why do interviewers ask about your favorite books or movies?

A reader writes:

I have a question about an interview that I’m pretty sure I bombed recently. Things were going fairly well until my interviewer asked me for my favorite book and favorite movie. I completely blanked and took way too long to answer, and I’m not even sure what I said for them (I think I said Little Women for the book). I spent so much time preparing to talk about my background and experiences and the job that I wasn’t prepared for more off-the-wall questions (my fault, I know).

My question is, what are interviewers looking for with these questions? I mean, obviously I guess they want someone who is intelligent, can think on their feet (which I did not do), and has varied interests, but how do you convey that with these types of answers? I can come up with an answer to the book question now (I’m planning to say I’ve been into Neil deGrasse Tyson’s books recently, because I have), but I’m stumped as far as movies in case I get asked this again. My movie tastes aren’t exactly sophisticated (Mean Girls? Boondock Saints? Fight Club? When Harry Met Sally?). Is this a question you find helpful or not?

I don’t ask these sorts of questions unless I’m really having trouble getting a sense of someone and am looking for ways to draw them out, and then I might – but some interviewers use them routinely. They’re mostly just looking to get a better sense of who you are — to flesh you out as a person who they’d be working with day in and day out rather than just as a resume and work history. Sometimes hearing that the guy who seemed shy and a little stiff actually loves Wes Anderson movies and Sarah Vowell can show a different side of him and make him more relatable.

Obviously, there still are bad answers. If you said Twilight, I’d wonder about your judgment for saying it in an interview — although it wouldn’t stop me from hiring you if you were otherwise great (but 50 Shades of Grey might). But generally answers to these questions fall in the “mildly interesting but not terribly important” category.

Say it with confidence and genuine enthusiasm, and you’re probably fine. People who are passionate about things are interesting.

That said, are there interviewers who have rigid ideas about what answers are okay here and which aren’t, and who will read all sorts of things into your response? Sure. But that’s true of most interview questions.

Personally, for movies I’d probably go with, “I’m not sure about a favorite, but I recently saw ____ and loved it. Have you seen it?” (Fill in the blank with something of reasonable quality.) And for books, I’d go with “I’m currently reading ___ and I just finished ___” or “I tend to read a lot of (fill in genre here) and recently finished ____.” Of course, some genres are safer than others — some people have weird biases against sci-fi and fantasy, and obviously don’t say romance. But historic fiction, contemporary fiction, nonfiction, biographies, 18th century British novels are all fine.

Overall, though, I just wouldn’t read too much into the question or stress too much over your answer.

{ 622 comments… read them below }

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh. I mean, if all their questions were like this and not related to the work, sure. But there’s nothing wrong with trying to get to know people a little better, and this is pretty innocuous — it’s not about their plans for kids or their religious beliefs or something.

        1. Rose*

          An important question when hiring someone is usually “would I want to spend a lot of time working with this person?” Trying to get to know someone is perfectly relevant because it helps you answer that question.

      1. https://www.askamanager.org/2014/06/why-do-interviewers-ask-about-your-favorite-books-or-movies.html#comment-565372*

        I don’t the question is weird… however I do think my recent experience with a recruiter for Emply Indy was… Recruiter sends me an email stating she would like to set up an interview this week. She asks me to reply with days/times and “Tell me what was the best movie you have seen this year”.
        I send back the requested information and “The Theory of Everything” – Which was actually one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. – I never hear from her again!

    2. Canadamber*

      Me, too!!!

      Oh, what if someone asked what kind of music you like? I would have absolutely NO idea what to answer, lol. :o I would be like, “Um… country?” (Actually listening to Chainsaw by The Band Perry right now!) I listen to a lot of house music, and my favourite song right now is EDX’s Tempest, but I feel like that’s an inappropriate answer for an interview.

      1. TL*

        On the opposite end of the spectrum, I would end up saying something completely pretentious like, “I like socially relevant indie singer-song writers with a country vibe that really critique current social issues.”

      2. Steve*

        Kinda like saying your favorite song is “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails? And then singing the chorus when they don’t know how the song goes …. God I hope I’m never asked that because I have just doomed myself.

        1. EE*

          Great, now I’m imagining myself chanting under my breath the last verse to “March of the Pigs” in an interview.

      3. Jennifer*

        Hah, I’d be like “everything except Christian music, death metal, and bad Spanish songs with accordion in them.”

        (This is not to diss on all Spanish songs, or all songs with accordion in them, but somehow the two together just come out rinky-dink bad.)

        1. Clever Name*

          Hey man, don’t knock Tejano music! (I used to live in Texas, and so I heard this all the time, mostly blasting from open car windows. I had no idea what it was called, and so I called it “Mexican Polka”. )

          1. Stephanie*

            Bwhahaha, accurate description. I was playing Reggaeton in my car once and my friend is like “Oh no, seriously? You like this?” I was like “Hey, I lived in Texas and Arizona. It grows on you.”

            Similar thing happened to me with go-go in DC. When I first moved there, I was wondering the eff this cymbal-heavy funk was. And then it grew on me. A lot.

        2. Artemesia*

          Never criticize a genre or a name or anything in a job interview; as night follows day, it will be that person’s favorite or their kid’s name. My own last name could not possibly be a first name; when I said that (yes it was in context for the dinner table conversation — I didn’t initiate the topic) it turned out the interviewer had in fact given their son this absolutely unbelievably awful first name. I mean some last names make good first names; mine absolutely not — but there you are.

          Never criticize anything in an interview — a town and they will have been born there.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            If for nothing else than to watch you react.

            Decades ago, some male coworkers were teasing me about my car. “Looks like something my grandmother would drive.”
            So, opening, right? I said “She did. She left it to me when she died.”
            I felt awful about lying but I didn’t have to listen to any grief about my cheap-yet-paid-for car.

      4. Anna (and lay off the bananas!)*

        I know, right? I’d be the first to admit my taste in music is unusual — with a heavy leaning towards Celtic folk (the Chieftains is a decent example and is reasonably well-known; the Battlefield Band features quite a lot in my listening). But that doesn’t mean I think it’s a good idea, if asked about what I listen to, t0 answer with “bagpipes.”

        1. NW Cat Lady*

          LOL! My favorite bands are Great Big Sea and Enter the Haggis. Most people have never heard of either. Now I’m going to have to go hunt down the Battlefield Band.

          1. Chinook*

            Eek! I love Great Big Sea and you are in interesting company because so does Russell Crowe (who is the reason Alan Doyle plays Alan of Dale in Robin Hood). I also reccomend Alan Doyle’s solo album which has a similar feel.

          2. Anna (and lay off the bananas!)*

            I’ve heard of them! Really, the only reason I don’t own any of their albums is lack of, er, available funding.

    3. Jill-be-Nimble*

      Maybe if they’d asked, “If you could be any character in a book or movie, who would it be and why?” it would be more ridiculous, but I love reading and am always curious about what people are into. I might ask this question if I wanted to get to know someone. (And it’s easy to do this without asking about family, religion, etc!)

        1. Jill-be-Nimble*

          Hah! Diving/rolling around in all of those coins just seemed like a recipe for a head injury. I’d take a vat of hundred dollar bills instead!

      1. Chinook*

        ““If you could be any character in a book or movie, who would it be and why?”” Can I be Claire? I think I could handle the heartbreak and even being shot and almost dying a few times I could be with Jamie.

        1. NW Cat Lady*

          About 3/4 done with the newest one, and I don’t want it to end. Mostly because I don’t want to wait 5 more years for the next one!

          And I totally agree!

      2. Natalie Anne Lanoville*

        Similar to the adage, ‘Don’t ask a question that you don’t want the answer to,’ I think this question falls under the category of, ‘Don’t ask your interviewee any question the answer to which might prejudice you against them without actually telling you anything about their suitability for the position.’

      3. C Average*

        Jane Eyre. That’s a no-brainer for me. Smart, tough, possessed of fierce integrity, AND she got the guy. Every romance written since wishes it was this book!

  1. Canadamber*

    Just a question – what’s wrong with someone liking Twilight? I mean, sure, it’s not fantastic, but it’s still a fun read. Er, then again, “fun” is probably not a really good criteria for answering these sort of questions, is it?

    If I got asked this about my favourite book, I would have to say “To Kill A Mockingbird”. ^_^; Read it four years ago, in Grade 9, and absolutely LOVED it! I think that I reread it like three times before I had to give it back.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      It’s a “know your audience” kind of thing. It doesn’t show anything about you other than that you like YA fiction. And there are so many people who hate those books that there’s a good chance you will get an interviewer who would look at it as a negative. I wouldn’t give any light reading or “beach” books as an answer. I would also avoid mentioning anything by Ayn Rand – it will make you seem like an immature college kid. To Kill a Mockingbird is a perfect choice.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Also, Twilight is such a widely used example of horrible writing that saying it in an interview would come across as fairly un-self-aware.

        1. Sparrow*

          I agree. I enjoyed Twilight, but there’s definitely a lot of hate for the series. To me it seems like Harry Potter or the Hunger Games series are less polarizing.

          1. Mike*

            > To me it seems like Harry Potter or the Hunger Games series are less polarizing.

            Well there are people who don’t like adults reading young adult novels. Those people are idiots IMO but they do exist.

            1. GrumpyBoss*

              I wouldn’t call them idiots, but someone should be aware of what type of generalizations that they may be associated with by giving a YA answer. For instance, I am sure we all know someone who picks up one book every 5 years, and it usually something that is a pop culture hit in the YA market. If I asked what you like to read and your answer was “Harry Potter”, I wouldn’t immediately assume you were immature. But I would wonder if that was your favorite out of lots of things you read, or if that was your favorite because it was the only book you’ve read since the Bush administration.

              1. LBK*

                Harry Potter is an interesting case because it’s actually very well-written and towards the end gets really dark – I mean, there’s basically a world war, martial law, McCarthyism…I wouldn’t even put it on the same level as Hunger Games, which is conceptually pretty dark but somehow still less serious (and also not well written, IMO).

                1. Mints*

                  Agreed. I LOVE the Harry Potter series, but if someone else says their favorite series is Harry Potter, it’s kind of a non answer. Especially people my age (I’m 23), it doesn’t even imply YA as a genre, since we grew up with it. It’s like “what music do you like?” “The Beatles.” I mean, cool? It doesn’t say anything about your actual taste unless your answer is kind of obsessive (my friend with the deathly hallows tattoo comes to mind)
                  Better answers, both socially and in an interview I think, are like what Alison said: A genre or broad category, with a couple examples.

                2. Bonnie Doon*

                  Agree with Mints – loving Harry Potter for me (at 25) is like my mum lovingly talking about Enid Blyton’s the Magic Faraway Tree – we grew up with it.

                  As Mints says, it’s a Beatles answer as well.

              2. gR*

                I’m self conscious about this, but in the other direction. I really don’t do movies, but my favorite books are a fiction book by a soviet era Russian author (The Master and Margarita) and a philosophy type book (Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. I fear that a response like that makes me come off almost a poorly as a Twilight type response, but for the opposite reason

                1. Natalie Anne Lanoville*

                  Hahaha that’s super-funny, because M&M is my *second* favourite book (although the translation I like the best – Michael Glenny’s – is apparently not well-regarded). Are you able to read Bulgakov’s original? Or which translation do you favour?

            2. TotesMaGoats*

              Well then add me to the idiot pool. Both are well-written and have surprising depth on a variety of issues. Not my favorite books of all time and I probably wouldn’t list them in an interview but you can enjoy a wide variety of things and reading is about using your imagination. That’s ageless.

            3. Al Lo*

              Lately, when I’ve been asked what I’m reading right now, one of my answers has been along the lines of, “I’ve been re-reading Harry Potter and delving into some of the published analysis of the books — also, there are a couple of great podcasts out there that pick apart the books from an academic perspective, and it’s a great way to re-read a beloved series from a new angle.”

        2. Angora998*

          How about Pillars of the Earth? I love the paranormal romance and fantasy stuff but so not mentioning it during an interview.

          I just got the book “The Art of Persistance” Does one mention something along that line? Assume that self-help is a no-no … thought I really liked the Chicken Soup for the Soul series when it came out years ago.

        3. Clinical Social Worker*

          Also, the books pretty clearly romanticize abuse and stalking behaviors. So…red flags everywhere.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I totally enjoyed Twilight, actually, and I am not ashamed to say it! But I wouldn’t say it in an interview, because its quality is utter crap, which is a different thing from its enjoyability factor (for me).

      1. Geegee*

        I feel like you should totally be able to say you like Twilight at an interview. I mean I personally don’t but if I did, I’d totally say I enjoyed it. I probably wouldn’t say it with a serious face or anything but I might say something like it’s my guilty pleasure and laugh about it. I don’t shouldn’t have to tell them I read historic fiction or 18th century British novels just to sound more intelligent.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If someone asks about Twilight specifically, sure. But to use it as your favorite book? That sends a very different message.

          And no, of course you shouldn’t lie about liking a genre you don’t like. You’d give a genre you actually do like.

          1. Stephanie*

            Trying to find this. When I do, I’ll post the link. On the Media had a piece about “War and Peace” being the book that everyone says they like (or are trying to read), but haven’t actually finished.

            1. AGirlCalledFriday*

              Haha, I sure haven’t finished it! I feel like Gone With The Wind is a safe choice for book and movie though.

              1. Stephanie*

                Welllll, except Margaret Mitchell’s depiction of happy, simple-minded slaves has (rightfully) been called problematic. I had trouble getting past Butterfly McQueen and Mammy when I watched the movie.

                That being said, both are well-regarded enough that most people wouldn’t hold that against you.

          2. Geegee*

            Ok, I agree that it would be weird to say Twilight is your favorite book (unless you’re a 12 year old girl). I was thinking more in general . I might say I enjoyed it if I did.

          3. Corporate Attorney*

            It’s a bummer that romance, as a genre is totally stigmatized. There’s so much (truly, objectively) great romance writing out there (including a bunch by ex-lawyers).

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I can’t really criticize anyone who enjoys Twilight, even though it is utter crap, because I ate up the V.C. Andrews Dollanganger series and that is UTTER crap (still love ’em). But yeah, I wouldn’t tell an interviewer that.

        I’d probably say I enjoy the novels of Emile Zola, the French Naturalist author. It’s completely true and makes me sound intellectual. :)

      3. nyxalinth*

        I’m more likely to give a pass to someone who liked/loved Twilight (as long as they’re not a Twihard–obsessive fan who can’t accept constructive crit of the series) but I don’t think I could accept someone who says they love Laurel K Hamilton (unless it’s before the severe character degeneration that occurred). Think 50 Shades of Gray with paranormal fantasy. Paranormal fantasy–good. 50 shades…. yeah, you can see where that’s going.

        1. beerice1311*

          I actually do like Laurel K. Hamilton, but because its SOOO bad. It’s like… book junk food. You know its not good for you, but it’s fun, and it goes by fast to kill the time (and I guess some brain cells, but I feel that’s better than Hunny Boo Boo or whatever).

    3. Snapple*

      We are on the same wavelength because I had the same question. Also, I LOVED TKAM too!

    4. Allison*

      Liking Twilight is (arguably) fine, saying it’s your *favorite* movie will probably raise some eyebrows, as well as some questions about your maturity level.

    5. Artemesia*

      I would feel that the interviewee was 1. shallow or immature and 2. had poor judgment for bringing it up in an interview for a serious grown up job. I read mystery novels but those are not the ones I would bring up if asked in this context as I also read a variety of fiction and non-fiction books that are more ‘respectable.’ The thing about guilty pleasures is that they are ‘guilty pleasures.’

      1. OhNo*

        Actually, you can get away with citing mystery novels as your favorite (speaking from experience, as I had a good chat with one of my interviewers about books once). But, I am a big fan of Agatha Christie, who is obviously pretty well-known and respected as far as the mystery genre goes. So, you can claim any genre as your favorite, as long as you cite the “right” (most intellectual/least weird) books in that genre.

        The only genre that I think would be really weird to mention would be Christian fiction, because then it seems like you’ve taken an innocuous question and twisted it into a pulpit for you religious beliefs. Most likely a mistaken impression, but I feel like most interviewers would raise some eyebrows at that answer.

