IT Employment

You want me to do WHAT?

What are some of the weirdest requirements you've ever seen in a job description?

In pursuit of a summer job, my son recently applied at a moving company. He met all the credentials in the job description -- he can lift over 100 pounds, has a driver's license, clean driving history and can pass a drug test. However, at the end of the interview he was told that if he was called back for a second interview, he would be required to run four laps (one mile) around the office building where the headquarters was located. (The current temperature is hovering about the mid 90s.)

At first, I thought they were pulling his leg. I understand the need to prove one's stamina on a job like that, but running? I could understand if it was a looting company where an ability to flee on foot while carrying a TV or sofa would be beneficial.

Now, I don't think this breaks any EEOC rules. I don't think there's anything specific in the law books about it being illegal to purposefully humiliate a job candidate by making strange qualification standards, but perhaps there should be.

This got me wondering about what other kinds of weird qualifications companies are putting out there. Do you guys have any kind of bizarre story to share?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

123 comments
TehTDK
TehTDK

My present job is pretty straight forward in its onw, but I actually willingly "signed on" for more then I am officially hired for. Basically because its more effecient that way and because then all of the management and logistics doesn't fall down on one person alone, but that person also having me on the side to help out. Not something my job designation mentions anything about. But just my way of being as a person and also because I found it otherwise unreasonable for that sole worker to have all that to deal with. And don't worry, they are not getting all the fame as the boss's knows I am helping her out ;).

Ron_007
Ron_007

I worked in the receiving department of a LARGE company. After a trailer has sat in the 90+ degree sun for a few hours, inside the temp is 140-150! You break into a sweat just walking from the front to the back, let alone carrying boxes. We were lucky because most of the time they they could open the doors ahead of time to air them out a little. For moving trucks that pull up to a residence and need to be unloaded immediately, there would be no time for the luxury of "airing out". They would make a sauna look tame. Unreasonable requirements: how about 3 years experience in a product version that had been released less than a year before?

caridley
caridley

I was asked for an interview for an IT Manager job at an ag/industrial equipment distributor. Seemed like an up and up place. The interview was with the President and CFO of the company. All went fine, in fact, by the end of the interview, we had already come to negotiate and agree on pay and benefits. I was a happy camper. After I shook hands with the president, and he started to leave, he turned and looked at me and said, "You arent like an alcoholic or psycho or something, are you?". Not sure if he was joking or not, I simply replied "Too late now, you already hired me.". He gave me a nervous laugh. Of course, I was neither, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time at this company, but, really, to ask someone if they are a psycho during an interview would be odd enough, but AFTER you hire someone, then ask them if they are a psycho? Funny people.

deirdre.donovan
deirdre.donovan

Remember to take into account where a person is at in their knowledge acquisition process. Someone who's never done a particular task/worked in a particular department or organization before is much more dependent and needs to do tasks as assigned, just for learning, much more than a person with years of experience, who can operate independently with confidence. ========Original Message======== "Someone who does anything without question is an unthinking drone. These are the people that are capable of committing any atrocity... leaders will ask why they are doing something, or how it relates to the job. A worker won't go beyond that." This is a pretty harsh interpretation levelled against people who are already suffering enough. Those unthinking drones you're so disdainful of are just doing what they're told in order to hang on to their jobs in a precarious economy. Plenty of companies and managers not only won't thank a worker for questioning something, they will be annoyed by it. At best, the "leader" doing the questioning could be construed as wasting time, at worst s/he could be seen as a threat by those above. Either way, woosh out the door they go. Don't blame the worker for this.

jana_boss
jana_boss

One of the managers I worked for used to ask what the applicant would do if a ball came flying over their cubicle. Only those that said they would throw it back got hired.

bbakaj
bbakaj

I was at the end of an intense one and a half hour job interview for a high profile IT Project Management position, where about six different people threw questions at me. Then one of the interviewers says "One last thing--tell us a joke".

