a job application asked me to rank if torturing a person was worse than prostitution

A reader writes:

I’m trying to change fields from copywriting freelancer to something in the admin assistance sphere. It could be that my greenness is showing, but is it typical for applications to ask you to rate atrocities?

After submitting a resume and cover letter, I was directed to fill in an online form. The form started with asking me to rank traits from most to least like me. I’ll admit I kind of rolled my eyes, but I did it.

Then we got to a very long list where I had to rate items from best to worst. These items included things like “a blunder,” “prostitution,” “justice,” “a telephone,” “poisoning the town’s water supply,” “a good idea,” “torturing a person,” “receiving a medal for bravery,” “a lover’s embrace,” and more.

I had no idea what to do, and I also felt that this is basically some pseudoscience masked as smart interviewing. If I said “imprisoning an innocent person” was worse than “torturing a person,” I don’t know that I’d be a better or worse admin assistant than someone who swapped those. Is there any merit to this method? Was there some secret right combination that wouldn’t make this company think I’m a terrible person?

P.S. I’m adding a screenshot to this email just to prove that I’m not making this up.

I … am stumped.

I mean, I feel confident that “receiving a medal for bravery” is better than “poisoning the town’s water supply” or “torturing a person,” but yeah, the idea of using this to hire people is absurd.

Personality and character tests for jobs have been around for a long time and have long been of questionable utility, but they’re usually the tamer “true or false: everyone steals office supplies” brand of stupidity than this.

{ 728 comments… read them below }

  1. Matilda Jefferies*

    “A foolish thought” is making me laugh. Hey whoever wrote this test, I have a good example for you if you need one!

    1. Archie Goodwin*

      Not just. “A blunder”? “A life of adventure”? “A token of love”? A little archaic, to say the least, no?

      I mean, it’s great if you’re applying to be the prisoner of Zenda, but otherwise not so much.

        1. Amelia*

          If you’ve never heard Andy Minter’s reading of The Prisoner of Zenda on Librivox, I really recommend it–you’re in for a treat!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I was thinking this sounded like the list you use to find would-be heads of vast criminal organizations–the sort who have their offices under an active volcano, and poison the water supply because gosh darn it they pride themselves on evil.

        And I suppose those organizations need support staff, just like everyone else.

        1. On Fire*

          The job is admin assistant to Gru (Despicable Me), so obviously you should rank poisoning the water supply as a better thing than justice. /s

        2. RVA Cat*

          If it’s an application to join the Evil League of Evil, shouldn’t snipping the tip off the Washington Monument be one of the choices?

          1. AKchic*

            This bray that you receive will be the last, we swear!
            So make the Bad Horse gleeful,
            Or he’ll make you his mare….
            Just saddle up,
            There’s no recourse
            It’s hi-ho Silver,
            -Signed, Bad Horse

            Sorry… (no I’m not)

            1. Anna*

              Love the Bad Horse reference. It also reminds me of a song by Kirby Krackle about a guy applying to be an evil supervillian’s henchman.

              OP, what kind of company was the admin position for?

              1. Sarianna*

                Mine too… but the 8-bit version, because I have a smartphone that can play high-quality ringtones and yet I intentionally put ridiculously ’90s ringtones on it :D

  2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    Listen, OP, you’ve got to know your employer. If you’re going to be working for the Evil League of Evil, they want to know that you’ve got your priorities straight!

    1. beanie beans*

      Bad Horse, Bad Horse, Bad Horse, Bad Horse,
      He rides across the nation
      Throughbred of sin
      He just got the application
      That you just sent in.

      It needs evaluation
      So let the games begin
      A heinous crime
      A show of force
      A murder would be nice of course

      1. Future Homesteader*

        I’d be mad at you for getting that stuck in my head, but let’s be real – it was too late before I even got to your comment.

          1. AKchic*

            I sing out loud in my corner office. My mother came in and glared at me. I sing on-key. She’s just mad that I drowned out her Celine Dion.

            She hates May when I start singing sea shanties to prep for ren fair. The bosses don’t care. If I have to listen to my mother’s off-key Beegees warbling, she can listen to my random nerd-singing. It’s not like I’m singing Toucha-toucha-touch me at the top of my lungs.

            1. Sagegreen*

              I’ve never posted before, but just had to after that…lol! Thanks for the laugh and now I’ve got that song in my head! Of course, I used to play Magenta for the Front Row Players when I was sixteen so I’ve seen the movie A LOT.

    2. Kendra*

      Aternatively, you might be unwittingly applying to the League Of Villainous Evildoers Maniacally United For Frightening Investments in Naughtiness (L.O.V.E. M.U.F.F.I.N)

    3. Brett*

      My brother actually is listed as a member of the evil league of evil on the DVD :)
      We were all quite proud of him for that achievement.
      It is not on his resume though.

      1. AKchic*

        Psh – it’s on my Facebook as an occupation. I’m also a alumni of University of Evil-Doing, Hogwarts, and Catatonic State.
        No… I do not take my facebook seriously. It’s also why my fair persona is used as my nickname, much to my extended family’s horror.

  3. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins*

    Wow. How could this type of question possibly be helpful in finding an admin assistant-type employee? Or any employee for that matter? It honestly would scare me away from applying to that job.

    1. Emmie*

      I hope this company looks into the # of incomplete applications, and determines where its candidates drop out of the application process. Tests like these are absurd. The more people who refuse to complete, the more likely (I hope) employers are to figure out their stupidity. Unfortunately, this means we all have to opt out of these tests.

      1. Antilles*

        The more people who refuse to complete, the more likely (I hope) employers are to figure out their stupidity.
        Sadly, no. Anyone who’s naive enough to believe this sort of trash helps is almost certainly *also* a person naive enough to fall into completely unjustified confirmation bias of “Applicants who drop out because of the test clearly wouldn’t have worked out, so in a bizarre way, the fact that 40% of our applicants drop out because of the test is actually the test Working As Intended.”

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          As a screener for you level of tolerating nonsense, it’s pretty good.

          Maybe the boss is someone who is regularly going to wander out of his office, sit on your desk, and ask “Which is worse–poisoning someone, or a kind thought?”

          1. AnonEMoose*

            Being the snarky person that I am, I’d probably reply (without looking up): “A kind thought about poisoning someone.”

            1. Samiratou*

              “A kind thought about poisoning someone.”

              Followed by a significant look at the boss’ coffee cup.

    2. Lil Fidget*

      Seriously! Boy, I was annoyed that an application made me list my college GPA. This is … ridiculous.

    3. Anon55*

      Former admin here and an employer once sent me this EXACT questionnaire!!! Seriously, the WTF-ed-ness has not faded.

      1. Slartibartfast*

        Was it a warning to run, run fast and run far, or were they relatively ok once you get past this?

        1. Anon55*

          They sent it to me after the interview had already been scheduled, along with another “personality test”. I figured there were two possibilities: either they were sending this to candidates without even looking at it (not good) or they were somehow fine with it (REALLY not good). It was just so odd and inappropriate that I told them that I’d decided to put my search on hold and cancelled the interview!

          1. Anna*

            What might have happened if you’d told the truth, that their strange tests were red flags? They can’t punish you for telling the truth, since you don’t want to work there anyway. And it might be a helpful heads-up that they’re being weirdos.

            But my political Give a Crap machinery keeps breaking down, so I’m far too straightforward with people. Maybe I’m just a weirdo too.

    1. Student*

      Prostitution – I would think that item would vary in ranking substantially based on whether you were picturing yourself as the customer, client, or business owner, so to speak. I bet there’s a bit of gender disparity in how it’s rated.

      1. Minerva McGonagall*

        And what kind of prostitution? The legal Nevada kind where the women have at least some degree of choice, or the kind involving kidnapped 14 year olds? I’ve got pretty different opinions on those two ends of the spectrum.

        1. sfigato*

          Exactly. I could care less what a consenting adult chooses to do with other consenting adults, even it if isn’t my cup of tea. I have very strong feelings about forcing young people into sex slavery, and both of those can fall under “prostitution.”

          Also, couldn’t “prostitution” be the same as “a life of adventure?”

          1. MustNotBeNamed*

            Actually, at the federal level (in the US), the two are very distinct. Any minor engaged in sex work (regardless of how they would describe it themselves) is immediately classified as a victim of trafficking. I would take “prostitution” to mean “sex work” in this (although agreed that it is an unclear term), and would probably personally rank it in the neutral area around “a telephone”.