        1. Noelle*

          I LOVE Agatha Christie. I read almost all of her books in highschool (and unfortunately quite a few too close to bed time!). And I’ve been asked the book question before and said I like mysteries, and that seemed to be an acceptable answer.

  2. Lily in NYC*

    This reminds me of the Sarah Palin/Katie Couric interview when Sarah Palin said her favorite reading material was Runner’s World magazine.
    I actually love getting this question because I am an avid reader and could talk for hours about books. Not sure if it’s a plus or minus that my favorite movie is Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but my guess is that it’s a plus.

      1. Stephanie*

        I highly recommend “Game Change” by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, if you’re into political books. It was illuminating. Politics aside, based on that book, it was a little terrifying that she came so close to the vice-presidency (and by extension, the presidency).

        The movie is entertaining–Julianne Moore does an uncanny portrayal of Sarah Palin.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I have watched that movie 3 times – I just love it for some reason. I can’t believe I didn’t know it was a book – off to Amazon.

          1. Stephanie*

            The Sarah Palin stuff is only one section of the book, actually. Other sections focus on both primaries, Obama’s ascendancy, and the actual election.

            The sequel “Double Down” is really good, too! My main (and only, really) annoyance with both books was that the writing sounded like it was written with GRE flashcards on hand. I have a pretty good vocabulary, but even I had to read with a dictionary app open. It kind of took me out the story to have to look up several words per chapter.

              1. Stephanie*

                Haha. Not yet. I just had my phone and my Merriam-Webster app. I am still holding on to my physical books, but would probably get a Kindle if I traveled more.

    1. littlemoose*

      Monty Python and the Holy Grail is honestly my favorite movie. I don’t know if I would want to say that in an interview if asked, but I’m also not sure what my substitute would be.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I wish you worked with me so we could annoy our coworkers by quoting the movie all the time.

      2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Personally, I would never think ill of someone saying their favorite movie was a Monty Python anything (even though I don’t like it myself all that much). It’s intelligent humor, which tells me you’re PROBABLY 1) intelligent, and 2) have a sense of humor. Both are good. :)

      3. Artemesia*

        oh go all out and make it the Holy Grail AND the Life of Brian — you just can’t decide. Mine is actually Dr. Strangelove which I wouldn’t have trouble discussing for an academic job but would probably not use for that question if it were a job in the business sector.

      4. Blue Anne*

        Saying that would probably get you pretty far in tech. :)

        I think with a bunch of these things that are slightly “off-beat”, maybe some people have weird biases against them, but there are going to be some people who LOVE you for it. I would so much rather work with people who loved sci-fi/fantasy than people who had something against it.

    2. GrumpyBoss*

      I think I’d hire someone on the spot for giving a Monty Python answer.

      So many people are humorless these days. Of all the things I can teach you on the job, I cannot teach a sense of humor!

        1. GrumpyBoss*

          I ALWAYS like a good laugh or a joke. But my moniker has come from me being tired of some of the other crap of being a boss. Some people need constant validation. Some people get their feelings hurt over the most basic stuff. I am grumpy because at some point, I stopped being a manager and started becoming a social worker.

          If I had nothing but a staff of clowns who liked to good off and quote movies instead of work, I’d be far less grumpy :)

          1. Lily in NYC*

            Aw, I was just teasing you. My sister always complains about the same thing – she jokes that she wishes she were a scarier boss so people didn’t feel so comfortable coming to her to bitch about ridiculous crap.

    3. Elizabeth*

      I’m a Life of Brian girl myself (though I’m not sure I’d use that as an interview answer), but I like the cut of your jib!

  3. Kip*

    I WISH I got fun interview questions like this!

    Book: The Poisonwood Bible
    Movie: The Shawshank Redemption

    1. Adam*

      +1 Shawshank Redemption. My friends and I quote that movie to the point of irritation to those around us.

      1. Stephanie*

        “Some birds aren’t meant to be caged, their feathers are just too bright.”

        I always cry at that part. Hell, I got a little teary-eyed pulling it up on YouTube right now.

        1. Carpe Librarium*

          I thoroughly recommend the audiobook. The narrator sounds like he’s just sitting in a comfy chair with a good glass of bourbon, shooting the breeze.

    2. Kristen*

      Yeah, I really love answering these questions in an interview b/c I tend to be kind of shy and it helps me open up and relax if I can talk about something I enjoy, like books! And I like the chance to show some personality, since with the shyness comes a tendency to appear stiff or aloof (when I’m not!).

      1. OhNo*

        Me, too! I also really like it because I already know how to answer those questions – I’ve had quite a bit of practice answering them in less stressful social situations, so those are usually the only questions I don’t have to think about very hard!

    3. Teacher Recruiter*

      The Poisonwood Bible is my all-time favorite!! A lot of my friends have never heard of it, but I always recommend it.

      1. the gold digger*

        I always remember the line about monotony and how it is about married couples.

        Actually, I guess I don’t remember the line. But I remember something about the line.

    4. Cube Diva*

      Ahhh The Poisonwood Bible! Love me some Barbara Kingsolver.

      The Bean Trees (also by BK) changed my life when I read it. :)

      1. AdminAnon*

        High Tide in Tucson is one of my absolute favorites. It’s a collection of her essays. I actually met Barbara Kingsolver once (her brother is a dean at my alma mater) and she is a lovely person.

    5. Ruffingit*

      YES on Shawshank Redemption. All kinds of awesome going on in that movie including sticking it to the man who was screwing you over. Sad, funny, heartwarming. Everything happens in SR!

      1. IT Jen*

        I love the Shawshank Redemption! The book is great, too. It’s one of Stephen King’s best short stories!!!

    6. moosic*

      With all these people mentioning The Poisonwood Bible, I’m going to have to add it to my reading list. I finally figured out how to make reading lists in my library’s catalog, and it’s saving me from having a million little pieces of paper around my room.

  4. Adam*

    Does this really get asked a lot? I can appreciate wanting to relate more to the interviewee but I feel in most cases the answer is not going to be terribly relevant to whatever you’re actually there for. Alison’s way of going about answering the question seems pretty safe, if you absolutely have to.

    And while I agree you probably don’t want to announce that your favorite book is 50 Shades of Whatever, the potential judgment that stems seems pointless to me because we all read/watch/listen to at least one thing that’s the equivalent of entertainment junk food.

    Yeah, this means you too.

    1. Canadamber*


      I saw someone on my Facebook post a status about how much she loved One Direction, and some guy came in and essentially told her that she didn’t lead an ethical life with values… just due to her favourite band choice…!!! O_o;

      1. Chinook*

        “I saw someone on my Facebook post a status about how much she loved One Direction, and some guy came in and essentially told her that she didn’t lead an ethical life with values… just due to her favourite band choice…!!!”

        She is just lucky she didn’t mention Nickleback. Nothing gets the hate going faster than claiming the Chad Kroeger has some good lyrics (but, then again, I think “Photograph” is cool because I can relate to it and I like that the video was filmed in their hometown).

        1. Student*

          Why do people hate Nickleback? This is a completely sincere question from someone who doesn’t follow music whatsoever.

          I’ve heard a couple of their songs and can’t meaningfully distinguish between them and a bunch of other contemporary rock-ish bands. Is the hate directed at the band members? The song-playing? Lyrics? Some specific incident I’m clueless about? Or is it just some meme, where it’s “cool” to hate them?

          1. Felicia*

            I don’t get it either, but if you don’t hate Nickleback some people think you’re weird. I don’t love Nickleback, but they’re one of my “meh, they’re ok I guess” bands, so it’s certainly not hate.

            1. Stephanie*

              My theory is that it’s herd mentality and a bit of a meme–people hate Nickleback just because they’re supposed to.

              I, too, have trouble distinguishing what makes Nickleback so much worse than other pop-rock bands. Chad Kroeger’s voice can be grating, the song lyrics can be generic and cliched, and the musicality is nothing particularly complex, but that description could apply to many mainstream bands. I think they’ve just become a stand-in for generic pop-rock and people feel that by strongly expressing their Nickleback hatred, they’re asserting some individuality and rebellion against mass-appeal music.

              But someone is buying those albums–at least one of their albums has gone triple platinum.

          2. C Average*

            My theory: They are the latest in an ongoing tradition of grunty, over-emotive, weirdly earnest-seeming, appear-to-take-themselves-way-too-seriously bands.

            Lots of other bands make similar music, as has been noted, but they don’t give the appearance of regarding themselves as Deeply And Importantly Talented the way these particular bands do. Maybe members of these bands are not at all pretentious or self-important, but they definitely come across that way. And this perceived attitude, along with the utter ordinariness of their music, makes them a common butt of jokes.

            See also: Pearl Jam, Creed.

            1. Cath in Canada*

              Nailed it!

              Also, my husband met a member of the band at a house party once, and said he was utterly obnoxious. For example, when one of the women at the party seemed more interested in another guy than in him, he apparently flipped out and started yelling stuff along the lines of “don’t you know who I am?”, as if being in Nickelback was supposed to make you irresistible to all women.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not about judging someone for reading 50 Shades (although I totally would judge them for that — especially my mother, who kept trying to discuss it with me); it’s about their judgment for talking about EROTICA in an interview.

      1. Adam*

        True. I discounted the erotica part (never read it) and was more on the general scope of “I spend some of my free time on something that is very obviously crap”.

        And I feel you on the mothers with inappropriate conversations. My mother used to like to point out women with big boobs to me, like the fact that I haven’t produced a grandchild for her yet is that I just hadn’t been looking in the right direction.

          1. Adam*

            This would be why I don’t discuss my dating life with her. I don’t want to give her any clues to work with.

            1. Angora998*

              LOL. My mother critera to introduce me to a man years ago … she’ll never hook me up again.

              He’s good looking and has a sense of humor. She gave him my phone number before talking to me about it. Turns out he lost his driver’s license due to multiple DUI’s … this was about 20 years ago before they tighten up the reins on it.

              Adam .. so do not give her criteria to work with. LOL

              1. Adam*

                I have learned. She is now on a very strict need-to-know basis and her security clearance only gets her in the lobby at this point.

                1. HM in Atlanta*

                  My mother just throws any singleton she comes across at me – the ages have varied from 10 years younger than me to 20 years older.

        1. Anonsie*

          Oh mom. “What about that pair, son? Think you could look at those for the rest of your life?”

            1. AGirlCalledFriday*

              …I’ve actually heard a mother tell her son something similar in regards to me when I was in a store once. It felt totally weird and creepy.

              But what was CREEPIER was when the guy actually approached me later on in the store. NOO!

              1. Adam*

                Make no mistake: it IS weird and creepy. There’s a reason why guys have “wing men” and not “wing mothers”.

                1. Angora*

                  Years ago when I was waitressing as a 2nd job; a woman (very drunk) asked me to go out with her son and he was sitting there.. thank goodness I was living with someone. Odd

      2. Lizabeth*

        50 Shades of Grey isn’t worth wasting time discussing…it you want a laugh listen to the audio books.

        1. Hous*

          My mom listened to the audiobooks so she’d be able to discuss them with some high-school friends who were really into them, but she found it so boring that she put it on triple speed. Apparently that made it way better, because everyone sounded like a chipmunk.

        2. Stephanie*

          I saw a very funny improv show once where the troupe asked for a number. They took that number and read that page from 50 Shades of Grey (which was hilarious in of itself) and used that as inspiration to do a long-form improv show.

          1. Windchime*

            A couple of us went to see a coworker’s new house and somehow that book came up. The coworker mentioned that she had tried to read it and still had it upstairs. She got it and read a couple of paragraphs to us and we all laughed our heads off. It sounds very silly when read aloud.

      3. Lily in NYC*

        Oh my god, I would cringe if my mother tried to discuss something like that with me! I can’t even watch Game of Thrones with them, it’s just too embarrassing.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I just kept yelling “I AM NOT DISCUSSING THIS WITH YOU,” and eventually she stopped trying. But it took several rounds of that, over several months.

          1. cuppa*

            My mom and all her friends read it too, and she felt the need to discuss it with me. Ugh.

          2. Snork Maiden*

            I just like that there exists *one* circumstance where AAM will resort to yelling :)

          3. Jessica*

            I was at McDonald’s with my family a few years ago when my aunt and mom starting discussing 50 Shades. My mom said she’d read the whole trilogy, which was not really information I needed to know, and then started discussing with my aunt in detail what she liked about the books. The more uncomfortable my family got, the louder and more insistent my mom got that we acknowledge that it was a totally normal thing for her to have read the books. So here we are in McDonald’s and my mom’s yelling, “IT’S A THING! IT’S CALLED MOMMY PORN!” I wanted to die.

        2. Stephanie*

          My mom and I inadvertently watched Masters of Sex together. I was watching the premiere and she’s like “Ooh, what are you watching? Hey, this is really good.” And then we ended up watching it weekly together and just not discussing the more prurient aspects of the show (so, uh, like half of it?).

          1. Cruciatus*

            My mom, sister and I all read the Sookie Stackhouse novels and were excited to hear about True Blood when it came out. We happened to be at my sister’s when the pilot aired (and she pays for premium channels so we could watch it). Anyway, we all sat down to watch and…oh…my…god. The first scene I think is Jason having very graphic sex with someone. Right afterward she called her friend who also liked the books and told her not to watch with her teenage son (another fan of the books). We all still watch it but …separately. And discuss only the plot as needed.

        3. Cath in Canada*

          This is how watching Game of Thrones with an older relative went, recently:

          “Who’s she? Who’s that? WHY IS THAT LADY NAKED?! Oh no, is he going to kill him? Why? Oof! That’s a lot of blood, isn’t it? Now who’s this? ISN’T THAT HIS SISTER?! THAT’S DISGUSTING! Oh, another murder?!”

          We had to watch it again in peace the day after he left.

          1. Anon Accountant*

            I used to have a friend that was like this to watch a movie with- even at theaters. It was hard to not say “just shut up already”.

            And how hard it was to wait for it to come out on video if it was a great movie to watch it in peace and enjoy it.

            1. Al Lo*

              I’m that person who will glare and shush people in a theatre — whether movie or live. My husband and I seem to have the worst luck when it comes to sitting near people who just don’t know how to behave. We see a lot of live theatre, and it’s amazing how many people don’t understand proper audience behaviour, and the line between being an appropriately responsive audience member and being an irritating chatterbox.

            2. chewbecca*

              I have to admit I’m sometimes guilty of this, but only when we’re at home. For some reason I always just assume my fiance knows the motivations behind all the characters and what they’re doing.

              Sometimes I’m right, because he’s a comic book lover, so when we’re watching comic book movies sometimes I ask him about the back story of one of the characters. But I never do this out in public. Mostly.

            3. Ruffingit*

              Oh man, the movie talkers. I hate that. I especially love it when someone asks questions of me like “Why did he do that? Where is she going…” How would I know, I came to this movie WITH YOU, I didn’t pre-watch it before you got here so I could explain it.

          2. Episkey*

            Ha! My mom is all like, “I tell your father to call me when the dragon lady is on.” Moms.

            1. Jessa*

              I love this. I watched S1 and never really got into S2 at all. But yeh, call me when Dany is on totally. I love the SFX of the Dragons.

        4. jmkenrick*

          My Dad was really into Deadwood for awhile, and my family tends to share TV shows (Scrubs, The Office type things, mostly).

          He was watching an episode and was encouraging me to join, and then about 5 minutes in they visit a whorehouse and start engaging in some very grown-up behavior. My Dad immediately changed the channel and later suggested that I watch it on my own time. He just kept assuring me that it IS really good, just maybe let’s not watch it together.

      4. MaryMary*

        50 Shades of Gray forced me to have several awkward conversations. First with my mother, and then with more than one male coworker asking if I’d heard of this book his wife was obsessed with…Something Shades of Gray?

        1. Robin*

          LOL—similar story, a male friend asked if 50 Shades would be a nice gift for his girlfriend. I told him possibly, but she might think he was trying to tell her something :)

        2. Ruffingit*

          I hate the people who try to convince me that I need to read 50 Shades or Twilight or whatever. I read about 120 pages of Twilight and I couldn’t stand any more of it. I have no problem with erotica, but I don’t care to read 50 Shades, just have no interest in it. Meanwhile, there are people I know who are all “You HAVE to read this. No, really, you must get it right now and READ IT. NOW!!” UH, no. Thanks. I will be able to continue living if I don’t read it. How about you just BACK OFF? NOW!!