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

The person running the interview just wants to make sure that you son can outrun the Traddie that he [b]Peeves Off.[/b] After all it's important that the kids can run faster then the guy with the long screwdriver who wants to use it to nail the Young Upstart to a wall with his feet 6 inches off the ground. Things like that where Mandatory when I had apprentices who knew so much more than me and I had to constantly clean up after them. Not to mention [i]explain[/i] why several Million $ of hardware had just been destroyed. Col

etherfix
etherfix

A recruitment consultant once handed me a job advertisement for an "I.T. Technician" where one of the requirements was to "cook lunch for other staff members" while running anti virus scans. Maybe they had the hepatitis A virus in the kitchen.

webNerd
webNerd

just goes to show you that everyone is different in their approach to interviewing, job duties, and attitudes. Even job resumes. Back in college, we had a panel of HR reps and managers, give us their process for looking at resumes. One woman said she throws away the cover letter and focuses on education. The next guy required a perfect cover letter and had less concern for the resume. Others focused on experience or the way you presented all your information. If I don't get a job because I used a font someone didn't like, then I'm the one who wins - that company is already losing with someone picking talent in that way. It left me realizing all I can do is make every part of my resume as good as I can and hopefully their 'specialty' will be covered. Same thing at work; do the best you can and you shouldn't be faulted for anything. At my job, I've learned additional skills and occasionally perform duties outside my specific job description. When the economy dipped and they had to lay people off, I stayed working. I was valuable because of my versatility and willingness to help out where needed. Additionally, with an expanded skill-set, I have more opportunities when looking for work. :-) Personally, if I were a manager, I would probably fire anyone who told me they wouldn't do something because it wasn't their job. That's not teamwork. Most of us aren't so valuable that we can't be replaced in a short amount of time. Odd requests might be odd, but unless they're inappropriate (sexist, racist , or discriminatory in any way) then you should have the humility and flexibility to do what's needed. Games shouldn't be used to filter job hopefuls. I want someone to deal with me honestly, openly, and with integrity. I don't want to work for someone who's unstable and doesn't let you know where you stand, or what's expected of you. Just my 2 cents worth. :-P

Robiisan
Robiisan

When I was an electronics technician in the Navy, I was assigned to the Master-At-Arms office once when my squadron deployed to an aircraft carrier for pilots' carrier qualifications. The MAA first class must have been certifiably crazy! At one point he had me climb over a guard chain on a balcony to a workspace and "tightrope" walk some 60 feet along a narrow I-beam to a couple of construction access holes used by the druggies aboard. The "interesting" part was that, if I missed my step, it was about 90 feet to the surface - of the ocean - with the ship underway at cruising speed. Crazier still was the fact that the bozos smoking weed had carried chairs and matresses out along that same I-beam (only way to get there) to ease their bones on the "ribs" of the ship inside the construction accesses. Now, I have to admit a couple of things: A) The MAA 1st class went over the guard chain ahead of me - it wasn't a "you do it 'cause you're younger and more expendable" kind of situation - he lead by example. B) I was some (?)-ty years younger than I am now, still full of "viss and pinegar," (still convinced at the time of my personal immortality), and had the attitude that if he could do it, I sure as heck could, too. Still, a "high wire act" without a net was a little outside the norm.

hortencia.fletes-avitia
hortencia.fletes-avitia

In college, I applied for a clerical position. The interview was held in an office in the back of the building. They did an informal test of all of the applicants of who could make it out of the building. I managed to remember all of the twists and turns and got out. No one else was able to do it from what I heard later. I got the job. :)

randywood
randywood

Once worked for IBM-owned data center. We got the first IBM 360/20 to be shipped to the US. Six months later, I tried for another job, but they wanted 12 month's experience. When I explained why that was impossible, the HR man shrugged, and said that was their requirement, and I didn't qualify! Wonder if they ever filled that position!