            Although I’m still baffled at how you’re supposed to rate an object like a phone or car versus an act like poisoning water or an award for a good deed…

        2. Magenta Sky*

          This isn’t about whether or not one approves of prostitution, or what kind of prostitution.

          This is about snake oil (personality tests) disguised as something useful. There isn’t a single personality test in existence that has any peer reviewed science to back it up as meaningful. (And the fact that the same person taking the same test on different days will often get different results suggests that there never will be.) Most of the companies that sell personality tests will sue to prevent peer reviewed science being done on their tests.

          Their only value is to the shareholders of the publishing companies.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          Yeah, assuming it wasn’t digital, I think this is where I would deviate from the test procedure and just write “What!?” off to the side without answering that question.

        4. SusanIvanova*

          Anyone else watch Lucifer? In a recent episode we learned there are no prostitutes in Hell, because they’re providing a useful and much-desired service.

          1. erdehoff*

            Ha! I was just rewatching that episode. Lots of interesting HR questions on that show. “If my employee is immortal, am I still required to provide her with health insurance?” “Someone stole my body for a few months while I was in Hell. Now I’m back, and she screwed up a bunch of my important work projects. How can I explain this to my clients?” “Someone keeps stealing my pudding from the office fridge. Can I stab them with Azrael’s sword or should I write a passive-aggressive note first?”

      2. Narise*

        Unless a current employee runs a prostitution ring out of the office and they want to know if you are going to object.

        1. eplawyer*

          Wasn’t there a letter about a security guard moonlighting as an escort? And one of the clients was an employee of the company. Then things got really bad?

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            He went on a date with someone in the company and tried to charge her or something, I think.

          2. sap*

            I remember that one. I think the current employee wasn’t so much a “client” as “a person who slept with the security guard and was surprised that the security guard was now demanding money.”

        2. Biff*

          I worked at a company that had something akin to that happening. it was never clear to me if it was a pornography business, escorts, or something else. It happens.

      3. Psychdoc*

        Well put. And what do you do if you’re neutral on the subject. I actually think it should be legalized and regulated, but a lot of people have a very nice “you do you (and whoever you want as long as you’re consenting adults)” kind of attitude. Does it make a difference what kind of company it is? If it’s a highly religious company, are we supposed to think that prostitution is the worst? What if the employer was recently dumped and doesn’t want to hear that you like a lover’s embrace. This is just bonkers.

      1. serenity*

        Train wreck perhaps?

        I can’t even believe I’m giving this an extra thought, but how does one objectively assess what is “worse” – a wreck where hundreds die accidentally or a town where hundreds are poisoned intentionally? And WHAT THE HECK DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH BEING AN ADMIN ASSISTANT?

        Someone below looked up the company doing this assessment, and they claim their tests are based on “cutting edge cognitive science”. Perhaps, that line of thinking is the true “wreck”

        1. Annie Moose*

          Ah, but what of the wreck was caused deliberately by someone? Now is that better or worse than poisoning them?

            1. Natalie*

              It’s only okay if you push a really fat guy in front of the train to save five orphans playing on the tracks for some reason.

              (Trolley Problem if anyone is unfamiliar; I’m not just randomly advocating pushing people in front of trains.)

              1. all those punk rock guys*

                My problem with this has always been that in an actual RL trolley problem, presumably I’d be running on pure fear and instinct, whereas in lab conditions, I’m trying to reason out the problem. (Let’s face it, in a real life trolley problem, I’d freeze, and the train would continue to do whatever it was going to do without my human desires having any impact whatsoever on the, erm, train’s impact.)

                I mean, I’m not in a job where I’d be making life or death decisions either, so :P

          1. Viola player*

            Just returning to add that it obviously depends on whether you believe the person is innocent or guilty when you imprison them.
            This proves that I’m far too indecisive to make a good evil mastermind: maybe that’s the point of the test!

    2. Jerry Vandesic*

      A “wreck” is the name of a tasty sandwich at the Potbelly Sandwich chain. I’d definitely put a wreck at the top of the list, especially if you can add hot peppers.

          1. Jerry Vandesic*

            I think they meant the TV show (just one of the characters, not all of them, which is why they used the singular). Not my favorite show, so I would rank it slightly lower than “telephone.”

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        I’d be tempted to write in “a wreck – like your business and this crappy application” at the bottom as an FU and submit the application incomplete like that….

    3. Becca*

      Yeah, where’s the “insufficient information provided” answer option?

      Beyond some being vague concepts and some having more than one meaning (I was thinking an emotional wreck for whatever reason), surely to many people it depends on so many variables. For example, for me whether “torture” is worse or better than “imprisoning an innocent person” is dependent on whether the imprisonment was purposeful, how long the sentence is, how bad the prison is, how long the torture lasts, and the sort of torture.

  4. Lady Glitter Sparkles*

    OMG, I filled the same exact survey about 4 weeks ago and I was stunned. I had to double check the URL to make sure this came from the employer. I think I actually ended up closing the window because I thought it was so ridiculous. I wasn’t sure what the rank survey that had to do with the job.

    1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      Wow, so this isn’t a one off. I’d love it if AAM could to: a) track down the origins of this nonsense and b) find out what an actual good answer is, because I am stumped

      1. AnaEatsEverything*

        +1 to this. If more than one company is using this atrocity, I would really love an exposé on who invented this. And why. And why the companies who adopted it decided it was a good idea.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          I am so curious about the “why.” I remember reading some blog talking about weird correlations between surveys and outcomes that the interviewers couldn’t explain, but they knew people who picked “blue duck” over “red fox” were more likely to be better programmers, or bizarre things like that. One of the consequences of Too Much Data. I wonder if there’s anything like that here.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*


            Sorry, I just had an irrepressible need to yell that….

            1. Cordoba*

              You don’t actually need to sort out “causation” in order for a correlation to be useful.

              From observation I know that recent grads who have internship experience are more likely to be practical engineers than similar grads who do not have internship experience. That is, doing an internship is correlated to being a practical engineer.

              But does the internship cause people to become more practical, or are people who are already more practical the ones who are more likely to pursue internships?

              My answer as a hiring manager is that I don’t care, as the correlation alone is enough to let me know that I’m more likely to get a good result if I hire a candidate with internship experience..

              There might be further value to be had from more completely determining the causal relationship, but that does not mean that the correlation is useless by itself.

              1. Anony*

                But it can also lead to unfair bias. It could be that the correlation is actually closer to sex, age, race or economic background and you are essentially using a proxy measure for it. If you have no idea why the correlation exists, it is not a safe measurement to use. In the case of preferring applicants who had an internship it is not so much an issue. But if you were screening applicants based on which movie they preferred, then depending on the options you could be screening out older applicants or women.

                1. Cordoba*

                  Interesting point, I’ve not considered it in the context of hiring before.

                  Serious question: I prefer to hire veterans for field technician jobs as I have observed that military service correlates strongly to working effectively within a hierarchy and in sometimes difficult extremes of temperature and physical exertion.

                  I have not conducted or reviewed any research to determine the causal link between these traits and military service. Are people who are willing to hard work in hot rooms more likely to join the military in the first place, or is that willingness something that is developed by time in the service? It’s probably a mix and varies from person to person. I do not even remotely have the resources to answer that question accurately.

                  Given the demographics of the US military, a preference for hiring veterans has the effect of also shifting my hiring pool towards males. Should I try to further understand the causative relationship here, or stop treating military service as a strongly preferred characteristic for job applicants?

                2. Professional Bleeding Heart*

                  Even screening based on correlated internship experience could have potential discriminatory elements.

                  It’s not the pursuit of the internship that’s the data point, it’s the success in achieving one, which may only indicate a perpetuation of discriminatory hiring practice as people may have been refused internships for “reasons”.

                3. Perpetual Student*

                  Yes to everything Professional Bleeding Heart said! In my field/locale, in order to get a foot in the door at some of the more prestigious employers, it is expected that you work for them as an intern first — and many of these internships are unpaid. This is a personal point of rage for me, as a) some of these unpaid internships are looking for interns with master’s degrees and multiple years of experience (and I find not paying someone for this level of expertise to be offensive at the least), and b) this self-selects into the hiring pipeline only people who have the resources and support to be able to work an unpaid internship in the first place. Ugh.