      5. louise*

        Erotica and poor writing are the least of 50 Shade’s problems. “Mom. Anna was literally coerced into that relationship with a manipulative abuser. Discussing your enjoyment of a book about rape is beyond skeevy.”

        1. TL*

          Yeah, there’s a whole bunch of consent issues in that book (and feminist issues) that would also make me raise my eyebrows if someone named it. If someone said, “You know, despite X, Y, and Z problems, I really enjoys 50 Shades.” that’s one thing, but an unnuanced, passionate declaration of like probably wouldn’t go over well with a lot of people (in any context.)

          1. CA Anon*

            That’s the reason why I give anyone who declares their love for Twilight some serious side-eye. I used to work at a domestic violence shelter–Edward’s relationship tactics read exactly like an abuser’s.

            Controlling who she’s friends with? Isolating her? Disabling her truck’s engine so she can’t go anywhere? Watching her sleep before you guys have ever gone on a date? Following her without her knowledge to “make sure she’s safe”?

            No thank you. And definitely not what we should be telling teenagers is appropriate romantic behaviors.

            1. Daisy*

              Someone mentioned that part, “staring while you’re sleeping ” and declared it romantic or some such. I thought it sounded freakin’ creepy. (haven’t read/seen the series).

            2. Peep!*

              What is WRONG with people — I totally agree with you, my eyes about fall out of my head when I hear/read people saying that Bella is a GOOD ROLE MODEL for girls, or that Edward is a great boyfriend. Are you -kidding- me?!

              She freaking half-killed herself on multiple occasions so she could hear her boyfriend’s voice in her head. Totally role-model-worthy.

              I was in library school when the last book came out, my friend offered to let me read her copy, so I did…gaggghhh. She asked what I thought, I said “unbelievable” and she said “ooh good I’m glad you liked it!” and I said “no, literally unbelievable, as in not believable”. Sigh.

            3. Ruffingit*

              THIS. SO very much this. I too once worked in a domestic violence shelter and Edward is indeed a classic abuser. The fact that women thought this was an awesome love story just makes me cringe in 1000 different ways.

      6. Alex*

        Funny story – my coworker went to The Wolf of Wallstreet with his mom… If you’ve seen that movie, you know that the opening sequence is.. ahem… graphic.. it was awkward for him to say the least.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Oh god. I would die. I got in trouble during a month-long stint on a grand jury. There was lots of waiting around, and it was my turn to pick a movie – I chose Bridesmaids (everyone else chose terrible Eddie Murphy movies). I forgot that the opening scene was graphic and the court officer came in and yelled at me for putting porn on the tv. And then he stayed and watched the rest of the movie and loved it. The person after me chose Girl With A Dragon Tattoo (the one with the graphic um, stuff going on with the hiney). We were all so embarrassed when that scene started.

          1. Audiophile*

            While I enjoyed TGWTDT, it is not something I would watch with a group of people. That is also a book I would not mention during an interview, besides the fact that I didn’t get through it, it’s just too dark and not appropriate for interview conversation at all.

        2. CA Anon*

          I saw Knocked Up with my mom in theaters. It was the most awkward 2 hours of my life. She thought it was hilarious though. Go figure.

          1. Vancouver Reader*

            We saw Pennies from Heaven as a church group. No one told us (we were ages 10-16 or so) that it was more adult themed! We thought it was going to be more of a comedy based on the name.

      7. Darcy*

        Of course Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys would be acceptable, although I imagine you’d have to explain that “no, it’s not the book you’re thinking about, it’s the one about the forced labor camps during WWII.”

          1. Eden*

            Which, although I adore Jasper Fforde, I would never mention in an interview for fear someone would think I was talking about 50 Shades of Gray.

          2. Mints*

            Yes! I’m mostly annoyed with “50” because now every time i want to mention Fforde’s “Shades of Grey,” I have to say “By Jasper Fforde. Not the kinky book. It’s set in the future in the UK.”

            1. Apple22Over7*

              Haha, I was speaking to a friend about shades of grey and told her she should totally get a copy and read it.. She managed to pick up 50 shades instead.. Oops

          3. Eden*

            Although I have to say, I love the Thursday Next series much more than Shades of Grey. Anyone out there who is a word junkie/reading freak should go read his stuff right now. Seriously.

          4. Liz in a Library*

            I loved Shades of Grey, but had to keep referring to it really obliquely while I was reading it…because I picked it up about two years late and 50 Shades was such a big deal at the time.

            Whatcha reading? Oh, there’s this new book by the Thursday Next guy…color perception leads to a caste system and it’s all very interesting!

        1. oh baby*

          Have you heard of 50 Shames of Grey? It’s a parody and while I will NOT read the original, I can’t wait to read this one:

          The summary on amazon:

          Young, arrogant tycoon Earl Grey seduces the naïve coed Anna Steal with his overpowering good looks and staggering amounts of money, but will she be able to get past his fifty shames, including shopping at Walmart on Saturdays, bondage with handcuffs, and his love of BDSM (Bards, Dragons, Sorcery, and Magick)? Or will his dark secrets and constant smirking drive her over the edge?

      8. TL*

        And bad erotica at that. :(

        Whether or not you enjoyed it, you should have enough of a sense of good literature/writing to realize that 50 Shades is not going to add anything to a professional image. (Just like I really love watching 16 and Pregnant when I’m having a bad week but I would not say so at an interview.)

        1. ExceptionToTheRule*

          It also doesn’t make your house more appealing to buyers. When trying to sell your home, you shouldn’t leave a copy of 50 Shades of Gray by the bathtub…

          1. TL*

            Oh my god, now I want to include inappropriate books on my furniture listings on Craigslist to see what happens.

      9. GrumpyBoss*

        I wouldn’t judge for reading Erotica. I’d judge for reading BAD erotica. Hey, if smut is your thing, go for it. But 50 Shades is just horrible smut and not even an accurate depiction of the smut that it is trying to portray.

        I will, however, judge you for liking what may very well be the most poorly written book I’ve ever read, regardless of subject material b

        1. GigglyPuff*

          Exactly! I read romance novels and I own it, even did answer with that during an interview, and I think because I sounded confident and knew what I was talking about, no one seemed to mind, I mean it’s where I got all my interesting historical facts from, and various takes on paranormal legends, which make for interesting conversations. (But to be fair, I am in the library world, and while there are definitely literary snobs, they are usually much more open to different genres.)

          But I get serious flack about it from my mom, and what do I find in her room, friggin’ 50 Shades, I told her, even I don’t touch that, and it should tell her something about it, since she thinks I read inferior writing. (Plus she got it from Goodwill, which completely grossed me out, since I had just read that article on for and found on 50 Shades library books).

        2. ADE*


          “All dominants have emotional issues they are looking to resolve through sex/are men/ never switch” blah blah blah it’s a terrible but realistic seeming enough.

          I think 50 shades and Twilight are successful in that they depict an immersive fantasy in a world that is so different to our own. It doesn’t matter that Edward reads like an abuser. This is Twilight-land, where vampires exist.

      10. Alicia*

        My mother did the same thing about 50 shades. I think my Mom one-upped your Mom though, because she then told me she could lend me one of her two copies since she and my father read it together…

          1. Alicia*

            Yeah, and I had to keep a semi-straight face when I found this out because we were out at a restaurant. I don’t care that my parents have a sex life, but I don’t need to know what they use for foreplay!

      11. Rayner*

        I would also question them for reading and liking a book which features abuse, rape, and extremely poor consent practises.

    3. Andrew M. Farrell*

      The issue is that 50 Shades of Grey is all about how wonderful a relationship full of abuse and rape is.

  5. Lia*

    I tend to read very esoteric material (my interests run towards statistics and criminological studies) but I can usually come up with a popular book title that I have enjoyed. Most recently it was Nate Silver’s “The Signal and the Noise”.

    What I have a harder time with is “what do you do in your free time?” I am an avid video gamer, do many kinds of crafts, and almost never watch TV or movies. I usually deflect and talk about travel, LOL.

    1. Canadamber*

      LOL, same here, about the whole free time thing, I mean! :P

      If I was asked what my interests are… driving, cars and trains. Yes, actually. I can spend hours upon hours just driving… My sister went to rowing this morning, I dropped her off at 5:40ish or whatever, and just drove around for an hour. Watching trains. Admiring cool cars. Driving. Hahaha… It would probably sound quite strange! I rarely ever watch TV or movies, either! I always intend to start or watch shows, and I get the DVDs from the library since we don’t have cable (which was actually the best decision of life), and then I have to return them at the end of the week unopened…

    2. OP*

      The “what do you do in your free time” question is actually one I’ve prepared for and have good answers to (run and volunteer at the Air & Space museum). That’s the question I’m used to getting when interviewers are trying to get to know me better, vs. books and movies.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I hate the free time question. I’m prepared with things like running and racing and having recently done a gut remodel on a house or travel, but the real answer is that I hang out at a lot of high school baseball games, grocery shop, chase crumbs and pet hair around my house, etc. Free time, lol.

    4. MaryMary*

      Yes, I’ve never had the book or movie question, but I have been asked if I have any hobbies in interviews. First, I feel like I have to come up with *something*. But second, all of my hobbies are quiet, unimpressive, homey hobbies. I love to read, I watch prestige TV, I love to cook, I enjoy spending time with my family but I’m single, so that translates into BFF time with my mom. I’m certainly not ashamed of my hobbies, but I feel like they’re not impressive in an interview setting. I feel like it would come off better if I ran marathons or restored classic cars or something.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I HATED being asked that question, because when I say I’m a writer, people think I’m writing some hobby romance or fanfiction or something. No, I am writing a novel, with cops and blood and death and sex in it, thank you very much! But I couldn’t tell them that in an interview.

        And if I tell them I skate, they always say, “Oh, roller derby?” Ummmmmmm no.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Wow, that didn’t come across well at all. I’m sorry–that was a poor choice of words. I think what I meant to say was that a lot of people look on writing as a hobby, and for me it certainly isn’t. I know several people who write romance and fanfic, but they don’t do it with an eye to a career, and that seems to be a widespread perception of those genres.

      2. Windchime*

        Heh, yeah. I’ll have to think of something good for hobbies because I can’t really say that I like to knit all afternoon while watching the “Snapped” marathon, can I?

    5. AB*

      On my first day at Current Job, we were going through the typical new-hire stuff when the HR person handed me a piece of paper and said “jot down three things you like to you do in your spare time”. It caught me off guard so, while I answered truthfully, I didn’t really have time to think about audience, etc. I put down cooking, knitting and reading. The office was mostly guys in the their 20’s- early 30’s, with a small handful of women. When my profile went out, I sounded like the office grandma. (I’m in my early 30’s)

      1. MaryMary*

        My female coworkers and I had a similar conversation when we wrote up professional bios for our webpage. Maybe of our male coworkers included hobbies, but we weren’t sure if it would be advantageous to mention traditionally female activities like cooking, knitting, or scrapbooking.

        One of my male coworker’s bio says he is an avid waterfowl hunter. My female coworker misread it and thought he was saying he was an avid werewolf hunter. THAT would be something interesting and potentially professionally advantageous to put in your bio. But now I giggle when ever people include their hobbies in a professional bio, thinking of Mike, the avid werewolf hunter.

        1. stellanor*

          When I am king I will mandate that everyone’s professional bio include one outrageous, obvious lie. Because it’ll be way more entertaining. What people think it would be entertaining to lie about doing can be more interesting than what they actually do.

      2. Gem*

        I can do worse. My hobbies include pole dancing and airsofting … Just imagine the impression that gives

    6. Stephanie*

      I tend to read very esoteric material (my interests run towards statistics and criminological studies) but I can usually come up with a popular book title that I have enjoyed. Most recently it was Nate Silver’s “The Signal and the Noise”.

      Oh, that’s me, too. I’d love to hear your book reads. I tend to pick out books on topics of interest. But yeah, my tastes tend towards investigative nonfiction about kind of bleak-sounding topics.

      If I had an interview today:
      Interviewer: “Oh, so what are you reading currently?”
      Stephanie: “Ooh, this really fascinating book about a land dispute between Native American tribes and the Bureau of Land Management and the ensuing water shortages in the southwestern US.”
      Interviewer: “Um. So tell me about your role at OldJob.”

      1. Evilduck*

        Not a book, but along the same lines: one of my favorite magazine articles ever was a New Yorker story about elevators. The New Yorker does such a great job of showing how the mundane can be fascinating.

        1. Lisa*

          They just recently had a good one on those metal police barricades — it was pretty mundane (and interesting)!

        2. Stephanie*

          If you like that stuff, I recommend the 99% Invisible podcast. It goes into the design behind mundane things like the handicapped logo, high heels, and the Pizza Hut building.

    7. Anonsie*

      Oh man, the “what do you do for fun” question is a really tough one for me because the answer is video games. I like video games and TV and not no one is impressed by that. I mistakenly thought people had come to accept that normal grown people play video games and there’s nothing weird about that, but it seems like every time it comes up I get people looking at me like they smell something bad. Then they tell me what games their kids play with one raised eyebrow… I feel like I actually need to hide it, honestly.

      My other occasional hobbies are equally awful to talk about to people who aren’t into them… Like knitting. Though I think people will become ok with that one once I age another few decades.

      1. LBK*

        Ah, I just posted a comment about this issue below! Last night I literally spent all my free time playing Fire Emblem while watching reruns of 30 Rock. I mean…I don’t really have an answer other than playing video games and watching TV. That’s what I do.

        1. Anonsie*

          It’s weird how video games becoming popular is a sign of the end times to many people, too. I’ve mentioned the paid tournaments, E3, people that make money streaming or doing Let’s Play videos (like Pewdiepie), etc to folks who act like this is the final evidence they needed to prove that the apocalypse is upon us.

          Kind of not sure what to say to people who go “LOTS of people like what you like? The world is INSANE, what’s wrong with people??”

          1. LBK*

            Imagine if it were the other way around and sports were just gaining popularity and acceptance. “So let me get this straight – you watch a bunch of people you’ve never met before throw a ball at each other and run around on a field…and you cheer for them? To throw the ball better than each other? And then you make fake teams out of these people and bet against your friends for who makes the best fake team? And you even have entire TV channels where all you talk about is who’s throwing the ball best lately? And sometimes they get awards for it!?”

            1. Anonsie*

              Oh my gosh I wish I had thought of this the last time someone was going “People watch… OTHER people play video games? They just watch? Just watch? But. Why do they do that?”

              1. chewbecca*

                My fiance’s favorite YouTube thing right now is watching videos of a couple guys playing video games. I have to admit, they ARE funny. It’s also the reason the first game we bought for the 360 was Minecraft, which I may be a little obsessed with right now.

              2. Cathi*

                You know, I’ve been pretty baffled by how my husband spends a lot of his time watching YouTube videos of people playing through various games, and have pretty much said verbatim what’s been said to you.

                But as an avid baseball and soccer fan…huh. I never really correlated the two hobbies before.

          2. Stephanie*

            Hey, a college friend just finished doing her PhD in English about narrative structures and tropes in video games. Academia recognizes their legitimacy!

            1. Anonsie*

              I know an anthropology professor whose specialty is the study of societies in virtual worlds, which is actually really interesting despite how entirely silly it sounds.

              1. VintageLydia USA*

                We had a grad student do a guest lecture in our intro to anthro class who’s thesis was on virtual worlds (I think he concentrated on WoW?) We also watched another lecture on YouTube that was filmed in Second Life. It was a little odd for me because a lot of my own life in online. Not in a virtual world like MMOs, but forums and comments sections like this one.

            2. Anx*

              How about those soundtracks?

              I don’t even play the fancy ones, but I do know of some of their composers.

      2. Chinook*

        The fact that I play video games as a 39 y.o. woman leads to some raised eyebrows but in a good way. I grew up when only guys did this and didn’t take it up until DH introduced me to his hobby (he actually likes watching me play “Okami”). Students I teach think it is cool and helps with some conversations but their parents don’t believe them when they say I would probably appreciate a pre-paid gaming card over nice candles as a thank you present (I did like the candles but I also confirmed with the parent who told me about this that their kid was right).