Professor8
Professor8

I was once a member, well, president of a local chapter, of a non-profit association. They selected a person from among the membership each year in each state, to lobby the legislature and report back relevant proposals being floated in the legislature. A friend of mine had done it earlier and encouraged me to apply. The selection committee arrayed themselves on one side of a table and put a bunch of trinkets on it, to see which one the interviewees would unconsciously fiddle with. Within the first couple minutes, they realized that everyone in the selection committee was fiddling with some one or two of them, but I was not because I didn't want to mess with "other people's things".

craig.s.frazier
craig.s.frazier

I was asked to fix the electrical circuit AT an electric company, while I had applied for the position of IT Administrator. :S

rstanley
rstanley

I was once asked to fill the the tooth of an employer with a temporary filling! ;^) Yes, I did it, and he was pleased with my work! ;^) You do what you have to do when working for someone else. On the other hand, at a different company, on several occasions I had to stay late after work to oversee the maintenance of some important equipment, and the owner of the company always took me out for a Prime Rib dinner afterward! My supervisor at this same company, told me to my face that he would have fired me years ago, if he had the authority! I work for myself now and have for many years! ;^)

sboverie
sboverie

Rickover fits the odd requests in interviews. He designed the nuclear reactor for submarines and was the toughest interviewer for officers wanting to be a submarine captain. One story was that he would take the interviewee out to eat and watch to see if they automatically salted their food or if they tasted it first; he did not want people to act without thinking. I read a book by a retired sub captain who talked about the frustrations of getting Rickover's approval; even understanding why was still irritating for him. To apply this to today's interviews is to accept that getting called in for an interview out of thousands of resumes is just the first step. What can you say or do in an interview to stand out in that crowd will either produce the lead handshake or a job offer. The best job I had was the one I did not really want; I went to the interview more for practise than to get the job. The employer would not take no for answer, I ended working part time for a few weeks and then became full time. The benefit for me was that I was in a place where my skills were appreciated and I was given many positive learning situations. Unfortunately, the employer sold the business and it became an uncomfortable situation due to conflicting expectations. At the end of it all, my advice is to know what you want to do but not focus at finding that dream job; what looks like a crappy job can be a better path to that dream job.

dregeh
dregeh

Interview questions can get you answers to skills, but this test measured a candidate's mentality toward their job. When you find a problem... a) Will you IGNORE it and push it out of the way? b) Will you run to someone else to have them help you solve it? c) Will you do a quick assessment of the problem and its urgency, and then bring it to the appropriate people at the appropriate time? d) Will you hide the problem? Depending on the workplace, each of these could be appropriate. You wont get your real answer by asking the question in the interview.

VBJackson
VBJackson

How about: Must be able to stay inside a small area with no windows for up to 13 weeks at a time. Facilities will limit showers to 5 minutes, as bathroom is shared with 20 others. Must be able to work a 6 hour rotating shift, 6 on-12 off. Welcome to the US Navy Submarine service! Belive it or not, I sometimes look back to that as "the good old days"!

chuckcfix
chuckcfix

I've been in the IT world for a bit over 25 years so far. Without fail, the folks I look to hire and enjoy working with the most are the ones who show up daily with a "Can Do" frame of mind. That attitude and a willingness to learn will win every time. I head a team of infrastructure folks working in state government. We are at half capacity, personnel wise, and yet we meet almost every deadline and our down time is less than .1%. We are, admittedly behind the curve in some technologies due to constraints of of the budget process but we are always willing to go the extra mile to make sure we get the job done. Some of the little things, such as the brick trick and the shutting of doors, I will remember for future interviews. Those do show imagination and thoughtfulness.

bluwtrsal
bluwtrsal

Ad read: "Word processing, desktop publishing, layout for print shop. Must be able to use Photoshop, Illustrator and Quark. Must be able to pass proofreading and typing accuracy tests." Interview: Can you make cookies? Do you make oatmeal raisin cookies? Can you put chocolate chips in them?

mig25jet
mig25jet

My guess is, your kid is overweight (sorry, weight-challenged). The interviewer probably can't see your kid being able to do it, so knows this will weed him out. You question the running. It is a quick way to test stamina, I guess. A more real-world situation would be to actually move a bunch of heavy items from one point to another.

toolman52
toolman52

I work for a rather large company and my job description basically says I'll do whatever they need me to do. However I find that this can be used to an advantage and have built a reputation on it. If you need something done come and see me. While others are so busy listing reasons why they cannot do something. I have already taken care of it.

gary.fagan
gary.fagan

" .....and other duties as assigned." That one always makes me a little nervous.