                4. Observer*

                  It gets worse – as bad as this is in hiring, it’s much worse when it comes to things like decision around bail and sentencing. And, it definitely happens.

                5. Observer*

                  Cordoba, at least in the case of veterans, that itself can be seen as something to reward. As would be work on Peace Corp, or other things that can be seen as having done something for society. Neither internships nor race / gender / socioeconomic status can be categorized that way.

                6. VioletEMT*

                  Agree with Professional Bleeding Heart – you also have to be extra-careful if internships in your field tend to be unpaid, because then you are essentially filtering out all those whose families cannot or will not to support them, and/or who are is unwilling or unable to take on the student debt to support themselves, while doing an unpaid internship.

              2. Lil Fidget*

                Yeah I think that’s what the blog (which I can’t find now) was saying, they don’t know why it works but it seems to work, and that’s why they ask it. Which is so hard for the applicants, but I guess is what it is. I think we’ve even had something similar listed here on the site, you have to choose whether you “love to win” or “hate to lose” – and people who choose hate to lose tend to make better salespeople. Seems a bit capricious but I’m no expert.

                1. So much no*

                  I never understood that one. “Hate to lose” just means you’re a sore loser. “Love to win” means you’re intrinsically motivated to succeed.

                  Whatever… I was the best at sales. Regularly doubled our targets. Quit because I hated it. Does that make them right? Maybe.

              3. Tara*

                You could be possibly getting yourself into trouble for doing it with more dubious and non-sensical correlations, though. Because what if the causation behind the correlation that the people you like pick “red foxes” is that a certain gender or race tends to pick red foxes.

                1. Tammy*

                  And, I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that “I didn’t intend this to be discriminatory; I just saw the correlation” isn’t going to protect you from a claim of disparate impact discrimination if it turns out that the correlation is to race, gender, etc. As a hiring manager, I would never be willing to take that risk. If you don’t understand why two things are correlated, how would you defend yourself from a disparate impact claim down the road?

                2. sap*

                  Yeah, disparate impact cases can be hard to win, but if the thing has no legitimate business relevance then it’s much less hard.

                  I don’t think many judges would have a hard time deciding that liking red foxes was unrelated to legitimate business purposes.

              4. David*

                That’s definitely true, but every once in a while two unrelated things will appear to be correlated just by random chance. Like some of the examples in the link LQ posted in an adjacent comment. Thinking about whether a causal relationship exists (basically whether the correlation makes sense) helps sort out those spurious correlations, which won’t necessarily continue to be true in the future, from the correlations that are actually useful.

              5. Observer*

                That’s not really true, though. Using correlations that are co-incidental rather than actually related causes bad decision making. Say, your experience turns out to be caused by the fact that to students who are interns all go to schools with more practical engineering programs, while the ones who are not interns go to schools with a different type of program. The day one of the schools with a practical program discontinues its program, you’re going to lose potentially good employees. On the other hand, the day that one of the not so good programs starts having their students do internships you are going to start giving students who are a poor fit more consideration than they should have.

                1. Cordoba*

                  It’s not true that correlations can be useful in the absence of a fully understood causative relationship? If that’s what you’re saying, I disagree.

                  I don’t mean to imply that correlative data should be followed blindly or even used as the primary source of information. I’m just saying they can be useful and should not be ignored outright because “correlation does not imply causation” – which is true, but also limiting.

                  The correlation between citrus consumption and scurvy was useful for centuries before the biochemical causative relationship was proven and understood in 1932. Nobody knew *how* it worked but they did know *that* it worked, which is enough information if your goal is “not get scurvy”.

              6. Kate 2*

                Are lots of internships in your field coming with a living wage? Because if not your preference for hiring those who have done internships is definitely discriminatory towards lower income people, who are less likely to be able to go unpaid for months for an internship.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  That was one of my first thoughts, but it’s engineering–the hard sciences tend to be more like traditional summer jobs for a salary.

                  In any field where unpaid internships are the norm, though–I’m reminded of the finding that Canadian youth hockey stars tend to be born in January and February. The causation being not “Which astrological sign has an affinity for pucks?” but “Among all hockey players who turned six this year, which are the most skilled? The oldest–they’re a little bigger, a littler more coordinated? Huh, who woulda thunk? Move them up to the elite level then.”

              7. Genny*

                Cordoba, I would say what you’re doing in hiring military vets is mostly okay. There’s a direct correlation between job-related skills you need and job-related skills military vets have from their work. It seems similar to me as looking for people who’ve managed large budgets or projects before.

                I think where you need to be careful is making sure you’re not only hiring from that pool. People can gain the necessary job-related skills (chain of command, working in adverse conditions) in a host of other ways as well. There’s nothing wrong with recruiting from the military because you know you’ll have a higher likelihood of getting successful candidates, but it would be problematic to ignore candidates from non-military backgrounds.

            2. College Career Counselor*

              Dude, are you me? I’ve been yelling that exact phrase for over 20 years. I’m not even a stats person!

          2. eee*

            oh man, of course now that it matters i’m drawing a blank, but there’s some psychometric test based on this principle. basically they gave a bunch of “would you rather a or b” or just “pick lion or mountain” type random questions to a ton of people, and also special populations like sociopaths and some other personality disorders. then they looked at how people with personality disorders answered, and found that yes, your random answers to these questions do have some relationship with personality disorders. I think it may be a test I learned about in the same vein as the MBTI, Jung, etc. tests that are pretty wacky and have no real basis in science, but are still used.

            1. eee*

              oh man, apparently my memory was weirdly off, I think I was thinking of the Minnesota multiphasic personality inventory. Which is actually like that, some of the questions have a clear link to their scale (like “i hear voices and don’t know where they’re coming from”) but some are seemingly random, like “my hands and feet are usually warm enough” or “I like mechanics magazines”

              1. PsychedOut*

                The MMPI has a rather large variety of different scales involved, so it’s not surprising some of the questions might look like they come out of left field. Especially considering the validity scale – when you need to measure inconsistencies, you need a variety of related but not duplicate questions.

                Your examples:

                “My hands and feet are usually warm enough” – this likely falls under Somatic Complaints on the Restructured Clinical Scale. It may also be a part of the more specific Infrequent Somatic Response category on the Validity Scale

                “I like mechanics magazines” – this might fall under Low Positive Emotions (measuring anhedonia – the “like” there is the important part. On its own, the question doesn’t mean anything, it’s too specific, but in a battery that contains a fair number of similar questions, trends start to emerge – if you’re answering no or ambivalent on any question that is about liking something, there might be an indication of anhedonia) on the Restructured Clinical Scale.

        2. An embracer of lovers and decoratee for bravery*

          I don’t know if there is any “science” behind this but it seems to have been invented by Target Training International, Ltd. and is marketed as the TTI TriMetrix(R) Talent.

          1. Marthooh*

            Just gonna leave this here:

            “Most executives today are wrestling with finding and retaining talent — but they are not asking the right questions.”
            –Bill J. Bonnstetter
            TTI Success Insights Chairman

            1. Traffic_Spiral*

              “The right questions” apparently not being “how good are you at this job,” but rather “what’s your stance on torture and prostitution?” Okay…

      2. Lora*

        Specifically, I want to know:
        Citations of this cognitive science. Peer reviewed journals only please.
        What outcomes are they tracking with clients as a post-hoc validation of this …thingy?
        Do clients get their money back if it turns out to be BS? How easy is it to cancel the service or is it one of those Massage Envy deals where the attorney general has to take them to court?
        What ummm…inspired them to come up with this particular list? How did they imagine people would react to it upon seeing it? Have they personally ever taken psychological tests for IQ or the MMPI or anything like that?
        What is the test author’s education? Do…do they know what education is for? Or do they reckon that education is a tool of The Man trying to keep them down?

      3. Magenta Sky*

        There is no good answer. It’s not about correct or incorrect answers. It’s supposed to be about finding people who “fit it.” You don’t want particular answers, you want answers that match those of everyone else.

        It’s snake oil.

        (And the stated goal is largely snake oil, too. Monocultures are a bad idea in agriculture, and they’re a bad idea in a business culture, even when they don’t slide into illegal discrimination.)

        1. Lefty*

          Oooh, yes! We want everyone to have the same answers so they “fit”… because having a workforce with any diversity or originality is scary. And because monocultures always produce new, exciting things!