        1. Snork Maiden*

          Okami is a terrific game, and one that’s actually enjoyable to watch as a bystander. It’s one of my all-time favourites.

          I play a lot of games and am fortunate, as a 30 y.o. woman, to have a peer group that supports/plays as well. I work in a creative field, though, which may have something to do with it.

      3. Allison*

        Unfortunately, outside the tech community anyway, nerdy hobbies like video games and comics are considered a childish waste of time, and lead people to question your work ethic and ability to act like a professional adult in the workplace. At least I have other hobbies outside of nerdy stuff to talk about, namely swing dancing. In reality, most swing dancers circa my age are also huge nerds, but most interviewers don’t know that.

        1. Anonsie*

          lead people to question your work ethic and ability to act like a professional adult in the workplace

          This is it exactly. Even if you work with them and they should know how you behave, suddenly once they know you play video games they think you’re lazy and incompetent. The most common thing people will say is sarcastically ask how I have time to do that, as if somehow time spent on my hobby is in a different plane of reality than the time they use to relax.

          1. Allison*

            When I was hired for my first job, I clicked with the department head because we both liked a certain video game franchise. And when I started, a couple of my teammates also liked video games. Cool stuff, right? But after a department restructuring I was suddenly surrounded by *gulp* normal people, where my geekiness hurt more than it helped.

            I’m going to submit a panel about the whole “video games are for kids” BS to PAX East next year.

            1. Anonsie*

              My first reaction is that this would be really cool, and then I realized how extremely in line with the stereotype we are. “I’m not a weirdo! I’m gonna have a big group of people talk about how we’re not weirdos at one of our big conventions with all the costumes and weird merchandise and BO*. You know, the one that got started by the guys that made internet comics.”

              Maybe they’re right about us.

              *Tell me you’ve never been to a game/comic/anime/sci-fi convention** where you didn’t occasionally catch a whiff, I dare you.

              **Renfest doesn’t count, all smells are historically accurate.

              1. Chinook*

                I knew I was a geek when I can could claim 4 years of membership in the university Star Trek club and brag about never having attended a convention. Most people would find the latter part normal and not an accomplishment.

      4. Shell*

        Oh god, I’d totally answer that question with my love for watching professional-level StarCraft tournaments. And if people raise eyebrows, I’d just tell them about the strategy and tactics, the decision making, and how you can make or break a game in literally a quarter-second and how much skill goes into playing that game at a professional level. Honestly, watching SC tournaments excites me in a way Olympics and professional sports doesn’t, mostly because the timing windows are so tiny (I am NOT kidding about quarter-seconds or less making/breaking a game) and it’s usually 1 vs. 1, so no teammates to bail you out.

        I’ve yet to use it in an interview, but my current bosses were suitably impressed when I started waxing poetic about my StarCraft love.

        1. Elysian*

          Holy crap my husband and I have been obsessed with SC2 and now I know the names of all these pros and but I can’t get ranked above bronze myself. You and I can watch e-sports together. I mentioned this hobby once over lunch with a coworker and have never mentioned it again.

          1. Shell*

            I have really crappy joints so I don’t even play it (it tends to give me wrist pains and my highest APM is about 60 on a good day). But I love watching it. As an atheist, Flash is the only god I believe in XD e-sports fans unite!

            Surprisingly, everyone in my professional life so far have been amused/understanding about my love for SC. Most people don’t get it, but none of them judge me for it, and the default assumption they have for me when I said I had a good weekend is “Ha, did you binge game/watch games again?” (One of my current bosses used to play a long long time ago, and I briefly got him re-addicted to it for a short while. Win :D)

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          ha, and I would completely consider hiring you just for that.

          Son #2 is a StarCraft watcher and I find the whole thing fascinating.

          I am probably the only 53 year old in corporate america who would squeal with enthusiasm when you brought it up.

          1. Shell*

            I wish SC (and gaming in general) is more socially accepted. It’s gotten better, but there’s still a long way to go. (And huh, I figured SC could be an advantage in only in gaming circles. Guess that’s where cultural fit comes in!)

            I’m not usually that chatty a person, but I can fill entire conversations singlehandedly with SC stuff. Heck, I’m pretty sure I can carry on a conversation by myself for at least fifteen minutes just based on the SanDisk ShoutCraft games I saw last week. :D

            …and I’ll stop droning on about SC now lest I totally derail this thread. ^^

      5. Elsajeni*

        Yeah, most of my free time currently is taken up with… tabletop roleplaying. I do a lot of evasive maneuvers on questions like “So what’d you do this weekend?”, because for some reason “Pretended to be an elf for six hours” is not a socially acceptable response.

        1. Chinook*

          ““Pretended to be an elf for six hours” is not a socially acceptable response.” Atleast you were among friends while doing it. I think it would be more weird if you were alone at the time.

        2. UK Nerd*

          I’m a LARPer as well as a tabletop gamer. “Pretended to be an elf for three days” is also not socially acceptable. I generally tell people I went camping. (My fellow nerds, however, get photographs.)

      6. Natalie Anne Lanoville*

        That’s what I find irksome about this personal stuff. I play a LOT of online chess, which is NOT the intellectual exercise it sounds like (bloodshed and trash talk, mostly), but it SOUNDS so much better than ‘video game’, which it essentially is.

      7. Anx*

        I loved video games. I haven’t played them in about 10 years because they are so expensive, though.

        It’s active leisure. I don’t get why it’s so stigmatized.

    8. Elysian*

      I really prefer “What do you do for fun?” to questions about books and movies. All my book and movie preferences are guilty pleasure things – Yes, I spent 4 hours last night watching Hoarders. I don’t really want to talk about that.

      1. Audiophile*

        I stumbled on it a few weeks ago. The lady who ate whatever that was out of the jar, the crew found. Oh wow, there’s no words.

    9. JBC*

      I hate these kinds of questions. I got the book question once, and named the first book I could think of, which was a David Sedaris book. Not exactly high literature. I did get the job, though!

      I have good socially acceptable responses for the “what do you do in your free time” question (theater, running, travel), but the real answer is that I spend an embarrassing amount of my free time wasting it on the internet. Obviously I’d never say that in an interview, but an interviewer is also not going to learn much about what I really spend the majority of my free time doing by asking that question. (Note: I do spend time on theater, running, and travel. I just spend far more of it on the internet.)

    10. Kelly L.*

      I’m worried this question is always looking for athletic pursuits, of which I have none! :D

      1. chewbecca*

        I had one interviewer flat out ask me if I enjoyed playing sports. We have a city-wide sports competition every year where companies form teams and participate in various sporting activities, which apparently they take very seriously.

        I said no because I’m not, and have always wondered if that hurt my chances for that job. But, if a company hired based on athletic pursuits, I probably wouldn’t have fit in there anyway.

  6. Mike*

    The problem I face with the favorite movie question is that it often leads to quote offs when I answer “The Princess Bride”.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Ha, yesterday I said “Have fun storming the castle, boys!” to two of my coworkers who were on their way out to a meeting and they just gave me blank looks. hmph.

    2. Stephanie*

      I just figured out like a month ago that Saul from Homeland and Inigo Montoya were played by the same actor (Mandy Patinkin). This kind of rocked my world for a day or so.

      1. Sadsack*

        Did you know that Mandy Patinkin is a singer? I didn’t realize it until last year, never knew about his Broadway career, only knew him as Inigo Montoya. Pretty spectacular voice, truly amazing.

        1. Stephanie*

          Oh yes. I wish I had been alive to catch him and Patti LuPone in Evita. The old YouTube clips are amazing.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        I was crushed when I found out that Mandy P. is a total jerkwad in real life. I loved him so much in Princess Bride.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            Me too! I am very good friends with one of his close relatives who told me that he is a nasty piece of work and ends up estranged from almost everyone he becomes close to. I had heard this before (when he was on Criminal Minds, the cast hated him. The guy who plays the boss refused to do scenes with him after a while). But he seemed to have a good experience on Homeland, so who really knows?

            1. Audiophile*

              He didn’t exactly endear himself to them, when a few years ago, he said leaving the show was the best thing he ever did. You know, because it’s TOO violent.

    3. Cruciatus*

      It is now my goal in life to have a Princess Bride quote off in real life. In an interview is even better. “Wuv…twu wuv…”

      1. Nea*

        Chiming in much, much later to say that I tend to throw a line from Alice’s Restaurant into my interviews. (I’m a technical writer, so there’s usually an opening to mention screenshots/artwork “with circles and arrows and a paragraph explaining what each one is.”

        That always got me a laugh until the last job, when it was point-blank ignored. Still got the job, though.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        When I leave work for the day, I will sometimes tell a co-worker, “Good night. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”

      1. Laufey*

        I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

        Also, I love how we have all totally just proved Mike’s point re: quote offs.

    4. KarmaKicks*

      This is one my brother and I watched so much as children, that we can quote practically the whole movie back and forth. They had a retro movie night at a local theater last year and it was awesome seeing it on the big screen!

    5. Al Lo*

      My wedding ceremony began with “Mawwiage… is what bwings us togevvah… today,” and the pastor went through the entire speech before getting to the actual ceremony.

      It was awesome. Made even more awesome by the fact that my mom had never seen The Princess Bride and was so thoroughly confused.

        1. Corporate Attorney*

          Second only to the guy who did the Talladega Nights blessing at the kick-off of a stock car race.

  7. Number One*

    I pretty much only read sci-fi and fantasy. If I evr gett asked this, they’re getting the honest answer: Good Omens.

      1. periwinkle*

        Or Terry Pratchett. I must admit to getting a little weepy near the end of Thud with Vimes “reading” the book to his son from the cave…

        I’d answer honestly for the movie. It’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and if the interviewer doesn’t like that movie it’s probably not a good cultural fit!

      1. Lalaith*

        One of my friends posted on Facebook asking if you could only have one CD to listen to in your car, what would it be? I told her it didn’t matter, because they all turn into Queen’s Greatest Hits eventually. I knew she wouldn’t get the reference, but… I just *had* to…

  8. literateliz*

    Oh man… This is a little different because it was absolutely relevant, but when interviewing for book publishing internships a couple years back I was asked what I had been reading lately and completely froze up. I’m normally an avid reader and I think I had prepared to be asked about my favorite books, and about books similar to the ones the company published (they did kinda health/lifestyle-y stuff), but between moving countries and hustling for work/internships I hadn’t really been reading much for the past couple months. I went “Er… well… uh… erm…,” cast about for the last thing I could remember reading, and somehow ended up getting grilled on what I thought of the “religious question” in Steinbeck’s East of Eden. Gah!! I was actually offered the internship on the spot, but ended up declining. That definitely ranks in my top ten awkward interview moments, though.

    1. literateliz*

      Also, the internship I ended up taking over that one was at an erotica publisher, and I had many fascinating conversations with folks there about the relative merits of 50 Shades of Grey! (Everyone at our company hated it, but one of our top authors thought it was great that it was bringing more people to the genre.) Time and a place, I guess.

      1. GigglyPuff*

        I could totally go off on a tangent about lumping genres together, I hate how everything falls under “romance” now, erotica should have it’s own section, it makes it ten times harder to go through new release lists looking for main stream romance books…like I said, tangent, it would be interesting to talk to someone about this though who has worked in erotica publishing.

    2. Cath in Canada*

      “though mayest”? That doesn’t seem like a particularly interview-appropriate topic!

      (I’m a huge Steinbeck fan, but I much prefer his shorter novels to the great epic tomes).

      1. literateliz*

        Ha, I didn’t even think of that! I’m in the SF Bay Area, where you can usually safely assume that no one is proselytizing… it was just awkward for me because it had been several months since I had read the book and I was fuzzy on the details, but the interviewer was REALLY keen on discussing it.

  9. Sparrow*

    This is one where I would brush up on what some of the latest Oscar nominated movies were. A while back I went to the theater to see the Jackass Bad Grandpa movie and I laughed a lot, but I wouldn’t mention that in an interview.

    1. Pete*

      That fine film was nominated for an Academy Award: Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling.

  10. OP*

    OP here. Thanks Alison! I think what really tripped me up (and this happens to me on dates too when I get these types of questions) is that I’m thinking “you expect me to pick ONE favorite book or movie?!?”. It doesn’t occur to me in the moment to just pick one I like and say it, and they won’t know if it’s ACTUALLY my all-time favorite ever. Which is why it’s good to have an answer already prepared, I know. Being an English major and actually a pretty well-read person, I don’t know why that question was so hard for me. I tend to overthink what the interviewer will think of my answer (if I said YA fiction like Hunger Games or the Dark is Rising series he’ll think I’m childish, if I say 18th and 19th century British women writers like the Brontes or Jane Austen he’ll lump that in with chick lit (unfairly), if I say sci-fi he’ll think I’m weird, etc). It’s the same to some extent with movies, although if you asked me about tv shows I like I could talk all day about them.

    1. Lizabeth*

      You can always ask “which genre?” and see what they say :)
      Ray Bradbury might be a good answer…

    2. Heather*

      My favourite book is Wuthering Heights and I always say that as an answer. I don’t love it for the romance tho; I love it for how dark it is. Which maybe isn’t a good thing to say in an interview either.

      1. OP*

        I love that book too, and I agree. Though I feel like people who don’t know much about literature would think it’s just a love story, and people who do know about literature judge it for being a gothic novel. It’s like you can’t win haha. But I do like it a lot.

    3. OriginalYup*

      Yeah, I’ve encountered a few “what’s your favorite” questions in professional situations and sandbagged myself by trying to actually answer the literal question. It was a huge relief to realize that I can just say, “I just started watching X tv show / went to Y vacation place / read an article about Z technology” and talk about that instead.

      This also works when interviewers ask about worst/best professional things. I was asked for the most difficult project I’d ever run, and I just said, “Well, I’ve had my fair share of challenging projects, that’s for sure. A big one that happened recently was (description of thing) and (how I handled it).” Much simpler than trying to think through 15 years of projects on the spot.

    4. OP*

      And just to clarify – I think “chick lit” (or more appropriately, books written by women) is great, I just feel like a lot of people tend to think it’s only fluff or something, especially in a superficial situation like this where you couldn’t really get into discussing it.

        1. Natalie Anne Lanoville*

          I don’t mind it in its place (I mean really, ‘Spice World’ IS a chick flick!), but the word has become a way of de-legitimising any movie that has a dearth of violence or features prominent female characters (I know people who call ‘Casablanca’ and ‘Sound of Music’ chick flicks grrr…).

    5. Eden*

      I always wonder whether anyone over the age of 12 has a “favorite” anything. I’m glad I’m not the only one to totally overthink the answer to this question!

    6. NoPantsFridays*

      I tend to recall what I most recently read/saw or a topic I’ve been thinking about lately instead of what is actually my “favorite” book or movie. When pressed, I find it hard to pick just one favorite. With books, it’s not so much the book itself as the lasting impression it left on me– so my favorite might not even be well-written!

      Thankfully, I have read and actually liked a few non-fiction books related to my field, so I have a ready-made neutral and job-specific answer. I haven’t been asked in an interview, but in any job-related situation, I could bring up one of those books. I wouldn’t say they’re among my favorites overall, but they make for easy talking points.

      My main goal would be to stay away from anything too controversial or religiously-oriented!

    7. Rana*

      Yes! I loathe “what’s your favorite X” questions with a passion. I seem to be incapable of interpreting them in any way except literally, which means that then I have to rack my brain to sort through the literally thousands and thousands of books I’ve read in my life to figure out which one of them warrants the appellation “favorite book.”

      And even if I do manage to come up with an answer, I can guarantee that the books I’d pull from are unlikely to be anything anyone’s ever heard of. e.g. Curse of Challion or Wise Child or The Madness Season.

      And movies and music are worse, because I’m not really a movie or music person in that way, and all my references are about 20-30 years old at this point.

      So I guess what an interviewer would learn about me is that I’m a literalist, I read a lot of obscure books, and I think too hard about these sorts of things. Feh.

  11. dahanaha*

    In one of my best/worse interviews I got asked favorite book and movie and what was the last concert I attended… I had been at a New Kids on the Block reunion concert the night before!!! I answered honestly and got a few laughs… Did I mention this was in a mass interview with 7 people??
    They also handed me my resume and said “we found one grammatical error on your resume can you tell me what it is?” No I could not!! If I had seen a grammatical error on my resume I would have fixed it before sending in of course lol.