delphi9_1971
delphi9_1971

LOL, Ok so my subject is a bit of a joke, but I was asked on an interview one time if I thought I was lucky. I thought it an odd question and one that I hadn't ever been asked before. So I told the interviewer that I had my health and a nice place to live and a wonderful family, so yes, I thought I was lucky. I then asked why she had asked and she told me it as a way that they gauge the attitude of the candidates. Since my answer showed that I had a positive attitude, it was one factor (among others) as to why I got the job. Still working there today.

vic1365
vic1365

I was a Russian language major in college and when applying for work at a defense agency in Washington, the interviewer put a series of what looked like common Russian words in front of us to translate. One of the words was Russian for "Sunday". I was the only applicant that translated it in its less common interpretation of "Resurrection". The interviewer said I was one of only 2 interviewees in the last several years to take a chance on that translation. Sometimes strange (or even common) interview requests are just a mask for finding employees that think differently.

bimjimmy
bimjimmy

If you are looking for a job and come across demands that just don't seem right or are not in your comfort zone, walk (or run) away. NOW. If an employer is willing to play games or be that idiotic with you while you are in the interview stage, how ridiculous are they going to be after they hire you? The people doing the interviews are inevitably your future managers and Human Resources people, who you will have to live with for your entire employment. Are you really ready to deal with that crap for the next decade or two? Take your relationship with the company at every stage and stretch/relate it to how it might be during your (many?) years working there - would you be happy with the same relationship you met at the interview? If not, drop it, and let someone else more desperate have the misery (however attractive it may seem). On the other hand, be on the lookout for the subtle observations of an interviewer - did you pick up the newspaper that appeared like it had fallen on the floor? Did you "police" the small discarded can next to the trash can? While you were waiting, did you straighten that frame on the wall (in sight of the receptionist or not) that was clearly askew? The interviewer/s may be observing you for the much smaller things to see if you are a complete slob or perhaps an idiot with several Degrees. They want the person they hire for that job to fit in, too. Use your brain - they don't specifically need YOU (there are probably 20 other interviews scheduled for that job today), but if that job is a plum then you DO definitely need THEM.

lorraine.wales
lorraine.wales

My first job was with a small web development company who were in a shared office building (8 of us, which included the Managing Director), after a couple of years we moved to a different area and into a small building on our own. Once we moved into it, he let us know he wasn't hiring any cleaners and we all had to take turns cleaning the entire space (kitchen, bathrooms, 2 offices, a server room, hallways, meeting room and a large reception area). If it was your turn that week, you had to take pretty much all of friday afternoon to do it. Of course him and the office manager didn't have to take a turn, just us developers. Luckily for us he didn't take it even further - I actually overheard him discussing with her whether he could get us to clean the windows too.

JustAITGuy
JustAITGuy

I saw a posting for a job wanting 15+years of c# experience. I guess there was a hidden requirement of mastery of time travel. But I agree with most of the posters it is the crazy mix of job requirements, 20+ years of mixed IT experience and the ability to fix toilets, stoke furnaces in steam engines. decrypting carrier pidgeon messages.

jerryr_z
jerryr_z

I was once asked the question for a customer service job: "You've arranged to go away for the weekend, and on Friday afternnon a customer somewhere abroad needs urgent support. How would you react?". I realised that if I said "No problem" the interviewer would thing that this guy is lieing, if I said "No chance" that would be the end of the interview. The answer was that I'd curse and swear, but I'd do the job. I got the job, and enjoyed it for many years, the situation never actually occurred

GreenPirogue
GreenPirogue

Toni, I have moved every three years or so for the last 20 years, and so I have seen lots of moving company employees. Sure you need to lift 100 pounds. But most movers, when the sun is going down, will run boxes to the truck. You need to be in shape for that. I was hired once "because I was the only candidate that closed a door on the way out of a room." It was in an animal care facility, and closing doors was important to the manager. Unbelievable.

rucb_alum
rucb_alum

Odd job requirements are also a way to restrict the applicant pool to certain 'types' - immigrants/non-immigrants, the over 50's, etc. Particularly in our industry, it is used to bolster a claim for a lower paid H1-B individual. I can't recall any personal history of these types of hoops to jump through but I would certainly push back a little bit to hear the justification for the requirement. If it didn't pass the sniff test, it is probably a place I wouldn't want to work.

jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527
jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527

I interviewed for another position at the company I am currently at several years ago. This was a move to another team within the same department, and the interviewers were guys I (thought) I knew well enough, so I was not too nervous. Toward the end of the interview, I was asked "if you are accepted for this position, please tell us about your metaphysical needs" I would like to think the interviewer misspoke, and was trying to ask if I needed any physical accomodations, etc. But the whole thing took me so off guard that I couldn't help but respond "I'm good, I got my chakras all aligned last week, and my crystal ball is at full power!" Needless to say the position went to someone else.. :)

rmerchberger
rmerchberger

I'm not a "stodgy" individual by any means[1], but if my return volley landed in my co-workers coffee/tea/lunch/etc. I would feel bad about my actions. Worse, if that caused the drink to spill, possibly on my co-workers clothing or personal devices possibly ruining those items, I would feel obligated to replace what I destroyed. I would not want to put myself in that position. To lose a job prospect over a little perceived jocularity seems a bit narrowminded to me. [1] I once remapped a co-worker's keyboard (and driver) to the Dvorak layout -- I guess it took him quite a while to figure out why his password kept getting denied. Gotta love those IBM Model 'M' keyboards!

Robiisan
Robiisan

For your service, bubblehead! I was a tweet (Aviation Electronics Tech, for the non-military readers). I, too, sometimes look back on those days with nostalgic fondness.

gechurch
gechurch

I couldn't agree more with the need for a can-do attitude in IT. IT is far too broad a field, and far too many things can go wrong. I must run into 20 problems a day that I haven't seen before. A combination of similar issues in the past and good Googling skills (and a determination to get the job done, and done right) gets me home every time. I am absolutely amazed at the number of people in IT who will sit there and do nothing because "they came across a hurdle and didn't know what to do". Do these people seriously think others are just lucky enough to have seen every single problem they've come across before, and magically know what to do? C'mon! Oh - stay away from the brick and doors. Closing doors may show that you are diligent or thoughtful but has little to do with dealing with animals well. And what you do with a brick holding a door shut has nothing to do with creativity. They are both rubbish ideas. Don't get distracted by games. There's no magic quirky test that's unrelated to the job at hand that will tell you whether an interviewee shows some particular trait or not. If you want to know if someone is good with animals, put them with animals. If you want to know if someone is creative, give them a mock problem and ask them to come up with a creative response. And in IT... well, I don't know how to determine whether a candidate has good determination and have a can-do attitude. Past performance is the best indicator I have been able to come up with, but often that's hard to guage.

gechurch
gechurch

Good attitude - I see things the same way. It's the complete opposite of an earlier poster who was indignant when asked to sweep a room when he was on a summer internship. Seriously - I don't ever want to hire that guy.

MissDorkness
MissDorkness

Ditto. I was a little worried in an interview where the hiring manager commented about all of the varied tasks I'd listed on my resumes for each job. I thought it might make me appear unfocused or flighty to someone who hadn't actually worked with me. But, I suppose he took it well, and realized that I was willing to take initiative and get things done, even when they did not fall under my job description. ;-) That's been a pretty vital trait for the position he hired me for 11 years ago. ~ Jill of all Trades

efernandez
efernandez

I wouldn't have a problem with this question as much as the original brick in the door game. This seems to be a real question with real answers. Why don't they just give you a Myers-Briggs test and be done with it. It's much easier and probably more reliable.

gechurch
gechurch

I like that interview question (and, incidentally, your response). I commented (not sure if it showed up, actually) above on someone's technique of trying to interview on rainy days and throwing out a weird falsehood to test whether an interviewee had a positive attitude. My comment was basically "don't play games; if you want to know that then ask a question that tests it". This is the perfect question; no tricks or games, a very simple question, yet it is likely to give a true indication of whether the candidate is indeed positive or not.