          I love your observation that not only is the “science” flawed, but the goal behind it is as well.

    2. selina kyle*

      I filled one out for a job back a year or so ago!
      They turned out to be a pretty sketchy company (surprise surprise) with taxes and that sort of thing, so I didn’t end up working there. Not sure what your experience with the company is looking like Lady Glitter & OP but I’d say it’s a warning sign!

      1. Death and Taxes Lawyer*

        I had to do something similar for my job a few years ago and I remember being thoroughly confused by the questionnaire (at one point, I had to rank a working refrigerator or something). I ended up asking HR about it, and it isn’t intended to be used to evaluate you as a candidate. It is intended to be used as a tool to figure out your working/interpersonal style. I don’t know if my company ever really looked to carefully at these.

        1. Liane*

          “It is intended to be used as a tool to figure out your working/interpersonal style. I don’t know if my company ever really looked to carefully at these.”
          I’m no hiring–or any other kind–of manager but I thought the way to find this stuff out was to ask *intelligent, relevant * questions of the applicant, during an actual interview, and later when calling/emailing the references.

        2. Magenta Sky*

          If they don’t look carefully at it – if they don’t use it – why are they spending money on it? These things aren’t free, and generally aren’t cheap.

        3. Bryce*

          “Oh, we find you just can’t get along with folks in this company if you think prostitution is worse than torture.”

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            TBH if someone though prostitution was worse than torture I’d be side eyeing them so hard…. :)

    3. MidwestRoads*

      I had to do this survey too, and there were multiple sets of “Rank these things in order of best to worst.” I distinctly remember putting “having children” below “a hailstorm” and I will always wonder if that’s why they never called back.

      1. sap*

        No sane company wants to use a question about “having children” as a screener for whether they will interview candidates.

        Talk about a slam-dunk case.

      2. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend*

        Ha, I would have ranked those the same way you did. What answer are they looking for anyway? Does having favorable views of having children help you (supposedly well-rounded person) or hurt you (might miss work to care for/have children)? I hope they had a comment box because I would have QUESTIONS. So many questions…

      3. Rune*

        I had to do this a couple of years ago. There was a ranking list on there that included “having a baby” and “getting married”. I think it was in the life experiences section and there were 5 different sections I had to rank. Looking back I know that they baby and marriage choices for me to rank leave that company open for legal trouble.

    4. Lynca*

      My sister has done one similar for a CNA position with a hospital. It wasn’t this survey. It had some really messed up rankings. Like which is worse murdering someone or a tornado? She was really put off by it.

      1. ggg*

        I don’t know, does the tornado murder people? Or is it one of those annoying false alarms that sends everyone to the basement for several hours for nothing?

    5. SubwayFan*

      I just looked up http://www.wizehire.com, the URL shown in the screenshot. It looks like they run an application management software program, but they do list some of their clients logos on the site. The site itself looks sketchy as hell.

      1. kajastet*

        Quote on the site:
        I received well over 800 resumes, which is overwhelming of course… Thankfully, I could sort them by their date and score. That was super helpful.

        It’s so helpful to be able to filter out resumes of candidates who incorrectly ranked poisoning above torturing. Whew, that could have been a disastrous hire!

        1. Paper Librarian*

          I wonder how many of these businesses know what is actually on the quiz. I’m guessing they just look at the total score at the end without much analysis of the questions. From what people here have been saying, I think the ranking is randomly generated from a long list. At least that would explain why the options are so disjointed.

        1. ArtK*

          It was started by a real estate management consultant. Search for them on LinkedIn and see their “qualifications”

          1. Autumnheart*

            I actually went to Linkedin to see if this was, by chance, a former boss of mine who was a total scam/terrible businessman. His actual business model was legit but he ran it in the scammiest way imaginable (including not paying anyone for as long as possible before they sued/ragequit–both of which I did).

            He wasn’t named in the Linkedin profile, but clearly there are more apples from the tree he fell from.

    6. nonegiven*

      Site Admin: There is a problem with [company] job application. There is this weird survey popup that’s probably malware.

    1. Collarbone High*

      Ha, I’d be tempted to redo the entire application pretending I was Dr. Evil and rank accordingly.

      1. Liane*

        “Ha, I’d be tempted to redo the entire application pretending I was Dr. Evil and rank accordingly.”
        But even Dr. Evil might have problems ranking some of these. Because imprisoning an innocent person might be better or worse than poisoning the water supply depending on whether the “innocent person” is the leader of the Justice Avengers’ League and Dr/ Evil’s personal nemesis &/or the specifics of Dr. Evil’s current plan to become THE Supreme Evil Overlord of Earth-256Pi*.

        *yeah, maybe I shouldn’t watch The Flash with College Son anymore?

    2. all those punk rock guys*

      I’d do it alphabetically.

      Although, I say that, but for the one application that sent me to a lengthy personality quiz via e-mail after I applied through their website but I had to do it for the application to be complete, I just marked them as Never Apply Again in my spreadsheet (it was a large hospital system for a data job).

    3. Jane of all trades*

      Haha I feel like the only way to do it is rank them alphabetically, which is like the only way you could ever even remotely link this to an office job…. so I’d rank them:
      Award for good deed
      Decoration for bravery
      Foolish thought
      Imprisoning an innocent person
      Life of adventure
      Lover’s embrace
      New car
      Poisoning the city water
      Short circuit
      Technical improvement
      Token of love
      Torturing an innocent person

      and voila’! Nope. This is still completely crazy.
      LW, I’d thank my lucky star this employer has shown you exactly how crazy they are before you invested additional time or even went to work for them. Good grief!

      1. Danish*

        Or by number of characters! Show off those excel skills or your perchant for order!

        New car
        Short circuit
        Token of love
        Foolish thought
        Lover’s embrace
        Life of adventure
        Award for good deed
        Technical improvement
        Decoration for bravery
        Poisoning the city water
        Torturing an innocent person
        Imprisoning an innocent person

        1. Danish*

          And then I had to reorder my own list, because character length doesn’t match up to visual length:

          New car
          Short circuit
          Token of love
          Foolish thought
          Lover’s embrace
          Life of adventure
          Award for good deed
          Decoration for bravery
          Technical improvement
          Poisoning the city water
          Torturing an innocent person
          Imprisoning an innocent person

      2. Lucas*

        As an admin, I can confirm that this is the only way this would be a useful test. Being able to file things alphabetically is a basic but necessary skill.

      1. Pinkie*

        “Let’s begin our interview …. do you know how I got these scars?”

        “Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today but I’m afraid the position just won’t be a good fit. Have a good day.” *runs for the door while dialing Gotham PD*

  5. TeacherNerd*

    I could never figure out how to answer the “true or false: everyone steals office supplies” question (and it was only something I ever saw in retail or lower level office position applications), nor did I see the point of such a question. I don’t know if everyone steals office supplies. _I_ don’t, but if I say “yes” I come across as suspicious at best, and if I say “naïve” I come across as naïve at best. So… how DOES one answer that?

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      You say “no,” because a big predictor of someone doing bad stuff is whether they think everyone secretly does it.

      1. Artemesia*

        aka ‘you lie’ — and hope that it isn’t the control question that proves you are a liar. You really can’t win on these.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Yeah at the Federal Clearance level I believe they ask a few where they KNOW the temptation is to lie, to see if you will be honest or not. In this case … well, these people aren’t NSA-level mindbenders, I’m thinking.

          1. Stinky Socks*

            One of my kids was interviewing for a Secret Service internship. The interviewer wouldn’t take the first “no” for an answer in response to, “Have you ever used drugs? Even marijuana?” Kid was legitimately worried about not getting the internship for never actually using drugs and being pegged as a liar.

            1. whingedrinking*

              My older brother once had a co-op term working for CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Services). I’m pretty sure they don’t give really high-stakes projects to 22-year-old engineering students, but as a matter of policy, everyone employed by them at that time had to take a polygraph and answer a questionnaire that included the item “Have you ever been a member of a terrorist organization?”

            2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Geez! Surely they know that some people actually… you know… don’t use illegal drugs?

        2. Nico M*

          Course you can game this shit.

          For work type questions, imagine you are working at your dream job at a successful company with a great manager and lovely colleagues. And the rest of your life is peachy as well.
          Then you answer .

          So, at such a workplace it would be absurd if everyone was stealing office supplies.