    1. Chinook*

      “They also handed me my resume and said “we found one grammatical error on your resume can you tell me what it is?” ”

      Though I acknowledge it wouldn’t be a grammatical but a punctuation error, I would be tempted to say “Was it my use of a negotiable comma (a.k.a. Oxford comma)?” if only to prove that I do know proper sentence structure and hopefully imply that I wouldn’t send out something with an error on prupose.

  12. NYCRedhead*

    I’ve asked this question, and I am glad to see I am not the only one. My field supports non-profits, so we talk often about our client’s passions and interests. I ask the question to try and elicit some answer that shows a personal interest. For me, there is no right or wrong answer. If you’re favorite book is “Twilight” and you can speak passionately about it (because you know what it feels like to be an outsider or misunderstood), then great!
    Secondarily, I’d prefer to work with someone who has something interesting to bring to the table, so that’s another reason I ask the question. I have also gotten great book recommendations from it!

    1. NYCRedhead*

      …and that would be “your favorite book,” not “you’re.” For someone who occasionally reads, I should have better grammar!

  13. HR “Gumption”*

    Favorite- The Monster at the End of This Book.


    Honestly, I’ve never asked this nor have any hiring manager I’ve worked with. I don’t see much benefit coming from any answer and if there is an answer that I’d find compelling chances are it’d only support whatever judgment already made.

    1. AB*

      I loved this book as a kid! My grandma had it at her house, and I would make her read it to me whenever we stayed the night. She would do the Grover voice and everything.

      1. hildi*

        Those Sesame Street books from the 70s were pretty good. My folks saved a bunch of mine and we’re going through them now with my daughters. Grover can’t be beat.

    2. D*

      Perfect. I’d make my grandfather read me that book again and again. I looooved that book. I’ll need to keep this one in mind if ever asked this again.

      On that note…I hate when interviewers and group team building sessions ask me (or the group) what’s on my iPod, what my favorite movie/book/song/musical artist..because I have to overthink it and come up with something that sounds reasonably respectable in the corporate world. I truly get excited about campy movies and music where I can get down with my sweet, sweet moves. I can’t say “I’ve been listening to ‘Me So Horny,’ ‘Just a Freak,’ ‘Freak Out’ and ‘Super Freak’, and ‘Freak of the Week’ and ‘Party Train’ because I love nothing more than having a stupid dance party.” “Every time I watch ‘Showgirls’ I p!ss myself laughing. It’s the best $0.99 I’ve ever spent.” “Troll 2, best worst movie ever.” Even ‘Orange is the New Black’ with its lady-lovin’ element could be suspect. “Books? Who’s got time for those?” No, I do read…but a lot less than I used to.

      1. C Average*

        This whole thread, and in particular this comment, makes me think of that episode of Friends (as long as we’re on the subject of quality entertainment) in which the characters design quizzes to gauge how well they know each other. One of the questions is “Rachel claims _______ is her favorite movie. Her actual favorite movie is __________.” The answers, in this case, are respectively Dangerous Liaisons and Weekend at Bernie’s.

        1. Heather*

          Wasn’t there a reference to “What is Chandler Bing’s job?” this morning? Let’s see how many of the questions we can work into posts :)

          Can we get a question about taking time off for a relative’s funeral? “Monica and I had a grandmother who died. You both went to her funeral. NAME THAT GRANDMOTHER.”

      2. D*

        Actually, I recently read ‘Secret Historian,’ which is an amazing biography, but again, not something I would share about myself in the corporate world. But once I get to know people and figure they won’t recoil in horror, I do share this info with my colleagues. One co-worker is perpetually borrowing ‘Secret Historian’, and my boss and I love campy, awful movies.

  14. JoAnna*

    I don’t know about movies, but I love music. Especially Michael Bolton. I’ll be honest with you, I love his music. I do. I’m a Michael Bolton fan. For my money, I don’t know if it gets any better than when he sings “When a Man Loves a Woman”.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      See, I would love that answer. I would passionately disagree with you, but I would find it funny and would love that you were so passionate about it.

        1. Anonsie*

          I’m so glad you said this because I was sitting here going “there’s something about this post…”

        2. Emily*

          But still, the principle holds—give a passionate, interesting answer and you can make almost anything work in this context. The why and how of your answer likely fulfills the interviewer’s goals much better than the book or movie (or music or hobby) itself.

          1. Elysian*

            That is my attitude toward movies and books! It’s part of why I don’t like to talk about my taste in those things. I promise I’m much more cynical in ‘real life.’

      1. Natalie Anne Lanoville*

        Oh thank you, I now know the answer if anyone asks me my favourite song in an interview. I’ll say “My Favorite Things”, and explain how it sounds inane and bourgeois, but it’s actually a classic jazz song and unique for having a different chord progression against the same melody for each of the verses.

        Complete BS, I don’t like the song at all, but it’ll sound impressive.

    2. louise*

      I referenced this movie (TPS reports — the 2nd most ubiquitous theme after the red stapler!) during an interview lunch with a team that was all in their late 20s/early 30s. I got one laugh of recognition and five blank stares. And no job offer.

      1. Stephanie*

        This millennial loves that movie! But it did come out before most millennials were in the workforce (I was in seventh or eighth grade), so the relevance of the humor probably didn’t resonate.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        My son was born in 1997 and has been watching this on TV with me at least once every few years. He loves it. What are parents thinking, not introducing kids to this classic?

      3. cuppa*

        One time, I was trying to help my boss fight the copier, and it gave a weird message. I said, “PC load letter, what the f*** does that mean?”
        Of course, he had never seen the movie, so he looked at me like I had six heads and said, “um, it doesn’t say that.”

      4. Anx*

        That’s a bold reference for an interview!

        But I don’t understand how people in that age group hadn’t seen that movie. I am pretty sure it came out in ’99. I don’t know of anyone that age who hasn’t seen it.

  15. Cath in Canada*

    My interview answer for the movie question would be Amelie. My real answer would be Groundhog Day – people laugh at me when I say that’s my favourite all-time movie, but what can I say, it’s just so utterly charming!

    For the book question, I think saying Game of Thrones could go several ways, one of which is a lengthy derail about favourite characters and pet theories about what’s going to happen next. And as much as I think World War Z is genuinely one of the best books I’ve read in years (sooooo much better than the film), I wouldn’t say that, either. So I’d probably say either Hitchhiker (I’m in a scientific field, so I wouldn’t be too worried about an anti-science fiction bias), or Cannery Row.

    1. businesslady*

      I think either movie answer would be fine, actually–I’d probably be more impressed by your love of Groundhog Day than Amelie!

      …of course, for me (as an interviewer) the problem I have with these questions is that I have nothing to say if the answer reveals a disparity with my own tastes–but then if my reaction is “oh my gosh me too!!” it’s hard to keep myself from veering inappropriately into “now let’s geek out over our shared interests.” & that’s why I feel it’s helpful to avoid them entirely. :)

    2. Sharm*

      People would be totally fine with Groundhog Day! But say you don’t like Bill Murray, and no one wants to be your friend. (<– My life.)

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Oh my god, I actually had a friend get angry with me because I wouldn’t go to a Coldplay concert with her. She was personally offended because I said all of their songs sound alike to me.

            1. Sharm*

              Noooooooooo! You see?!?!

              (I kid, I kid. I’ve never seen the same reaction to Coldplay; I thought after Chris Martin married Gwyneth, his credibility went way down. Or was that just with me?)

          1. stellanor*

            She’d hate me. I maintain that Coldplay is what you get if you feed the complete works of U2 to a computer and tell it to construct something really, really popular. I find Coldplay so bland and inoffensive that they make me actually angry.

            1. Cath in Canada*

              I really did like the first two albums – Yellow, Everything’s Not Lost, and The Scientist in particular are great songs. But it seemed like everything after that was some kind of paint-by-numbers attempt to replicate the success of the first two albums by copying the same formula while stripping out all the soul of the original. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a computer algorithm was involved!

        2. Big Tom*

          It’s never even occurred to me that there are people who don’t like Coldplay. I mean, Viva la Vida sure. But the good Coldplay?

          1. Lily in NYC*

            I don’t actively hate them or anything – I just find the music boring to listen to.

    3. Snork Maiden*

      I recently watched Amelie again and was struck by how dark and explicit it is at some times! I know everyone thinks it is a cute movie (and it is) but it’s not innocent. I do love it.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        I just get frustrated that my French is good enough to spot that there are things being said in the spoken dialogue that aren’t captured in the English subtitles, but not good enough to figure out what they actually are

        1. Snork Maiden*

          Yes my French is at that point too – I know just enough to get myself into trouble! I console myself by thinking there are clever visual cues you can pick up. And then looking up when the next French conversational classes are at the university.

        2. NatalieR*

          Most of them are just translations of the proverbs collected by Amelie’s coworker (and Matthieu Kassovitz) or idioms that would just be weird translated literally.

        3. Chinook*

          Oh, don’t get me started on subtitles that don’t match what is actually being said. I had one friend say that when watching an English movie in Japan, the character mentioned “green jello” and it was translated as “red jello.” Why!?!?!? That one tidbit has made me suspicious of all translations since then.

          1. stellanor*

            My Japanese is pretty good, so I’ve been known to sit through movies in Japanese with English subtitles saying “That’s not what he said,” every 3 minutes.

          2. Jen RO*

            I stopped reading translated books after I worked as a copy editor for a few years. Some (most!) of the translators just didn’t understand enough English to translate it!

          3. Cath in Canada*

            The classic one for me was when my cousin and I took a boat trip down the Seine. The French version being played over the loudspeakers had minutes worth of gushing commentary about Musee d’Orsay and the delights therein, including actors taking the parts of Monet, Van Gogh, and others. The English translation in our headphones kicked in towards the end and said “On your left is Musee d’Orsay. It used to be a train station. They have paintings by Monet and other artists.” And that was it. We laughed so hard that everyone else started turning around to glare at us!

      2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Ooo, I need to watch Amelie again. Definitely not all innocent.

        Also, I have to say that I LOVE both your Gravatar and your username. I’m terrible at picking favorite books, but if I went by “reread most times” then the Moomin books would very likely win. (They also fall in the category of things that have more depth than they might be credited with… I love Moominvalley In November especially for that quality.)

        1. Eden*

          I posted too soon! Yes! Yes! Moominvalley in November is great. I have never worked with anyone who had even heard of these books.

      3. Eden*

        Hello, fellow Tove Janssen/Moomintroll fan. Loved these books as a kid! I should read them all again, I think.

        1. Snork Maiden*

          I just started reading Tove Jannson – I can’t claim to be a super fan yet but I wish I had read them a lot sooner! I am terrible at picking user names so I just go with whatever I’m currently reading. The strips by themselves look shallow at first glance but reading them all collected together in a book shows how nuanced and joyful they are. I would love to create something as she has done.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            Have you read the novels yet, or only the collections of comics? I read the books as a kid and only discovered the comics as an adult. I’d recommend Finn Family Moomintroll or Comet In Moominvalley as first ones, though they don’t actually have a real chronology.

  16. A Jane*

    During a IT PM interview, the interviewer asked about my favorite website and what I liked about it. I was thrown off more than I should have been and over thought my response.

      1. Research Assistant*

        I was about my favorite website, and I gave this one! Maybe not my favorite of all time, but I’m definitely not going to mention my love of fashion blogs in an interview. I was also asked which book I’d most recently read, and I answered truthfully, a sci-fi novel by Poul Anderson. I didn’t get the job, but it was working for a software company, so I doubt it was due to an anti-sci-fi bias. I always assumed that the question was to see how well I fit in with the office culture.

        1. TL*

          Yes! I was thinking about that and how this is the perfect website – and I probably shouldn’t mention my love of Dan Savage’s column or the other weird mostly-academic sex websites I haunt.

    1. Betsy*

      I got that question once! “What is a website that you really like?” And then it turned into this weird technical Q&A about it, and I was like, “Um, I actually think this website is just dumb, flat HTML. It’s not a technical kind of site. But it gives me joy, so I like it.”

  17. Kristen*

    I’ve asked this of interns and lab assistants I’ve hired to do just what AAM pointed out- zero in on who can come up with an *appropriate* answer on the spot (a skill relevant to their job duties) and also find out a little more about the person. This has been especially helpful in hiring relatively inexperienced people because it says a little about how they engage with the world. Definitely not a significantly important major question that I’d base a decision off alone, but yes, it helps complete the picture.

  18. AnotherAlison*

    I agree with Alison’s recommendation to say “I tend to read a lot of __ and recently finished ___” answer for books. Unless you are saying something like a high school English book, Twilight, or the latest Malcolm Gladwell book, how likely is it that they’ve read it or know what you’re talking about?

  19. AndersonDarling*

    I was asked this once and I was lucky enough to have just finished reading Don Quixote. That was 7 years ago and I haven’t finished another book since, so I guess I can keep using that as my go-to book.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      And I have the opposite problem in that I’m usually reading 3-6 books, a couple of magazines, and a newspaper, all at the same time. (I don’t like carrying a book from place to place with me, so I’ll have a different one at each location: work, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, etc.)

  20. Celeste*

    Well, it’s not as bad as Barbara Walters asking you what kind of tree would you be if you could be a tree!

    I think it’s just a way of seeing how you handle yourself in a typical conversation with a new person. Besides pointing to whether you have a passion for some topic, it can give a sense of your personality and how you might fit in. I’d view it the same way I do an interview lunch–a chance to show you know not to be inappropriate in work situations.

  21. anon for this*

    I work at Nike and we routinely ask interviewees about their favorite sports teams and/or athletes.

    This can be kind of funny because, although we’re of course very sports-oriented, we do often hire for stuff that has nothing to do with sports. So some brilliant IT person or textile expert with no interest in sports has to fumble an answer about the athlete they most admired thirty years ago, the last time they paid attention to sports. It’s also funny when someone inadvertently responds with an athlete who’s sponsored by one of our competitors. There’s an awkward pause, someone on the panel says, “Yeah, um, he’s an Adidas guy,” there’s another awkward pause, and then everyone laughs.

    A side note: With the World Cup on all the TVs in our area, no one here is even pretending to be more than about 50% productive. Unlike most workplaces, we make no pretense of trying to focus solely on work when major sporting events are going on.

    1. Lucy VP*

      I once totally bombed an interview for a fundraising position at our local zoo. I was very confident with the job duties and did with with the general questions, but when the interviewer asked about “my favorite zoo animal” I couldn’t think fast enough and there was a long awkward pause before I managed to say “Elephants”. The interviewer was clearly not happy with my response.

      But it was almost worse. I was telling the story to a friend with young kids who goes to the zoo often. I told that I almost said flamingos, but settled on elephants and she reminded me that the flamingo exhibit had been closed for renovations for almost a year.

        1. Lucy VP*

          If I had said elephants with conviction and enthusiasm it would have been a great answer. Sadly I said it like it was the only animal I could think of.

  22. AdAgencyChick*

    Depending on the work, it might not matter WHAT the answer is, but rather that you HAVE an answer and you’re clearly enthusiastic about it.

    I’m a copywriter by trade and when I hire people, I don’t ask about favorite books. But I could imagine doing so as a test of whether or not this person is literate and enjoys language. If she comes out immediately saying, “I loved [insert name of book here] because [insert reason here]!” then it *almost* doesn’t matter what the book and the reason are*; I will see this as “this person likes to read, which is a good thing in copywriters.” And if she hems and haws, I’m going to wonder whether she reads much — not that this would stop me from hiring someone who otherwise rocked the interview, but it might change me from “hmm, maybe” to “no.”

    Again, this is because I hire writers — if I were hiring IT people, it probably wouldn’t even occur to me to ask a question like this.

    *Not gonna lie: If you pick 50 Shades, I’m going to question both your taste and your judgment in saying that in an interview.

  23. Rebecca*

    My favorite book is the unabridged version of “The Stand” by Stephen King. I had no idea I could be asked this in an interview, so it looks like I’ll need to come up with a new pseudo favorite book (and actually read it) before I start interviewing!!

    1. LBK*

      I’m about 1/8th of the way through this and I love it so far, but damn…it is a loooooong book.

