only as useful and reliable to its handler—and your handler/manager can't afford to stand over you all day long.
2. Choose an animal known for its obedience and work ethic. ("I would be a Clydesdale/ox/ant/bee. I'm a team player!")
This answer shows that you know how to follow instructions and support your team. On the upside, you're a social creature, you put work first, and you place the interests of the group ahead of your own interests. On the downside, your straightforward response (like the one above) shows little sign of complexity, whimsy, humor, or wit.
3. Use irony and wordplay. (I'd be a zebra, because I always show my stripes! I'd be a cheetah because I know how to steal the spotlight! I'd be a cobra because my sales techniques are hypnotizing!)
This approach shows that you know how to take the bait, and you know what your interviewers are really asking for—a chance to play and banter with you. You can think on your feet, you have a quick wit, and you know that the meaning underlying a question is more important than the question itself.
On the other hand, this may be interpreted as an avoidance tactic. So when the laugher settles down, get serious and tell your interviews something meaningful about yourself.
4. Show that your smart! ("I'd be an African painted dog— the Lycaon pictus—because they travel in cooperative packs of ten or more, and they consume a varied diet of small prey, carrion, and the berries.")
This answer shows that you're curious and you have a knack for research and retention. But on the downside, your eagerness to share your list of facts may impede the shared goals of the interview. Your interviewers may think: "It's great that you know these things…but what do all these facts tell us about your readiness for this job?" Don't miss an important opportunity.
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