            1. Anononon*

              The ethics training for my company is so over the top. “Even a pen is stealing.” Yes, technically it is, but if you’re focused on the pen so much, what are you letting slip by? Granted we’re government contractors so it’s all intense finger wagging, but damn if the government didn’t have the best ball point pens that my dad would bring home from work. They were the best writing pens.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Well, but then it’s not stealing, right? I mean, ‘steal’ denotes taking without permission…

              1. Chinook*

                And stealing also denotes intent. So, if I forget that I put the pen in my pocket when I go home and don’t notice until I find it in the washing machine, that’s not stealing either.

    2. Elemeno P.*

      I never got any job that had a personality test like that. I don’t know what they’re looking for, but it clearly wasn’t me.

    3. Tomato Frog*

      This one’s actually fairly straightforward, the answer is false. If you know that *you* don’t do it, then you know that it’s not something *everyone* does.

      I think you’re thinking of the hyperbolic “everyone” instead of the literal “everyone.” :)

    4. Dan*

      I applied for a Masters-level job at a railroad for an analytic job. I had to fill out the same behavioral questionnaire as the blue collar guys.

      Question: What is the average amount of employee theft on an annual basis?

      It was a multiple choice answer with $0 as one choice. I get the general motivation for the question, but for my line of work, $0 is an absolute wrong answer.

      1. TootsNYC*

        it’s sort of silly, because even if I don’t steal from my employer, I *know* other people do. And I would have no way of guessing what that dollar value was, or what the item number was, or even what percentage of people do it.

    5. TeacherNerd*

      Ahha, gotcha. I guess I was thinking of this in terms of, “Does everyone ELSE steal office supplies?” I have no idea what everyone else does; I only know what I do, and I dislike the thinking that “everyone” does The Stupid Thing. I also wonder if they’re trying to trip up their applicants. I wish they had the “I don’t know” answer.

      Either way, thank goodness I haven’t even applied for those types of jobs in more than 20 years.

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        It seems to me that those tests DO try to trip people up, as they are based on such black & white, non nuanced thinking. If you answer them like you are a Pollyanna or Ned Flanders (of course nobody steals office supplies because people are all basically honest and good!) then you will always pass.

    6. Annie Moose*

      What does “steal office supplies” even mean, anyway? Perhaps I’m revealing myself as a dastardly thief, but I’ve walked off with pens from work before (mostly by accident!), printed the occasional personal document on the company printer, etc.–does that qualify as stealing office supplies? Or does it mean, like, someone sneaking entire boxes of copy paper out to their car?

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I’ve been known to sometimes take TWO pens from the office supply cabinet. When I clearly would only be able to use one at a time! And who needs highlighters in EVERY color, unless they are taking them with intent to distribute? Just kidding, this term has always baffled me, too. I have no idea what it means.

      2. Boredatwork*

        The best example I have is a former co-worker would take entire boxes of K-cups home. They though this was 100% okay because they would work from home sometimes.

        1. JustaTech*

          We had a site lose their coffee and soda privileges because the only way they could have *not* been taking stuff home was if they each drank 9 cups of coffee *and* 4 sodas every day.
          They also work the night shift, so got coffee back pretty promptly, but not as K-cups.
          Another site had to institute a rule “you may not buy the cheap soda and sell it on the beach during lunch”, because that was happening.

          Neither of those are the same as “I took home a pen”.

      3. TeacherNerd*

        And that was something else I thought of, too. No, I’ve never walked out of a place of employment with a company-owned laptop or printer or 5 boxes of printer paper for home use (or work use, for that matter). Have I printed a personal document at work? Probably, at some point, though I can’t remember anything specific. And again, I can’t speak to what everyone else is doing, given I can’t possibly know all actions of every single employee in the history of the world. What’s the line? It’s a ridiculous question.

        1. Lynn Whitehat*

          Everyone I’ve worked for has allowed “incidental personal use” of the printer. The government contractor put out a tin for people to put quarters in as they printed things.

      4. Alton*

        Yeah, these questions seldom have simple answers if you’re either 1) prone to analyzing and thinking critically about stuff like this or 2) have a very “lawful” personality.

        I’m both. On the one hand, I’m bothered by broad questions that demand black or white answers, and I believe that context is important. At the same time, I’m the sort of person who almost never jaywalks and takes rules pretty literally sometimes.

        I’m sure I’ve technically “stolen” office supplies before, in the form of stuff like accidentally going home with a pen in my pocket or jotting down a personal note on a post-it. I don’t think this is on the same level as intentionally helping yourself to whatever you want, but you could technically call it theft if you wanted to be literal.

        1. teclatrans*

          Are you me? This sort of question drives me batty.

          And, I agree with this thread, I would be stumped by this question simply because I don’t think of a booklet of post- its or a spare pen as stealing. But maybe I am the sort of dastardly employee they seek to ferret out.

      5. Nonnon*

        I had an admin job which partly involved putting stickers on files. Some of the stickers were very nice shiny stars so I put one on my wallet clasp. Clearly I am a dastardly office thief.

      6. Oxford Coma*

        I go home with a pen jammed in my ponytail at least twice a week. I just put them in the basket with my keys when I get home, and take them back to work when I get a stack. I guess that’s stealing, but it isn’t intentional.

        1. BeautifulVoid*

          My boss orders pens by the gross, with our company information plastered all over them, under the assumption that clients and anyone else even wandering by are going to take them. If I’m working in our home office, where she has a container with pens in the middle of every table in every conference room, I’ll use one of those pens with every intention of putting it back. My stash of pens in my bag came from all the times I forgot I borrowed a pen and put it in my mouth without thinking. Unfortunately, I know some people who would have returned those to the jar anyway….

      7. TootsNYC*

        also–the office supplies are on their way to the garbage, but I took them home; is that stealing?

        1. General Ginger*

          At most retail jobs, it is. At retail job I won’t name, not thoroughly destroying something still functional but meant to be pennied out and dumpstered would also skirt the line (you might be in cahoots with dumpster divers).

          1. Lefty*

            Also at a former retail job… we were required to destroy perfectly good items when they’d been around for too many sales cycles and “sell them” to a manager for a penny who had to make sure they went into a dumpster. It was disgusting to see that waste- clothes, shoes, and accessories that could have been used or donated. Most of it was good “work” wear, so it really could have been useful to job searchers.

            One manager was actually fired for not having us destroy the items. He would put them out by the dumpsters and let other retail workers from nearby stores know that “something out there looked funny”. The other retail workers loved it because they had to pay for work wear anyway. The manager in question had an arrangement with another manager whose store carried household goods… it was definitely an odd setup and put a lot of us in an uncomfortable position, even though I could agree that the “destroy and dump” method was gross.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I did this plenty of times at OldExjob, but I always asked. Not retail, though. But we had tons of these super old product binders they were throwing out one day, and I took home a box of them, plus a giant wad of tabs and stickers. I told them if they ever got rid of the comb binding machine, I would buy it from them (they never did, darn it, even though they never really used it).

          I don’t think it’s a bad thing but I would never do it without asking first.

      8. Tau*

        I have a tendency to wander around randomly picking up pens and discarding them at other locations. I’m pretty sure this may have resulted in a net pen surplus at my old office (as in, I brought and left pens from home). I wonder if that balances out one pen thief?

      1. Anony*

        Yeah. Unless it is a bodily function, chances are that there is nothing “everybody” does. You only need to find one person who doesn’t for that statement to be false.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        “This is how we’ll sort out the nitrogen-breathing aliens from everyone else… online clicker polls.”

        1. all those punk rock guys*

          You mean that’s NOT the point of all the captchas that want me to identify all the cars for five minutes?

    7. Beanie*

      When I was much younger I stressed so hard over one question that I still don’t know how to answer. It wasn’t the standard “have you ever been convicted of a felony” type question but instead it asked, “Have you ever committed a crime?” in the narrative part of the app. I was befuddled because obviously they wanted me to say no. Except, everyone has unintentionally committed at least one crime – speeding is the first one that popped in my head – but what about all those obscure ones we don’t even know about?!?

      (just googled and learned it’s illegal to wear slippers after 10 pm in NY).