      1. Chinook*

        I had to google its length and I am impressed – it is even longer than a Diana Gabladon novel (which average just below 1,000 pages).

      2. KJR*

        Just finished it a few months ago and loved it!!! Watched the movie and found it lacking.

        1. Chinook*

          Name one book made into a movie that isn’t lacking, though. I spent the entire time I was watching “The English Patient” thinking “but that isn’t who/what the book is really about.”

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Well, for me, nothing. . .it was my favorite book in 9th grade. I was an engineering major, not an English major, but I think Stephen King is a quality writer.

        1. Sharm*

          Stephen King is totally underrated. I really loved 11/22/63, which hasn’t necessarily been as well-reviewed as his others, like The Stand, but I think he’s a great writer and storyteller.

          1. LBK*

            He has this amazing way of giving you a sense of a person by their idiosyncrasies. Like at the beginning of The Shining, he’s describing Ullman’s desk and says that both the inbox and the outbox are empty – just that detail gives you a perfect picture of Ullman’s overly meticulous, by-the-book nature.

            1. Mints*

              He is so effective. If he wants to be scary, you will be terrified. If he wants you to sympathize, you will fall in love

              I literally literally almost fainted reading Gerald’s Game. The book is mostly psychological, but there’s one gruesome bit, and I started swaying and getting tunnel vision. I was like “I don’t feel well. Oh sh** I’m fainting. Oh sh** I can’t fall off my chair in public. Sh**”

              That’s a weird kind of praise, but he’s so good

                1. Ann O'Nemity*


                  I can re-read many of his books with great enjoyment. Gerald’s Game is not one of them.

                2. TL*

                  I’m now Wikipedia’ing this and if I have nightmares tonight, I’m blaming the AAM commentariat.

                3. Mints*

                  Well now I feel need to apologize–Sorry everyone!

                  I don’t actually recommend the book at all. Is “good” in the sense that it’s effective, but it’s horrible

              1. Natalie Anne Lanoville*

                ‘Lisey’s Story’ is literally one of the best books I’ve ever read. The squickiest for me was the line in ‘Thinner’, where he describes the sound of that guy’s enormous pimples ‘wetly opening’.

          2. AnotherAlison*

            I also really liked 11/22/63. It was the first Stephen King book I had read since high school, and I had forgotten how much I liked his writing. (I don’t get much time in with fiction anymore.)

    2. Mints*

      Stephen King is pretty popular; I don’t think this is a bad answer.

      (Spoiler alert) That bomb in the closet was one of the most tragic things I’ve read

      1. nyxalinth*


        And yet, if he hadn’t done it, that book might have floundered and never been published.

        I was actually thinking that I would say that one was my favorite, and I have good reasons why. It’s very dark, yes, but it has such a strong sense of hope running through it.

    3. Harriet*

      That’s the answer I gave in my interview to study English Literature at Oxford University! Somehow, despite both giving that answer and arguing with the professor interviewing me for quite a while in its defence, I got in.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      That’s a favorite of mine, too. I remember being very excited that I would get to find out what the bit about the guy who was killed by the wolves was—I could tell there was something missing when I first read the abridged version. Of course he turned out to be a gross freaky guy.

      My favorite long SK book now is Under the Dome, because of the social dynamics. Though I think the TV show is rubbish.

      1. nyxalinth*

        I’ve tried a few ties to read UtD, and just couldn’t seem to really get going on it. Then again, that happened to me with Insomnia, which is now a huge favorite of mine.

    5. Jen RO*

      I was recently asked what I was reading. I’ve been re-listening to the Dark Tower audio books for 6+ months… so that’s the answer I gave. The interviewer had probably never heard about them, but I did get invited for a final interview (I ended up declining). I think SK is a very good writer, most of what I read is fantasy or sci fi, and I won’t try to hide it. (But I do work in software development!)

      1. Jen RO*

        And my actual favorite writer? Roger Zelazny, who is virtually unknown here, unless you’re *really* into sci fi (only a handful of his books have been translated.)

      2. Jen RO*

        And I need some sympathy, because I got, again, to the part where the ka-tet breaks. [My favorite character] just died… I’m gonna cry in the car while listening on the way to work.

  24. bad at online naming*

    I have asked questions like these (” have you read anything interesting lately” more than the “favorite” angle) when it is apparent the interviewee is trying their best not to freak out but not quite succeeding.*, either early on in a regular interview or in the “lunch interview that isn’t quite but still totally is an interview” interview. It’s solely to get the person used to talking and see me as a person and not a Terrifying Job Denying/Giving Force.

    Since I’m in a nerdy field, I can’t think of a time when a brief discussion about sic-fi or fantasy (or d&d or magic or math) hasn’t calmed someone down a little bit. :)

    Come to think of it, I’ve also used it to make the discussion about workplace culture a little more back-and-forth and not me monologuing, and I’ve gotten some book recommendations out of it!

    (*I generally interview college students for tech internships, so I find nerves are quite understandable.)

    1. Anonsie*

      That’s what I came to say, actually. I know someone who asks things like “what was the last book/movie you read/watched and what did you think about it?” She says you get some interesting answers because people will often give really brief critiques about it.

  25. Janis*

    My boss will ask, “What have you read lately?” They can answer Popular Mechanics, Jane Austen or Star Trek Forever, but he’ll sit and wait until he gets an answer. He says it gives him an idea of the person. I doubt anyone was ever *not* hired because of their answer, except maybe for the lady who said she was an avid reader and then could not come up with a single book or magazine she’d read. She didn’t get the job, but that wasn’t the main reason. (Although, come to think of it, my boss will bring her up on occasion.)

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Here’s what would be going through my head during that lonnggg pause:
      – What was the name of that mortgage crisis book that is half read on my Kindle?
      – What about the Navy SEAL book? I didn’t really like it & don’t want to talk more about it.
      – Before that? Workout plan book.
      – Before that? Free Kindle book no one would have heard of and was kind of weird/sci-fi-ish.
      Finally, I will be able to pull out a nice stock answer, like Einstein’s biography by Waltern Isaacson, who I saw speak at a conference recently, don’t you know, he’s almost as fascinating as his subjects. : ) In the interim, I will look like an idiot who has possibly never read a book since Superfudge in the third grade.

      1. the gold digger*

        Goes with, “Don’t mention that I can download ‘Us’ magazine free from the library website! Stick to ‘1789’ or ‘Empire of the Summer Moon!'”

      2. arjay*

        So I’m one of those people who usually has to look at the book jacket to answer, “Oh, what are you reading?” Since I started using the Kindle, I never know the answer any more. I just checked; I’m currently reading Hidden by Catherine McKenzie. :)

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I can so relate to this. And I also think about book lengths in percentages instead of pages now.

      3. Chinook*

        I will never again knock the freebie books sometimes available as a sampler. The local library had “The Best Laid Plans” by Terry Fallis on the Kindle they lent me (I was test driving e-readers) and it turned out to be the funniest book I had ever read and, yet, I never would have chosen it myself because who in their right minds reads a fictional book about Canadian Politics? (BTW, this one beats the trend of good boks becoming lousy movies/tv series – the CBC series last year by that name was dead on and didn’t pull any of the satirical satire).

    2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      I usually have two or three books going at a time– one that I’m rereading that I only read before I go to bed at night, because I can’t read new books at night unless I want to stay up until all hours, one that’s new that I read during my lunch break and after I get home from work, and one non-fiction book that I read between the new novels to make sure I’m reading something of an improving nature between all my fiction. :) So I’d have to think for a minute as to how to respond. Right now it’d be that I’m currently rereading Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey novels.

  26. Kay*

    I love to read and read so many different kinds of things this would be a hard question to answer. I don’t know that my “I just finished” would help. Last night I finished a true crime about the Green River Killer. Pretty heavy stuff. I love young adult books too though. I actually found myself wanting to re-read “The Phantom Tollbooth” the other day. I think I’d probably answer with something reasonably popular… probably a “book club” style pick.

  27. Rachel*

    I’ve since removed it, but until recently my resume included the title of my senior honors essay in English, a semester-long research project that earned me departmental honors. I’m not far out of college and didn’t have a career-track job yet, so education got a little more space than it does now. It happens that my essay was about Pride and Prejudice and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and the titles of those books are in the title of the essay. That gave people some sense of my (rather broad) tastes before they even brought me in for an interview, and I definitely got some funny questions about it.

    I felt like it worked for me: people remembered it, but never in a bad way, and since I was able to summarize the essay in a sentence or two, talking about it didn’t have to take long. It was my best example of a long-term in-depth project. And talking about the essay definitely fleshed me out as a person! I think that it helped the hiring managers at my current job (which is absolutely a career-track job) know that I would fit in well with the department on a personal level, which was really important for a department of four.

    1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      I wrote my masters thesis on The Lord of the Rings, and it almost always gets a mention when I have it on my resume.

  28. Stephanie*

    I think it’s a fine icebreaker question and probably relevant if you’re working in publishing, media, or a similar industry. I would just be paranoid about giving the “right” or “wrong” answer like if I said I really enjoyed a documentary with a particular political slant (and the interviewer had the opposing political view).

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Funny you mention that. I was thinking this is the perfect weed out question for the political nutjobs (either side). Those types cannot wait to talk about their views, and I’m almost certain their favorite book would reveal that.

      1. Elysian*

        Unless political views are relevant to your job, I’m not sure its appropriate to be weeding out job candidates based on those. Besides, some people like to challenge themselves by opening up to opposing viewpoints.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Eh, you can do what you want. I’ve worked with someone I can’t stand for 6 years. I’m never doing it again. I’m fine with opposing political views, but I’m not discussing anything with someone who is fanatical about his position.

      2. Stephanie*

        It depends. My coworker had completely opposite views from me and was very fervent about them, but he was very good at his job and an awesome resource. Key, I think, is if you constantly bring it up and alienate coworkers who you need to work in tandem with. If an interviewee did say that Michael Moore (or Ann Coulter) were his favorite author and went on at length about his (or her) genius, yeah, I’d be worried.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          That’s exactly what I’m talking about. I think we all have these on FB, at minimum.

        2. jmkenrick*

          I have a mostly liberal office (a reflection of our geography), but one of my coworkers leans right and we know it because of FB. Occasionally we joke self-deprecatingly about being crazy hippies, and/or she’ll joke self-deprecatingly about being a gun nut, but for the most part, our political views don’t come into play at all.

          I think the test is whether you can be lighthearted about it in an office setting, even if you feel fervently about it in life.

    2. fposte*

      Right, we’re hiring in a library school and it’s a logical softball starter for us. Though we try not to use the word “favorite.”

  29. LBK*

    How do people address the “What do you do in your free time?” question when the answers don’t involve generally acceptable things like sports or volunteer work? I spend most of my free time watching TV, playing video games and messing around on the internet. On the weekends I’m usually barhopping/clubbing with friends. All of those answers tend to get me judged, or at least I feel like they do. Anyone else have this issue?

    1. Mike C.*

      “Yeah Bob, I’m currently streaming through the HBO back catalog like it’s a second job.”

      But seriously, I totally get where you’re coming from and I too find it really annoying when you have to dress up your otherwise perfectly acceptable private life because some jerk is going to judge you for not living a boring life. It’s obnoxious.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, agreed. Unless my answer is “shooting up heroin, usually right before I come in to work” then I don’t really think it should be your business what I’m doing in my free time.

        I’ve started saying that I like to cook (which is true, but I wouldn’t really call it a hobby, mostly just…y’know, how I eat) and travel (which is also true, but that’s a few times a year, not all the time). Those seem to be more acceptable even if they aren’t actually my day-to-day favorite activities.

      2. Hous*

        I’ve recently gotten into the My Little Pony collectible card game, which is pretty much a perfect storm of things you don’t want to talk about with strangers. “Have you heard of Magic the Gathering? It’s like that, but with cartoon horses from a children’s TV show! Please don’t judge me. I’ll see myself out.”

        1. LBK*

          This would incite a debate with me over who was the best pony. Personally, I’m a Rainbow Dash fan.

          1. Hous*

            Me too! Dash and Fluttershy, but Dash is my favorite to play in the actual game. I have a little Dash figure on my desk, actually, I keep waiting for my boss to make fun of me about it.

      3. Janis*

        Mike C., I am wiping the tears from my eyes after reading your comment about streaming the HBO back catalog like it’s a second job. That is so damn funny.

    2. GrumpyBoss*

      I’d just be honest. I like to collect wine and brew my own beer. I thought about being guarded in case the interviewer doesn’t drink. But as I got older, I don’t feel the need to hide that side of myself. It’s perfectly legal, so I don’t really care if an interviewer thinks it isn’t what they want to hear.

      1. NavyLT*

        I brew beer occasionally, and always list it when I’m asked about my hobbies. Usually people just ask when they can come over and try some.

      1. LBK*

        That’s generally what I say. I just feel like it’s so generic. Who doesn’t like spending time with their friends? Isn’t that why they’re your friends?

    3. Kay*

      I play a lot of board games. Settlers of Catan, Ascension, 7 Wonders, etc. I also like puzzles. I tend to frame it as enjoying things that stimulate my mind and make me think and reason. If the video games involve strategy or learning skills (even if the skill is how to mash the buttons in the right order to accomplish a particular goal) you might focus on that… and the community aspect of gaming.

      My husband is a really avid gamer and I’ve definitely learned a LOT about that world since we’ve been married.

      1. Jake*

        I thought about getting 7 wonders, how is it?

        My group loves Catan, Munchkin and pandemic.

        1. Sarah*

          7 Wonders is awesome. Just a warning – the rules are crazy confusing when you first read through them. But once you start playing they totally makes sense.

        2. Kay*

          My husband’s a magic player and always tells everyone that 7 Wonders is just like drafting. I think it’s fun because everyone plays at the same time. There’s also a couple expansions that make it even more interesting. It also scales for number of players really well. With the original game you can play with anywhere from 2-7. If you have one of the expansion packs you can play with up to 8.

    4. Celeste*

      I think you can say that you’re pretty social and you like to spend time with your friends at casually and at local events, and that in your downtime you have a couple of TV series you like to watch.

    5. Jake*

      I hang out with my wife, my friends and we play board games and video games. That is what I do in my free time, but it seems like such a boring answer.

      I Instantly feel judged when I’m done answering that question.

    6. Colette*

      I think part of that is how you frame it.

      “I just watch TV” sounds unfocused – like you’re only doing it because you haven’t thought of anything else to do.

      “Actually, I’d heard great things about for years and I finally gave it a try. I’m completely hooked!”, on the other hand, makes you sound intentional and passionate. It’s a better impression to make.

      1. LBK*

        Good call. Maybe I just need to be more specific about it – I’m watching higher quality stuff like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Orange is the New Black, etc. and I’m really passionate about reading critical response and interpretation. I’m not binging on Kardashians and Housewives (although I do guilty pleasure-watch those sometimes, but I don’t make a point to see them).

    7. Tinker*

      I’ve found it a little awkward at times to explain the martial arts thing — sometimes folks get all “hi-yah hi-yah” about it and act kind of ha ha only serious like I’m some sort of death ninja. I do have a spiel though — “it’s a traditional martial art from Korea, kind of like Aikido, fairly different from MMA, we do locks and kicks and throws and things, I’ve been doing it for 12 years and am an assistant instructor”.

      Partly it’s a thing where you kind of frame the answer by the way you explain it — positive, excited, that sort of thing, not anticipating a problem… if that ends up being a thing, I figure it speaks to fit.

      As far as video games, when that’s a big feature of my current interests (I run in streaks) I’ve got no shame about mentioning it — but then again I’m a software QA and have a Chell action figure and four turrets on my desk. So.

      1. Lora*

        Did you know you can donate one or all of your vital organs to the Aperture Science Self-Esteem Fund for Girls? It’s true!

    8. Elizabeth West*

      “I like to keep my digital skills sharp and spend time with family and friends.”

      Nobody needs to know that means you played six hours of WoW, binge-watched TV shows on Netflix, and danced on a table at Hokey’s Bar with your buddies.

  30. Mike C.*

    Ugh, I can just see where this would go…

    “Uh, well, I’m currently reading a new translation of the 1,001 Arabian Nights.”

    “You mean that Disney kids stuff?”

