Can You Handle These Creative Interview Questions?

Scott Karambis is the Director of Planning for NYC-based ad agency Amalgamated.

He apparently likes to ask (what we’d consider) killer interview questions. He’s interviewing for planning/strategy candidates in advertising, but these questions could really be asked of any candidate, anywhere.

Maybe we’re just not that quick on our feet (a genuine possibility), but the thought of facing one of these in an interview situation is rather scary.

One question he asks: “Tell me something—really anything from your work or life experience—you know about the world that I don’t and why it’s interesting or important?”

What I’m looking for in the answer: Diversity of interests and ability to draw insights from your own experiences: I already know what I think and frankly I’m bored with it. I don’t want someone who is going to try and guess what I’m thinking or simply reproduce the platitudes of the industry. I want fresh approaches to old problems, inspired by your unique experiences.

My most memorable answer: One young man told me with a totally straight face that he had an eye for hot guys. When I asked him how that was going to help the agency, he described in great detail “how gay” various ads were based on a number of insightful observations about cultural codes and signifiers. He demonstrated—provocatively—how his unique insights into consumer culture drawn from his very personal perspective could potentially inspire and shape impactful advertising.

Another one: “You’ve been working in the profession for X number of years. What’s broken with it and how would you fix it?”

What I’m looking for in the answer: Proactive engagement with problems and restless desire find a better way. No company or process is perfect. And in my experience, you don’t have to work very long at any company before you start to notice some, well, issues. I want people who are willing to take on challenges to make them better rather than simply complain about it or…adapt to the inefficiency.

My most memorable answer: A brilliant woman who had worked in kids’ marketing noticed that must of us in the agency—in our 20’s, 30’s and 40’s—didn’t really know what kids thought was funny when they were 6 or 7 or 8. But not because we were dumb. On the contrary. After watching kids in focus groups respond to ads, she’d begun to suspect that much of our work was too clever or ironic for kids to understand. They weren’t getting it or only getting a part of it. She was onto something and after she came on board, she championed and led a major proprietary study on kids humor.

How do you feel about questions like this? Could you come up with something as memorable/good as these two answers without having a lot of time to think about it?