      1. TeacherNerd*

        Every couple of years, as a teacher, I have to be re-fingerprinted. I’m also contractually obligated to tell HR within a certain amount of time (I think it’s 72 hours) if I’ve been arrested or had charges brought against me. In all states I’ve taught, I’ve been “required” to disclose if I have a criminal history (aside from parking tickets – which also goes back to “have you ever committed a crime?”). The verbiage is interesting, though; it’s specifically stated that one is “required” to include expungements. If one’s record is expunged, doesn’t that mean there’s no record of it, and if one’s record has been expunged, why would you share that?

        1. Lynn Whitehat*

          No, there are still records if someone knows where to look for them. Many people have been denied security clearances because they thought “expunged” meant the same as “never happened”. Even though the form says in all caps and bold “INCLUDING EXPUNGED”.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I’ve seen this on applications too, but I guess it usually says other than traffic violations because many of them are unintentional, and almost everyone has blundered when driving or parking at some point.

      2. blackcat*

        In many places, speeding (and jaywalking, etc) is an “infraction” or some other term, which is vaguely distinct from a crime.

        It is definitely a crime to molest the butterflies in Pacific Grove, CA, though. A real crime.

      3. Turquoisecow*

        I got pulled over a few times for having a broken taillight (the car had issues, sigh). I didn’t get a ticket or even a warning. Does that count as a crime? Do they only want crimes you actually got caught at (like received a speeding ticket), or does the speeding itself count even though no one saw it and everyone else was also speeding?

        Also, if a tree falls in the woods….

        1. Teapotty*

          When I applied for a Visa to visit Canada a couple of years ago, I had to answer questions about any crimes that I may have committed in any jurisdiction (I’m from the UK). I think that wording was something like ‘crimes of moral turptitude’. I’m fascinated by the wording but to the best of my knowledge, I remain turptitude-free and I was allowed in.

            1. many bells down*

              I actually had that clause in the employment contract I just got. I’m pretty sure it’s boilerplate. As long as I don’t do anything actually illegal, I’d be okay with getting fired for “turpitude”.

          1. TootsNYC*

            except that in some states, it used to be illegal to perform certain oral acts of a sexual nature. Or to even have sex with someone you weren’t married to. Those laws weren’t enforced anymore, but they used to be there.

            1. bridget*

              Yes, but the “moral turpitude” term is meant to encompass not just everything that is technically a crime somewhere, but those that are considered particularly bad or that speak to a person’s morality. In the U.S., it’s used for a whole lot of other things, particularly immigration proceedings, sentencing, family law issues, etc. The idea is that one should not face the same collatoral consequences for having a conviction of just any crime, but for some crimes that are particularly bad, we are okay with it. (Most jurisdictions have a line of cases, for example, about whether a misdemeanor first-time DUI is a CIMT that triggers immigration consequences, or whether it has to be a second or third DUI that’s a felony, and the like).

          2. Eye of Sauron*

            haha… I had to look that up when I was traveling to Canada. I knew they are sticklers for some moving violations (For the record I’ve never been accused of a DUI, in case you’re wondering) but they also rank driving under suspension as just as bad of a DUI and you can be refused entry. I once had a ticket for driving under suspension because of a overlooked citation that I didn’t pay and my privileges were suspended in a state that did not issue my DL.

            I never did figure out if my suspended driving privileges constituted a ‘Crime of Moral Turpitude’. The wording on their website was really unclear. They did let me into the country, so I guess I didn’t show up in their system as Ma Barker.

      4. Sherri*

        It’s a felony to throw out mail not addressed to you, so if you’ve ever tossed junk mail addressed to someone that used to live at your address, instead of dutifully redirecting it to the post office, you have indeed committed a crime. And a felony at that. Of course, I have never done such a thing and I’m sure no one else on this site has, either. ;)

        1. Pebbles*

          It’s also a federal offense to put mail into a mailbox if you are not the owner or a mail carrier. So if I ever find out who put the nasty anonymous letter into my mailbox for our “unkempt grass” I will be able to toss that nugget of info their way!

        2. Lady Jay*

          Welp. I guess that makes me a hardened criminal.

          I live in an apartment and get *lots* of mail addressed to people who lived year like nine and a half years ago.

    8. Totally Minnie*

      I assume that I am included in the “everybody,” and therefore the answer must be no. Because of course I, your future employee, am of upright character and would never even consider stealing paper clips from you.

    9. a different Vicki*

      I answer it over-literally and say “no,” because the world is full of people who never come in contact with office supplies (such as most hunter-gatherers and nomadic herders), are never in a position where it’s possible to steal them, or don’t want them. And the company assumes I understand it as “everyone who has the opportunity steals office supplies,” and thinks I’m virtuous. (I hope I am, but that doesn’t show it.)

    10. Magenta Sky*

      Try one that has questions about “have you ever thought about how to steal from your employer” when you have job experience that included security – your job specially included exactly that as a preventative measure to prevent theft.

      A woman I knew filled one of those out, back in the days when things were still done on paper. She scribbled explanations in the margins. The explanations had more words than the test.

      She wasn’t offered the job.

    11. Lusankya*

      The one I hate is “have you ever taken a sick day when you could have come to work?”

      I’ve had days where I called in sick, but it turned out I was on the mend and was feeling ok by midday. Or sometimes I get a persistent bug, and I know that taking an extra day off when I feel otherwise fine will stop me from feeling sick for weeks. Those are both situations where I technically could have gone to work, but I don’t think it’s what the question’s asking about…

      1. Jaydee*

        I mean, other than the time I had pneumonia and could barely walk across my house or times that noxious substances were coming from one or both ends of my digestive system, I think I could technically have come to work any time I’ve taken a sick day. Could I have been productive? No. Would I have spread my germs to my colleagues? Yes. But I could have physically been present in the workplace.

        A better question would be whether you have ever taken a sick day when you were not actually sick. No, no I have not.

      2. Slartibartfast*

        Any parent who’s taken the day off to care for a sick kid would have to answer yes to that. Is that discriminatory?

        1. Half-Caf Latte*

          oh I disagree. “when you could have come to work” is the question, not “when you yourself were not sick.”
          If I need to care for the tiny human, I could not have come to work

    12. This IS My Real Name, Darn It*

      ARGH. This reminded me of what was (for me) an even worse version of this question on an online job application’s personality test. The question was “How many times did you steal from your current or previous employer?”

      The options given were
      A: 1-3 times
      B: 4-7 times
      C: 8-9 times
      D: 10 or more times

      Note how “zero times” is NOT an option. And since I’d never nicked anything that I knew of, in any job, it was even more infuriating for me. How are you even supposed to answer that without looking like a criminal?! I had spent over an hour on the application at that point, but I just noped right the fsck out of there. It was for a big corporation with lots of store locations, too, which made me wonder how the hell anyone got hired there and how they got treated if they already looked like criminals to the management before they even came in the door. (This was back in like 2006, but I’m pretty sure it was an application for that certain Upper Midwest company with the big red bullseye in their logo.)

      The fact that I still fume over that “personality “test” all these years later is testament to how incredibly stupid the whole thing was, and that whoever came up with that sort of question should have been fired. Out of a cannon. Into the sun. (End Futurama quote)

    13. Akcipitrokulo*

      I’d go false because it’s more likely to be correct – because the question said “everyone”. That’s an absolute… if one person in the whole world doesn’t, it’s false. If they had said “almost everyone” then I’d give it more thought.

      Actually, just realised it’s definitely false. They said “everyone” not “everyone who works in an office”, and I know for a fact my baby niece doesn’t.

      (Taking ridiculous questions literally helps… but in many tests, any question which gives absolutes like everyone, all, always or never are not real questions; they’re honesty checks for the test.)

      1. whingedrinking*

        It’s especially ridiculous because it doesn’t even indicate whether you think that behavior is wrong, just whether or not it’s universal. Replace it with something innocuous – if it was “everybody drinks coffee at work”, I could quite honestly answer “no (*I* don’t) (because I prefer tea)” without suggesting that coffee drinkers are immoral swine.

  6. ContentWrangler*

    The test in this question was so ridiculous, I had to check out the WizeHire (the apparent source of the survey) website. They call themselves “A Smarter Way to Hire” and apparently it “surfaces top candidates who are more likely to stay with you and perform well. We base these conclusions on cutting-edge cognitive science, organizational psychology, and machine learning. We go deeper than a simple “yes or no” conclusion and provide you the right context to make your decisions.”