    “Yeah, read that to your kids and see how it goes…”

    1. TL*

      I love fairy tales, especially the older, more gruesome ones. There’s nothing I love more than destroying people’s Disney-fied views of fairy tales…bwahaha.

      1. Corporate Attorney*

        The original version of The Little Mermaid will make you want to slit your wrists.

  31. Ann O'Nemity*

    I was once asked about my favorite book for an on-campus summer job. I answered with “The Count of Monte Cristo,” but then was told it was a pretentious answer. I couldn’t come up with a good retort and did not get the job. For years afterwards, I’ve fantasized about witty zingers I could have delivered.

    1. Anonsie*

      Every time you take a shower. “Your FACE is pretentious, interviewer guy!”

      I love extremely pretentious books and I actually keep it somewhat on the DL because people are so weird about it. I remember someone sitting down next to me once (I want to think I was reading Candide) and looked at my book and said “Oh my god. Anonsie. Why are you doing that in public? Stop it. Put it away.”

      1. Elysian*

        This is why I Kindle.

        Related: A woman next to me on a plane was reading 50 Shades of Gray for the whole flight, and every time I looked at her I couldn’t stop thinking “Ewww what part are you at? What are thinking about while I’m sitting next to you?” She also needed a Kindle, in my humble opinion.

          1. nyxalinth*

            Same. I read a lot of dodgy horror (in addition to Stephen King) and one book in particular–Resurrection, by Tim Curran–has some real stomach turning scenes that would also embarrass me if someone read over my shoulder! Excellent zombie novel though.

    2. the gold digger*

      Pretentious? A book about a guy escaping prison by being dumped in the ocean the way they do with the corpses? And then getting revenge on his nemesis? That is not pretentious!

      1. fposte*

        Plus it’s been historically considered rather a potboiler and not at all belle lettres. But I guess any explanation that uses the phrase “belle lettres” isn’t going to get you off the pretentious hook.

          1. jmkenrick*

            And even if it did, why do you have to avoid pretentious stuff?

            One man’s high brow is another man’s low brow.

            My coworkers give me shit because I read and genuinely dislike reality TV…but then my friends raise their brows because I never keep up with those bands you’ve never heard of, and didn’t get into The Wire. (I know, I know, I have to try again…)

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      I should add, one of the retorts I wished I would have used was, “Ah, you must have been born with a pen behind your ear and an ink pot in place of a heart.” (It’s a rough quote from the book about one of the villains.)

      1. Janis*

        Well, Ann O’Nemity, I would have been gobsmacked if someone had said that to me, but at least you weren’t called a Pompous Zoologist like one letter writer was!

    4. TL*

      I love The Count of Monte Cristo. And Dickens. Dickens is honestly my favorite writer.
      When people start giving me the pretentious side eye, I just laugh and say something like, “It’s weird right? And after I finished Les Mis I didn’t feel so much smart as resentful of wasting an hour of my life reading about the Parisian sewer system!”

    5. Stephanie*

      Oh yeah, I have the same issue when I tell people I love classical music. I remember getting into a long discussion about Sibelius (and classical in general) with a friend and thinking “This might be one of the more pretentious conversations I’ve had at a house party.”

      I get very excited when I find other classical buffs under the age of 50.

    6. Corporate Attorney*

      Whaaaaaaaaaat? That was popular literature when it was written! It’s only highbrow now because it’s old!

      (I love Dumas. I have a Dumas-related tattoo. No lie.)

  32. Non-Reader / Non-Movie Watcher*

    What if you don’t like to read nor like movies??? Then what???

    1. CTO*

      Can you talk about some other hobby that you really enjoy? “I don’t find much time to read, but I’m taking a ceramics class right now, and I’m also into cooking and camping.”

      The goal is to give a flattering glimpse into your personality, ideally showing that you’re intelligent, curious, active, creative… some positive quality.

      1. Non-Reader / Non-Movie Watcher*

        I wake up, I go to work for 8 hours, I come home, I eat, I sleep. Repeated next day and so on and forth… No interest in anything beyond that, really. No time nor patience nor energy for “hobbies”

          1. jmkenrick*

            Have you considered a career in real estate?

            “It’s just a cozy, old-fashioned place.”

          1. Non-Reader / Non-Movie Watcher*

            Housework, laundry, running errands on weekends. And of course even more sleeping afterwards

            1. jelly donut*

              I’m concerned that, given your utter lack of hobbies or interests, you may be depressed. I struggle with mild depression and it makes me tired and uninterested in doing much of anything most days. Or, you may have a sleep disorder. Either way, a visit to a doc might be in order.

              You left out a hobby though- clearly you read this blog. So you could just say you like to read career blogs and browse the internet.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          “By the time I get through all the comments on AAM, it is time for bed. I really do not have time for books or movies.”

    2. C Average*

      I guess you talk about what you DO like instead.

      “I’m spending all my free time at this point coding a video game based on my experiences exploring Antarctica.”

      “I’m training for the Ironman right now, so I unfortunately don’t have much time to read or watch movies.”

      “When I try to read, my cat just walks all over my book, so I have to put the book away. I’ve decided to give in to illiteracy and let the cat win.”

      “I am teaching myself Russian. Does Rosetta Stone count as a book or a movie?”

      Hmmm. All of these wind up sounding like humblebrags. I love to read and enjoy movies, so I’m having trouble coming up with a pithy way to express lack of interest in either of these activities.

  33. Jake*

    I don’t like these types of questions because it yields faulty data about me.

    My favorite book is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and my favorite movie is Fight Club. This could easily lead somebody to the conclusion that I have issues with authority. I don’t at all, I just enjoy reading about and watching characters that do.

    1. hildi*

      “I don’t at all, I just enjoy reading about and watching characters that do.”

      I totally agree with this. I love reading stories about expeditions on Everest. But there is no way ever I would be interested in doing anything remotely related to climing. I don’t like it – just like reading about people who do. So I agree on yielding faulty data. Good point.

    2. TL*

      I have issues with authority and I’ve never felt the desire to re-watch “Fight Club”…but I do love One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        What if I told you that you had to re-watch Fight Club?

        (see what I did there?)

    3. jmkenrick*

      If you have authority problems, then I’m plotting a murder in someone’s English summer manor.

  34. GrumpyBoss*

    I was once asked this question when I was in my insufferable Great Books phase (I was insufferable, not the Great Books!) I had just finished the Critique of Pure Reason by Kant and used that for my answer. My interviewer was perplexed and quiet for a minute, and then asked me: “Is that the latest by Grisham?”

    I make sure I have a safe, best seller answer nowadays so not to come off as a pretentious a-hole. Or confuse interviewers.

    1. Anonsie*

      You know, Critique of Pure Reason does sound an awful lot like it could be the title of a John Grisham book, now that I think about it.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        This reminds me of an elevator conversation I once overheard. Two young guys were quoting the Rural Juror piece from 30-Rock. An older woman overheard and said, “Oh, I love John Grisham.” To which one of the guys replied, “No, it’s Kevin Grisham, not John.” The bewildered expression on the woman’s face was hilarious. Then the other guy piped up, “Have you read Urban Furor?” At that point I couldn’t hold back the laughs.

        Of course, none of this is funny if you haven’t seen the episode.

    1. fposte*

      Lolita is a freaking amazing book. I would deeply respect somebody who said it was their favorite. (Unless they were doing it to be creepy and probably had never read it.)

      1. fposte*

        Though to be fair, it’s a risk if you don’t know you’re talking to somebody who actually knows the book, so maybe go for Pale Fire instead :-).

      2. AVP*

        I love Lolita but I tend to say Laughter in the Dark because it’s marginally less creepy, or at least under-the-radar.

  35. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

    Granted, I have a history of people teasing/shaming/arguing with me for my likes. but this question would really hit me as very personal and akin to “So who do you have sex with?” It would automatically put my back up. Although I also blab about my life on websites and I’m a librarian, so contradiction there.

    I did puzzle my retail manager at when he asked me this at lunch, just making conversation, and I answered the most important book to my personal development in the past 5 years was The Shadow and The Star by Laura Kinsale. Not what he was expecting.

  36. Ree*

    I had this question come up in a panel interview several years ago at an academic institution. I was working about 90 hours a week at my current job and had been out of grad school for a couple of years. The honest answer was, “I read a lot of People magazine.” They laughed, and I am sure they thought I was an idiot, but I told them I was pretty burned out and part of the reason I wanted this job was to get back to things like reading in my spare time.

    I got the job. Everyone there was sort of a literary/movie snob, so I am surprised. I think my candor did it for me.

    1. AVP*

      I had an interviewee tell me that her favorite books were the Hunger Games, because “it really reminds me of my everyday life and the things I go through.” And then we both laughed because it was so YA and off the wall, and she got the job. And we did Katniss braids one day and it was awesome.

  37. YoungProfessional*

    I have a few conservative answers prepared for off-the-wall interview questions. I get raised eyebrows when I mention that I like to read meditation books though…

  38. AVP*

    This is such a minefield for me! I work in film, so it’s a legitimate question that people ask to gauge fit (does your taste/aesthetic line up with who you’d be working for), but part of the reason I work here is because I love SO MANY books and movies that I can’t pick. Luckily I know it’s coming so I’m prepared. I usually pick both Breathless (classic Godard French New Wave), Amelie (the pop rom-com version of the former), and a high-end documentary.

    For books, I don’t even know, it changes every week. I like Alison’s suggestion of one that I’ve loved recently. I try to pick something high-enough-brow that I look smart and tasteful but fun enough that I don’t look like a snob.

    Ugh now I want to go home and watch Amelie.

  39. Jessica*

    My colleague asked a few of these types of in a recent interview for a university residence hall director position. It wasn’t the MOST relevant set of questions, but I understood why he asked them — a big part of the job is connecting with students, hosting movie nights, etc, and someone whose tastes are too esoteric might have a hard time understanding what will appeal to college students.

  40. Mighty Mouse*

    These favorite book/movie questions are probably used to change up the pace of the interview.. give the interviewee a break after some tough questions. In my opinion, it is a misguided attempt at relaxing the interviewee.

    1. Noah*

      That is exactly why I use them, although I phrase them a bit differently. The goal is to not talk about anything work related but get the candidate to talk about themselves for a minute. It helps to start a conversation and hopefully relax the candidate. I avoid the “favorite” questions though, I usually phrase them as “I saw 22 Jump Street over the weekend, what was the last movie you saw?”.

    2. Rana*

      Mighty Mouse, I agree. I find these questions anything but relaxing.

      Seriously, the hardest question I was asked during my orals exam for my doctorate was “which book was the most influential on your thinking as a historian?”

      Which one was my immediate thought, and it took me a moment to bumble out something reasonably coherent that didn’t include the phrase “God, what a horrible and useless question.”

  41. Robin*

    I don’t think answering with a romance novel or movie title is any worse than the other choices. I write romance as a side thing and have met many romance authors who also work day jobs and hire people. You just never know.

    1. Sharm*

      I don’t disagree, but the stigma is a real thing. For practical purposes, I would never mention romance or YA for this reason.

    2. TL*

      I think if you phrased it right, i.e., “I love Eloisa James because she tends to focus heavily on women’s friendships in the context of her novels, which is something that is hard to find outside of the romance genre” or “Julia Quinn’s depictions of smart, witty, yet entirely normal characters, combined with her happy endings and brilliant writing make her books perfect for escapism; I don’t have much time to read books but hers always leave me in a great mood” would be much more acceptable than “J.R. Ward’s vampires have sex with ghosts and beast-men and poisoned hooked man-parts. Plus there was a gay vampire novel. Well, one of the dudes was bi. But it was totally sold in Wal-Mart. So I really read them for the shock value. You never know what she’s going to do next!”

  42. hannah*

    This question is important if you are hiring someone who will be working in sales. If they can describe a book or movie in a way that sounds interesting and makes you want to read/see it, you know they will be able to sell a product to a customer.

  43. Sharm*

    Others have touched on this, but I stopped having “favorites” of things when I was in middle school, so to me, all my answers to favorites are things I loved as a kid. The Little Mermaid (1985) is THE BOMB DOT COM, OKAY?

    And again, a lot of YA I read as a kid is what has stuck with me (The Giver, Westing Game, etc etc), and so that’s what pops in my mind first.

    As Alison advised, I always go the route of, “Well, I just finished _____,” without really thinking why I was doing it. It was mostly because I can’t actually name a favorite, and if I tried to explain my thought process behind that, it’d take a whole hour. I’m not as highbrow as a lot of people, so I always try to keep one non-fiction in my back pocket, as well as a recent book by a decent writer. Having gone through this now, I think I should be better prepared in the future and just have one of the many Margaret Atwoods I’ve enjoyed as a standby.

    1. Kay*

      Yes! The Westing Game is actually sitting on my night stand right now because I read it as a kid and kinda wanted to re-read and see if I missed anything :-)

    2. Anx*

      The Little Mermaid is mine, too.

      Do you think Atwood is too controversial? I love many of here books but the themes may be controversial for an interview. Of course, my favorite TV shows deal with a lot of those themes, too.

      1. Sharm*

        A good question. This could be my complete bias here, but I feel like she gets more of a pass on controversy than other writers. Again, it may be where I have lived and interviewed, but perhaps in other regions, I’d have to reconsider.

        1. Anx*

          I don’t personally find her work offensive or inappropriate, but art’s a strange thing to talk about in an interview because it’s supposed to be controversial at times.

  44. De Minimis*

    In my field they sometimes ask entry level candidates these type of questions. There generally aren’t many differences between candidates as far as job related qualifications, and employers want some idea of what type of person you are outside of work, so questions about books, etc., are one way to find out.

    When I worked retail they wanted to know what books, music, etc. I was into, but that was directly job related.

  45. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

    I don’t think questions about books or movies are bad. However, I recently had someone tell me that in an interview they were actually asked “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” I mean, really how is someone supposed to answer that? LOL

    1. Elysian*

      Unless your interview was with the Arbor Day Foundation I can’t imagine any applicant ever having an answer that makes sense.

      “Umm, an apple tree? Because I like apples?”

    2. Kay*

      A live oak tree because it’s strong and evergreen. I don’t lose my leaves in the winter ;-)

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      Um… American Chestnut, the most common tree for logging, because I like to be useful?

      Or maybe a sequoia. Who doesn’t like to start out with a trial by fire?

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I waited AGES to be asked that question and never was. My answer would have been, “A mallorn tree,” and if the interviewer knew what it was, then I would know we were of a similar mind.

  46. Carrie in Scotland*

    I’ve had this question come up twice before, for a job in a bar and in a bookshop. I was in my late teens and early 20’s. For the bar job, it was to see if I’d get along with the sort of people that worked there. For the bookshop job it was more that people would come in and expect you to know about this book or that author, how to get to the beach, where the tourist office was etc. Was it suitable for a boy of 8 who is a good reader, what has princesses in it, what is similar to Harry Potter etc. The questions in my interview were along the lines of “what was the last book you read/film you saw/what did you like/dislike about it/what was the last concert you went to/what book did you start but never finish?” To date, it is actually the best interview I’ve ever had (and I was there for over 2 years) because we started talking about various bands we’d seen recently.

    I can’t pick my favourite book but Tully and The Blind Assassin would definitely be up there along with about 5 others.

  47. Sadsack*

    What if I say The Big Lebowski? Guess I better go with something safer, like O’ Brother Where Art Thou? Both are right up there in my top 10.

  48. BritCred*

    I’d probably get a side glance on these –

    Fav book(s) – Deverry series by Katharine Kerr (reincarnation based fantasy series – very pagan in nature)
    Fav Film(s) – Karate Kid (both) and Bloodsport – I’m into my martial arts…..

    1. BritCred*

      although I can relate these back to work related matters as the Deverry series teaches a lot about being aware of your surroundings and not making mistakes again through lack of thought, and the martial arts films show the use of focus and reality in your methods (aka. not over show boating unless its necessary).

      Ok, that just sounds bad….

  49. Reader*

    One of the questions my manager used to ask was “What kind of casserole would you be?” I used to wonder how the candidates reacted to that one. (I didn’t get asked that because I transferred laterally to her department, but if I were asked, I’d respond with “lasagna.”)