TehTDK
TehTDK

parden me for being "stupid" but how can a word mean sunday and be "successfully" translated in resurrection. Unless the russian language has some words that can mean different things dependiong on context :P

Trs16b
Trs16b

A company is ONLY as good as the employees! This any company will learn, or cease to exist. I ran a company where I have 25 employees and the president had 10. His stated attitude was "they are lucky to work here". 3 months after I left all of my former employees had also left. 8 months later the company folded. We had different standards. I treated employees well, and worked with them and clients for a mutually beneficial outcome (netting a great profit). The president acted like a dictator and had enormous turnover and much lower profitability. His "I don't need you, you need me" attitude destroyed his company. I've seen it happen more than once. There is a reason that the companies rate "best to work for" are continually successful. Right now I see a bunch of companies gloating over the unemployment numbers and treating employees poorly. I also read a poll yesterday that 37% of IT workers are looking to jump ship. Employers beware.

rmerchberger
rmerchberger

Maybe the company was planning on implementing RFC 1149? ;-) "Merch"

wayoutinva
wayoutinva

Once saw an opening where they wanted x number of years with a software package that would only have been possilbe if you were the developer of the software...gotta love the HR dept sometimes...like my instructor once told me...they want GOD for a song....

rmerchberger
rmerchberger

When I interviewed at EDS (back when it was still part of GM) the interviewer asked me if I had a problem with dirt foot. I replied "No Sir, I take a shower every morning." He smiled then asked me if I knew what dirt foot was. I replied that "judging by his response it had nothing to do with sand between ones toes, so I did not." He told me it was an acronym: 'DIRTFT.' I was unaware of that acronym (at the time) and asked him if he could tell me what it stood for. He replied "Do It Right The First Time. What are your thoughts on that?" My response: "Everybody makes mistakes, and I'm no exception. However, I try not to make mistakes, and I always try to learn from them when I do." The interviewer then asked me why I'd never heard of DIRTFT. I replied: "Where I come from, it's called 'Don't Screw Up.' " I got the job.

efernandez
efernandez

I would have hired you just for your fast thinking and witty answer. You're the kind of person I want to work with!

mckinnej
mckinnej

Odds are the interviewer didn't have a clue what metaphysical even meant.

prush
prush

I think I would have failed that one too.. Or maybe I would have said, "Well, unless the company plans on participating in the http://www.theorionproject.org/ , I'm good."

JamesRL
JamesRL

I'm pretty pragmatic about things I've been asked to do. To get a network up and running, I once went into a data centre after midnite on a Saturday night, and had to figure out what went wrong. We knew it was a telco circuit but not which one. The telco tech was busy, so I did the grunt work, pulling up floor tiles and tracing cables. I found the right CSU/DSU, and traced it back to the rigth circuit. The tech walked me through pulling the card and reinserting it. I've had no formal network training, but up till that point could make a 10baseT cable and do the basics. I've also made after hours deliveries of computer parts, done server hw upgrades. I've helped people pot plants. I've moved furniture. All of these things I've done as a manager of over 10 years now. As long as I feel comptent to do it, I will, if I'm the person on the spot at that moment, it makes sense for me to do it rather than wait and assign someone else.

gechurch
gechurch

It's funny - as I've gotten older I look at job interviews very differently. In my youth it was entirely one-way. I wanted a job - any job - and the employer had all the power. Slowly that turns around until you get to the point that you are (hopefully silently) interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you. An employers response to a situation like yours is a great insight to what they will be like to work for. Your boss put your resume together with your interview and not only recognised that you were a do'er, but he valued that. An employer that hadn't noticed that is probably not someone you want to work for. It's nice when you have situations like this during the interview. Much better to find out your boss is a douche before you accept the job!

MissDorkness
MissDorkness

You make a good point, gechurch. At that time, I was desperate for a job, and probably would have accepted any offer. I really got lucky that my boss is good and the working environment is a good fit for me. As I said, I've been here 11 years. That does not mean I have not applied for other jobs and gone on interviews, but, now, I am just as much interested in interviewing the company for fit as I am interested in impressing the interviewer. I know what my employer and boss are like here, their values and attitudes are complementary to mine. (Also, I work in one secured office, and have swept the floor myself on a few occasions. It was my own solution after deciding that scheduling a visit from housekeeping, letting them in and locking up after them took more of my 'valuable' time than it saved. With that pragmatic perspective, I would not mind being 'expected' to do so.)