    So if you can’t decide if prostitution is better or worse than a madman, I guess you just aren’t ready for their cutting edge cognitive science.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Yeah “surface” is…not a transitive verb. This whole thing is a pseudoscience trainwreck from start to finish. What even.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            Or, like, something to do with drowning?

            Both of which are preferable to a) poisoning the town’s water supply and b) ranking a) as part of an application.

            1. Natalie*

              “We put all of your applicants in a pond and see who floa- I mean, surfaces. That one is a witch.”

    1. Student*

      Really, I feel it depends on how mad he is, and what exactly he is mad about (or from). And where are the madwomen?! Give me a mad man with a box {Dr Who} over a mad man in an advertising company {Don Draper} at work any day of the week.

    2. Lora*

      I had to look too. It seems like they focus on the real estate field only. Which… Kinda gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “rent-seeking”.

    3. LizB*

      Ah, yes, the cutting-edge cognitive science of Buzzfeed-style personality quizzes. “Pack yourself a work lunch and we’ll reveal how long you’ll stay at your next job!”

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          It’s never a nice round number. They’ve found that people are more likely to click if it’s a quirky number like 11, 17, or 22.

    4. Not a Blossom*

      Well then I must be a terrible candidate, because this would turn me off of a company completely.

    5. Ramona Flowers*

      Nobody had told them that cutting edge cognitive science doesn’t use the word madman, then?!

    6. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Reminds me of those silly “what kind of lover are you” quizzes magazines seem to love around this time of year. They’re also “cutting edge cognitive science”, I bet.

        1. Jules the Third*

          There’s a lot of money to be made if you’re charismatic and have no scruples.

          Dang scruples. They have really hindered my career as a televangelist. I could *totally* be the next L Ron Hubbard.

          1. Half-Caf Latte*

            There’s a lot of money to be made if you’re charismatic and have no scruples.

            Imagining this cross-stitched on a pillow….

            1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              With “Black magic is one of many occupational hazards” stitched onto the back

    7. ArtK*

      They seem to be very focused on real estate — it looks like all of their reference accounts are real estate companies. None of them is a recognizable name, either.
      I wouldn’t put much faith in their claims to “cutting-edge cognitive science” or “organizational psychology.” The random categories for this one questions shows that they have no rational concept of psychological testing. Note that there’s no “About Us” link that would identify people involved and their credentials. A LinkedIn search reveals 5 employees, none of whom has any relevant credentials.
      Suspiciously, they’ve got all 5-star reviews (3 of them) on FB and 1 on Glassdoor.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Wow. And yet there are at least two employers out there using their product. How?

    8. Mike C.*

      Ugh, I hate this combination of “tech folks automating things they don’t fully understand” and “business folks pretending they can create shortcuts where none exist”.

    9. Mockingjay*

      “Machine learning” – who’s learning, you or the machines? AI? Shades of HAL 9000?

      I am afraid.

      1. Slartibartfast*

        Do Asimov’s three laws apply?

        Also, brain the size of a planet, and they have me writing this survey. Do you call that job satisfaction,’cause I sure don’t.

    10. boo*

      Oh! Oh! Oh! You can take a free test. It’s not as fun but it does let you rank conference topics you would like to attend, including “money making opportunities, unique vacations, leadership resources, scientific equipment, quality improvement systems, volunteer opportunities,” and my favorite… “ideas for recycling, artwork.”

      Recycling, comma, artwork. That’s beautiful in a strange, stupid way. I want to work for these people. I want to write their tests, candlesticks.

        1. Pebbles*

          It’s more than 6 words, but it’s the only leaf poem/saying I can remember:
          “I am a leaf on the wind, watch how I soar.”

          I don’t think that’s what you were going for though.

          1. Flower*

            Aaaaand now I’m sad.

            I strongly suspect this saying has a meaning/source outside of Serenity but that’s the only thing it’s ever going to make me think of (and then I’ll be sad).

            1. Minerva McGonagall*

              Found it. I think. This sounds like what I was thinking of though it was petals not a leaf and it was 14 words.

              The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
              Petals on a wet, black bough.

      1. Coalea*

        Reminds me of a woman on one of those reality TV shows about hoarding – she refused to throw out a broken plastic clothes hanger because “someone might want it to do crafts.” If that’s not “recycling, artwork,” I don’t know what is!

      2. Half-Caf Latte*

        Dollars to Doughnuts the free test is their “benchmarking” “research” for the “next-gen” of their “science”

    11. Magenta Sky*

      Do they list any peer reviewed journals their science has been published in? (Rhetorical question. No, they didn’t, because there aren’t any.)

    12. Thlayli*

      Had s good look through the website. I very much doubt the actual employer has any idea this specific survey is being used for their job application. So OP, I think this means your potential employer is just a bit lackadaisical about checking out their hiring process, and just delegated the whole thing. It doesn’t mean the potential employer actually thinks this info is relevant to the job.

    13. Betsy*

      If they supposedly have at least a minimal understanding of psychology and cognitive science they should realise that it’s probably seen as inappropriate in most workplaces to refer to someone as ‘a madman’.

      A more progressive workplace would refer to people with mental health issues, and would most likely not make workers categorise them according to whether they are better or worse than torture or a wreck.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Or seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

          I did go to my friend’s cousin’s dance recital though!

      1. Cupcake*

        Relevant point info from screenshots:
        Purify water source (village): Pop.>150): +295.98
        Poison a river: -4015.55

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I just laughed so hard that my cat fell off my lap. Michael is going to subtract points for this.

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        I think he’d be fine with it. It’s a theoretical discussion which could involve consideration of many different philosophical theories. He’d love it.

        …as long as you didn’t give him a choice of which pen to use…

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      This would do well for sorting the demons into working groups. Are you a “stuff hot dogs in orifices” person, or more “spider bath”?

  7. animaniactoo*

    Honestly, I suspect they’re testing for common sense here. Possibly a few morals. But I think you will find it doesn’t matter whether you rank imprisoning an innocent person worse over torturing someone as long as they are BOTH way towards the “Worst” end of the spectrum.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      Common sense says close the app and find a different job.

      Either they’re using the results of that ranking exercise as part of their hiring criteria, or they’re making people do it and disregarding the results. Don’t ask me to rank which of these two outcomes is worse.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Actually, one way this might actually be even remotely useful is if they analyzed how much time you spent on it, and which items you moved in which order. Knowing that someone immediately put an item first or last is a lot more telling than just its final order.

      It’s still stupid, but I’m trying to imagine how this could even be proposed as useful information. And it’s a stretch, I know.

    3. Betsy*

      But some of those don’t fit in with common sense. I wouldn’t know how to rank prostitution. I’ve met plenty of people involved in sex work and sex worker’s rights and advocacy. They might put prostitution right at the top. I wouldn’t know how to rank ‘a madman’. Sure mental illness is bad like just any other illness, but I have male friends with mental health issues who are some of my favourite people in the world.

  8. Nobody Here by That Name*

    I feel like this is one of those situations where the fact that they asked is saying far more about them than any of your answers would say about you.

    Shame this is all online. Would love for someone to have a chance to reply to this in person.

    “Would you say a madman is worse than torturing a person?”

    “Well your abelism isn’t a huge plus factor for me, also I’m thinking y’all have a REALLY twisted idea of how to perform a mail merge if this question comes up that often.”

    1. Gen*

      On the next page it probably asks you to list only the good things that come to mind about your mother. Good to see the Voight-Kampff Test progressing into the digital age

      1. Nobody Here by That Name*

        “I admit I’m stumped. Can I list only good things about YOUR mother instead?”

      2. Cube Ninja*

        I’m glad someone made this reference because it was my very first thought.

        The employer here is clearly just doing due diligence to ensure they don’t have any runaway Nexus 6 models on staff.

    2. SF2K01*

      Pretty sure torture is one of the definitions of “Mail Merge”; should rate it pretty high in that case.

      1. all those punk rock guys*

        No, torture is having to talk someone through doing a mail merge and they keep not managing to do it… for the rest of your life.

        1. Danish*

          Once a year, every year, my mother who is a thousand miles away from me calls me to ask how to perform a mail merge on her envelopes, so she can send out the church’s christmas newsletter.

          It is not a quick call. I’ve started just having her email the names to me.