    1. hildi*

      Do you know what she was looking for in the answers? My answer would be: “a delicious one.”

  50. Sharm*

    I forgot that I answered Hot Tub Time Machine as an answer to this once. Yes, please feel free to judge me. (I didn’t position it as favorite, but rather, “Movie I can’t seem to turn off when it comes on TV.)

  51. Nanc*

    It’s been many years since I was on a job interview, but I did get asked these questions when I interviewed/trained as a volunteer for my local library. We were asked to share what we were currently reading and the last movie we saw. I happened to be reading Stiff by Mary Roach and had just seen Kinky Boots. Everyone else in the training got on the hold list for both of those!

    Still, the question was appropriate to my setting but seems weird in an interview.

      1. Janis*

        Stiff by Mary Roach! On page 28, the lady whose occupation was “cadaver beheader”! Yes, I laughed so long and so hard that I made a mental note of the page number.

  52. Malissa*

    I like to use Airplane as my movie.

    Books–I read so many that my favorite is constantly changing, so I go with what I’ve read recently that isn’t a romantic novel. Usually something by Ann Rule or a historical book like 1876 by Gore Vidal.

  53. Grey*

    Read a good book that relates to management and remember it as a favorite. Even if you’re never asked the question during an interview, you’ll still gain something from the read. My favorite is Lee Iacocca’s autobiography.

  54. "Call" Girl*

    I really hate it when interviewers veer into my personal life. It’s none of their #%$#@ business what my favorite book, or movie or food is, unless the job is about books, movies or food. You are interviewing me for a job not to be your BFF!

    1. Janis*

      Perhaps your hostility is showing through in the interview and the interviewer is trying to change tack?

    2. A. D. Kay*

      I agree! I have worked in IT for the past 15 years and have never been asked this question during interviews. I would find it horribly invasive.

      1. "Call" Girl*

        I work in IT too and I’ve been asked that type of question.
        Also I was asked what kind of file share system I have set up on my home network. Not even, do you have file sharing on your home network? The interviewer just assumed I did. I thought that was an odd question. My file sharing needs are pretty basic, I ftp stuff back and forth to a server. I don’t think my answer was techie/complicated enough.

      2. HR “Gumption”*

        Most people don’t find it horribly invasive and that’s something to keep in mind.

        However an IT or Commercial Seafood (me) interviewer are very unlikely to ask those questions.

      3. Lily in NYC*

        Horribly invasive? That is quite a stretch. Rectal exams are horribly invasive, but asking a very basic question is not.

    3. NavyLT*

      These sorts of questions aren’t an interrogation, though. The interviewer is gauging your ability to engage in small talk, not judging your entertainment choices. Yes, the main thing is that you know how to do your job, but basic conversational skills are important, too.

        1. NavyLT*

          What would you consider a good conversationalist, then? I’d say books, movies, and music are pretty safe topics to discuss with someone you don’t really know.

        2. Lily in NYC*

          This makes no sense to me. Would you please elaborate? These are basically “cocktail party” or “first date” questions, so how can you possibly say it makes for bad small talk?

          1. Natalie Anne Lanoville*

            I disagree that they’re “cocktail party” or “first date” questions. A good conversationalist picks up on the actual interests and thought processes of each person s/he is chatting with, and focuses her/his questions on those themes and topics. Just popping out “What’s your favourite book/movie/colour/Back Street Boy” is middle school sleepover icebreaker, in my humble opinion.

  55. Tomato Frog*

    I could answer this just fine, albeit with some hedging. But I would NEVER ask it — my opinions on fiction are way too strongly held.

  56. Anna (and lay off the bananas!)*

    OK, is there a good way to say I don’t watch a lot of movies? Asking about my favorite recent movie is a plausible variant on the favorite-movie question, but the most-recently-released movie I’ve seen would probably be Lincoln. And it’s not like I prefer old movies or anything — I loved The King’s Speech, for example, and Slumdog Millionaire, and both those movies were released within the past 5 years or so.

    1. Sharm*

      I think you could just limit to the movies you mentioned — those are all good movies that would pass most people’s judgment filter.

      If you wanted the interviewer to know you aren’t a movie person, you could mention one or two of those, and perhaps segue into others things you DO consume that you like (music, books), or perhaps some other activity.

      1. Felicia*

        I’m not really into movies either but most people don’t understand that, so i try not to mention that. Usually I have one movie I do like to mention, and then say, that I read a lot more books and mentioned a book I enjoyed.

  57. Natalie Anne Lanoville*

    Can I just say how stabby it makes me when a superior asks me a personal question in a professional environment that is in no way germane to my work or professional life, but which if I either decline to answer or tell the truth, it may or will affect my work life, prospects, relationships or professional prospects?

    1. NavyLT*

      Sounds like you’ve had some bad bosses. The answers to personal questions certainly shouldn’t affect how your superiors view you, and that’s not really why a good boss asks you questions about yourself. It’s not about prying or judging; it’s about taking an interest in people beyond the simple calculation of what you can do for me. I don’t expect the people who work for me to share all the details of their personal lives (for the most part, I’d rather not have the details), but refusing to discuss any aspect of one’s life outside of work can come across as a bit odd.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m saying that if you announce in a professional context that your favorite book is erotica or a book that’s held up as a well-known example of terrible writing, that will come across oddly, yes.

          I don’t think that’s terribly unfair or onerous.

  58. Nemeton*

    Very interesting discussion! I’ve gotten this question in interviews a few times. I usually imagine this as a first date scenario – as in, I want to be authentic and provide a response that is (generally) true, but not necessarily reveal the quirkiest/strangest things about myself at that juncture. I also try to keep in mind that a job interview is a two-way street – and that both the interviewer’s questions and the interviewer’s reactions to my responses will likely provide useful info about whether the job would be a good fit.

    I once did get a question along these lines that I answered poorly, however – an interview asked me who my favorite Disney princess was, and why. I admittedly got pretty flustered because I wasn’t expecting a question like that, and at the moment I couldn’t remember who was Disney vs. Pixar or some other animation studio…after composing myself I stated that I admired Drew Barrymore’s character in Ever After (a Cinderella retelling) to which my interview snapped harshly that I hadn’t really answered the question and that she was looking specifically for Disney princesses, not derivatives. I didn’t get that job – nor did I really want it after that interview experience (the interviewer would have been my immediate supervisor). (And, this was a standard office admin job – not remotely related to the animation/art/entertainment industry.)

      1. Nemeton*

        That’s a great question – I really have no idea! The department (which was only 5-6 people) was entirely women, though. And the office was fully decorated in Disney Princess regalia (I got the tour after the Q&A part of the interview – if I’d gotten it before, I might have been better prepared to come up with an answer.) To each her own, I suppose – but it was awfully strange decor for an office staffed by adults (again, in a completely unrelated industry). Looked like something my then-preschool-aged daughter would have decorated.

    1. nyxalinth*

      Nowadays, since they’ve acquired the Star wars franchise, I would say “Princess Leia!” :D

  59. Cassie*

    I like “To Kill A Mockingbird”, so that would probably be my default answer. My favorite favorite books (audiobooks) would have to be “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” and “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie”.

    As for movies, I really like “Tangled”… but that might not be the best answer to give. I don’t watch many movies so I don’t have a whole lot of choices. “You’ve Got Mail”? “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”?

  60. A Public Librarian*

    I’ve received this interview question before, but in a context that totally makes sense. As a public librarian I do lot of readers’ advisory (recommending books to people who are looking for suggestions). So I was asked to share my favorite book as I would to a library customer.

  61. Dulcinea*

    I was asked this question in an interview, and when I said “To Kill A Mockingbird,” the interviewer responded, “Well OK, a lot of people say ‘the Bible’ but that’s fine.” It wasn’t a religious organization that I was interviewing for, either.

    (For those playing along, this is the same interview I mentioned earlier today where they gave me a hard time about not having been admitted to the bar yet when I had a conversation with the interviewer who invited me in the first place about how I wasn’t admitted before he invited me!)

    1. Audiophile*

      Really? I can’t see mentioning the Bible as my favorite book. I think that’s a slippery slope.

      1. NoPantsFridays*

        Yeah, even if my real favorite were the Bible, I wouldn’t say so. Religion is a protected class. I’d be giving them information they don’t want in the interview process, plus possibly opening myself up to discrimination (even if illegal discrimination).

  62. J J N*

    This actually isn’t an innocent small talk question at all. It’s typically used to tease out information about socio-economic and family class/status that can’t be asked legally, as well as potential political leanings, conformity, etc.

    If you give an answer that’s lower class like Sean Clancy or Twilight, that’s bad, but anything intellectual, pretentious, or progressive is a poor answer too unless you’re interviewing at an artsy or NFP kind of place. Something middlebrow and non-fiction like Malcolm Gladwell is your safest answer.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Noooo. That’s really not why it’s typically asked. I suppose it’s possible that some interviewer is using it that way, but I can assure you that that’s not typically what’s behind it.

      1. J J N*

        Typically was too strong a word here … didn’t want to imply that everyone who asks that question has ulterior motives. Obviously some people are using it to get to know the candidate. But I know that it is used to get those type of details by some interviews, so my advice about what type of answer to give stands. Not everyone in the business world is as nice as the people here.

    2. NoPantsFridays*

      The people here are too nice :) — I think it’s careless to assume they speak for all interviewers.

      As long as there exists at least ONE interviewer/exception who asks this question with an ulterior motive, I would personally play it safe.

      If I assume the question is innocent, it doesn’t matter whether I give a controversial answer (e.g. something religious or political) or a sanitized answer. If, OTOH, the question is meant to tease out the things JJN mentions, it matters a lot– a religious/political answer that the interviewer doesn’t like is a major negative, while a sanitized answer is neutral.

      Same reason why I wear more subtle or even hidden religious jewelry, or none at all, to interviews or similar occasions– anything unnecessarily controversial can’t help, it can only hurt; it can’t be better, it can only be worse.

  63. Anx*

    Sci fi fans, help me please!

    I don’t want to mention sci fi shows or books because apparently that’s weird, but is science nonfiction/creative nonfiction too pretentious?

    I am going to do a dairy queen interview tomorrow and I don’t want to weird them out, but I’ve been really slack about reading things that I don’t have to or that I don’t like. I’m watching GOT S1 which isn’t appropriate, but it’s popular. I feel like the shows I watch are really popular among tv fans, but not necessarily tv viewers.

    Most of my social media success comes from being a part of a campaign to renew a television series and fandom things. I don’t want to say I don’t do social media, but I pretty much use if for ‘nerdy’ things. How can I mention this without putting people off?

    Also, it’s a shame there’s such a stigma. When I had to move for financial reasons and didn’t have many friends, fandom was my creative outlet and a social outlet. I guess I should have been playing softball instead but I wasn’t thinking ahead.

  64. Josie*

    I was actually offered a job because, in part at least, in my second interview the founder of the business asked me what music I liked and I was honest (prog rock) and when I named a few bands he looked shocked and said he loved them too! We hit it off. Best interview I’ve ever had.

    The question was pretty relevant to the work though as they publish music books (as well as other books).

  65. Tami Too*

    I tend to use it as a part of conversation to get a baseline on someone. I might not ask what is your favorite movie or book but something like Allison said, like how I just saw X or just read X and loved it, and ask if that person enjoys movies or reading. I get a baseline on them, their language structure, their body language, etc., and then use that information to help determine later on if they are possibly being deceptive. It’s part of the process in Janine Driver’s book, “You Can’t Lie to Me!”

    I don’t evaluate the actual answers as much as I evaluate how the person behaves when answering the question. They really have no reason to lie to me about if they read a book or saw a movie recently.

  66. Tagg*

    I had this come up when I interviewed for a retail job at Suncoast. My interviewer asked me what movie I’d seen recently and liked, which actor I really liked and why, etc. This was actually relevant to the position though, as Suncoast is primarily a movie store and a knowledge of and enthusiasm for movies was needed to do the job well. I actually really liked working there even though it was a dreaded retail job. The people were really chill and fun to talk to. Plus, I like alphabetizing things so I was their favorite employee when it came to tidying up the store XD

  67. Mary in Texas*

    I usually ask this question just to get an idea that this person has a life outside of work. That said, I once asked the favorite movie question and the woman applicant responded with “The Little Mermaid.” She did not get the job.

  68. Jazzy Red*

    1. To Kill A Mockingbird.

    2. To Kill A Mockingbird.

    I get that the interviewer is trying to gauge if the candidate would be a good fit with the office culture, but really, what I read/watch is none of their business. It’s right up there with “what religion are you” and “who did you vote for”.

    1. NavyLT*

      …No. Not unless your only possible answer to that question is your religion’s sacred text, or a book by the most polarizing figure on your end of the political spectrum.

  69. nyxalinth*

    I would have to say my favorite fiction novel, one I read over and over, is probably Stephen King’s The Stand, with a follow-up from his Insomnia.

    Nonfiction would be The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

    Movies… not a bit movie person, but favorites would include (that I would mention) would be Shaun of the Dead, The Princess Bride, Shrek, the even-numbered Star Trek movies, and Alfred Hitchcock’s movies.

    If by some odd chance I was ever asked about favorite videogames, they would be World of Warcraft for playability and the community and teamwork, the Elder Scrolls games (for the level for detail and how at least the earlier titles really make you use your brain and storytelling) and the Fallout series (as grim as it can be, it conveys a lot of hope for humanity).

  70. NavyLT*

    I guess I’m just really puzzled that people find the “what do you read/watch” question remotely intrusive, whether it’s from a boss, interviewer, or anyone else. Just pick a title/genre and say something you like about it–it doesn’t have to be your absolute favorite and your explanation doesn’t have to be deep and personal:

    “I like Tom Clancy’s Cold War novels, because he’s got great, detailed plots. Some of his later books read like they came off the assembly line at the Tom Clancy Novel Factory, though.”

    “I like Patrick O’Brien (Master and Commander) because there’s a lot of historical detail. He really brings you into the era of the Napoleanic Wars. Then again, I have a high tolerance for technical discussions of sailing and naval strategy in the age of sail.”

    “I will watch Braveheart any time, no matter how weird Mel Gibson actually is in real life.”

    “I started listening to classical music because the classical station was the only one that had music instead of talk in the morning. Holst’s ‘The Planets’ is surprisingly good at evoking space.”

    “The oldies, even though that was the station my dad listened to and sang along with when he drove me to school.”

  71. Hrmm*

    I don’t think these questions are ridiculous at all. I’ll often ask candidates as a final question what their favorite book is, or what they like to do in their spare time. It’s a personality fit question, an “I know you’re qualified, but would I want to grab a beer with you?” question.

    I don’t really care what the answer is as long as it’s not totally absurd. They could say they build birdhouses or poledance as exercise for all I care. And it sometimes gives candidates an opportunity to talk about a dedication or active interest in something (like a sustained hobby or a volunteer position) which I always think is a good thing.

  72. Natalie Anne Lanoville*

    I can’t find it now, but somewhere in this thread there was a discussion about romance authors. I personally really like Jayne Ann Krentz (she writes under several pseudonyms) and Emma Holly.

    JAK is very prolific (and her books suffer for it a bit IMO), but although they do follow a formula, it’s a cut above average. Her heroes are at the very least self-aware gentlemen, I’ve never read a book of hers with even a whiff of questionable consent, and she frequently – and sensitively – includes LGBTQ characters.

    I’ve only read one Emma Holly, but it was very well-written and non-formulaic. Like JAK, male characters who were ethical, high-quality human beings and nothing even vaguely rapey.

  73. Craig*

    I had a job candidate as my director and me, “If you were a tree, what type of tree would you be?” She then proceeded for the next 5 minutes to explain why she would be an apple tree. At least that gave me time to think about my tree.

  74. Kirsten*

    I actually ask questions like this. I am hiring artists who tend to be introverted, but I need them to be great sales people. So to see the if are capable of being out going we ask them to: ” tell us a joke”, “sing a song”, “tell me about your favorite…(book, movie, character)”. I’ve asked people if they could invite any 3 people, living or dead or fictional, to dinner who would they be. We have group interviews and will give them 5 to 10 min to work together recreating a scene from a movie (this is great for finding potential leaders)

    It’s really all about getting them to open up and talk about some they are passionate about. Do they rise up to the challenge or say closed off?

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