  9. Mephyle*

    Poisoning the towns water is the worst, because you harm more people.
    Torturing is less bad than imprisoning an innocent person, because, hey, what if you’re torturing them for a good cause (getting them to give up information that will save people).
    No, actually, a technical improvement is the very worst because if it is improving a weapon of mass destruction.

    I would like to have hear more opinions and advice about what to do if you are faced with this “questionnaire”. Should you walk out? Leave it unfinished? (Probably the form wouldn’t let you continue if you don’t complete it.) Complain? Keep quiet?

    1. Future Homesteader*

      But the amount of harm caused by an action is only in play if you subscribe to a utilitarian view of ethics, as opposed to a Kantian view where killing even one person is just as bad as killing a whole town (am I ethicsing right? I’m making this up based on what I remember from high school philosophy and, of course, The Good Place.)

      1. Lil Fidget*

        I’d also say it might be worse to kill one person really gruesomely versus many people painlessly? If you’re looking to reduce overall suffering? But I’m no philosopher.

      2. whingedrinking*

        Me (has a degree in philosophy with a specialization in ethical theory) watching The Good Place: I like this show, but that’s not how the Categorical Imperative works.
        My brother (software engineer): That’s how I feel every time someone on TV uses a computer for something besides email.

    2. Antilles*

      My strategy with these personality tests (admittedly, I’ve only dealt with the “true/false: all people lie” type) is to just answer as best I can and then next time I call/email the hiring manager, carry it off as a joke about “wow some of those questions were interesting. Do all people lie? Um, do you count stuff like telling my wife we don’t have valentine’s plans so I can surprise her with flowers? I mean, that’s a lie too, right, hahaha, she loves it though”.

    3. Mike C.*

      Depends on the poison. Perhaps the poison only has very mild effects or “torturing” someone means making them sit through hours of remedial workplace training videos.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        That… was an Elementary episode, I think? They ‘poisoned’ the water supply with something that was very mild and diluted, as a marketing gimmick for an expensive water filtration system. (And they murdered the clown who stumbled on them doing it.)

        1. MechanicalPencil*

          It was! I totally remember that. That plotline seems utterly ridiculous when you read it out of context…

  10. Marzipan*

    I think I’d put them in alphabetical order. It’s an admin job, after all, and at least that way I’d get to demonstrate a useful skill. (Admittedly my list would then start with ‘a blunder’, but whatever.)

      1. Goya de la Mancha*

        le sigh…I replaced someone who did NOT ignore articles in their filing system, and some people in my company STILL don’t ignore them….

    1. Jadelyn*

      …now I actually want to use this as a tool when I’m in the “fleshing out the characters” stage of my writing process. Rank this list in the order the character would see it. Might actually be interesting, used that way! (For hiring, not so much.)

    2. Anonymous Poster*

      Ultima IV’s initial ethos test was structured much better than this nonsense though. I’d imagine almost anyone could come up with something better than this.

      1. Liane*

        This clenches it, Murphy: I am posting a link to this where ALL my GMs–who also suffer through my GMing–will see it.

        1. Murphy*

          My current character (Dwarf Barbarian) would be quite fond of a medal for bravery. Also possibly a wreck, because she likely caused it.

          1. mcr-red*

            Based on the past, my half-elf fighter doesn’t rank torturing a person very high on the worst list. However, she’d rank a foolish thought (wisdom) and a blunder pretty high on the worst scale, since she doesn’t have high wisdom and I always botch those rolls and that BLUNDER almost got the whole party killed once when she got possessed by an evil wizard.

          2. Flower*

            My last dwarven characters I can think of would have had… interesting answers. One was a fighter and she was… stuck with a low intelligence roll. The other was a rogue, and very proud. And afraid of magic (accidentally rolled a crit when lashing out at the healer in the group right after he healed her with *magic* – killed him. She couldn’t really understand why the rest of the group booted her – they *knew* she hated magic). For a dwarf, she made a surprisingly good rogue.

    3. selina kyle*

      Oh man, I’m totally now wanting a DND online class sorter that figures out what you should be based on your answers to this test.

    4. Weyrwoman*

      I was going to comment to this effect! It very much reads like the old alignment quiz of the WoC website.

    5. Aardvark*

      Next time I run a Paranoia game, I’m just going to give this to all my Troubleshooters at some point as a random loyalty check and let them hash it out. Preferably just after they’ve short-circuited something, causing a wreck, which poisons all the Bouncing Bubble Beverage for sector H-4531-2A+5mod4.
      (Also, every good citizen knows only Communists rank a decoration of bravery lower than a telephone!)

  11. Snarkus Aurelius*

    When I applied to a Fortune 500 company, I wasn’t pleased that a personality test was part of it. Nowhere was that advertised, but I gritted my teeth and started it. (I think personality tests are no more helpful than a Buzzfeed quiz, but whatever.)

    I thought it odd that the test started at question #200. (I don’t know if that was the actual number, but it was in the three digits.) I quickly learned why. You know how most surveys tell you what percentage you completed and how much time you had left? This never did.

    It went on and on and on. By the time I got to question #550 (that number I do remember), I was ticked. Not only were they wasting my time, they were manipulating me by hiding exactly how many questions there were and how long it was going to take me. Plus the questions repeated themselves only with slightly different wording and ordering. I know they were looking for ethical consistency, but c’mon! The test ended when I advanced to a screen, and it said, “Thank you for your time!”

    I started the job application at 10 PM, and when I was done with everything, it was close to 1 AM.

    I was so turned off by this whole process that when I did score an interview, I didn’t even want to meet these people. I didn’t make it to the second round, and I wasn’t sorry.

    When I applied to Macys, at least that personality test had a point. (To weed out unionizers, intellectuals, and thieves, judging by the questions.) This one, near as I can tell, did not. And neither does yours, OP!

    If you want to know what people are like, interview them. Novel idea, I know.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Ho. Lee. Crap.

        This is the second time in my life that an AAM commenter completely stunned me into complete shock.

        (Except there were no sex questions or anything about being followed on my test.)

        Bonus: in the first Google hit, it says it was never for non-clinical testing. I also like how it’s supposed to be given by a professional and there’s supposed to be an interview, again, by a professional.

        Given that this test is to screen for mental health disorders, how is this not discrimination?

          1. Snarkus Aurelius*

            Oh you’re totally right. I checked what sample questions I could find. I totally remember these.

            I bet you HR got this test and took out all the questions that presented legal liabilities and dumped them into the application process.

            1. Can't Sit Still*

              Welp. I got nothin’.

              I don’t even understand what they thought they were measuring, if they threw out a bunch of questions, and didn’t give the entire test.

              Apparently, there is a very limited and narrow use for employment, e.g. pilots, police officers, and similar positions, but it needs be properly administered to be valid. Like, the person taking it should know they’re taking it, for starters.

    1. Incantanto*

      I had one that was “which words describe you?” There were things like “beautiful,” and “attractive.” How do you answer that? And what does it relate to a job in a chemical company?

  12. LKW*

    This is so bizarre and without the proper context I don’t know if I could rank these appropriately and I really don’t know what they’re trying to say about a human mind. Why is the man mad? What is wrecked? Is it a ship? A cake? A shipwreck is a lot worse than a cakewreck. Who is prostituting themselves? A sex worker? A lobbyist? Congress? Why is someone being tortured? Is there a bomb about to go off in the tunnel? Is the new car a sedan? A stick shift? Am I on The Price is Right? Did I just win the car? Oh my god I won a car!

    1. Midge*

      Omg I had forgot about the cake wrecks site! Now I need to go re-read the description of the cake with the fire hose, because it makes me laugh to tears every time.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      You know, I’m with Eleanor that “If the uber driver talks to you, the ride should be free.” But where does this form or torture rank compared to a cakewreck?

  13. jk*

    I’d write back to them and say “Thank you” for the opportunity but you can’t even consider ranking some of these items because you see them as equally bad on the scale.

    Also ask if they are screening for an admin assistant or a personal assistant to Dr Evil.

      1. Nonnon*

        “Please rank these potential evil lapcats from best to worst.”

        (Honestly, I’d be tempted to throw something like that into an online application just so the candidates would have a break and look at fluffy animals, but then I realised that many of them would suspect a secret test and they would get even more frazzled.)

    1. cleo*

      Yes, I immediately thought of Dr. Evil as well. Ask if working with disgruntled sea bass is part of your responsibilities

  14. Antilles*

    The weirdest part about this is that it seems to be a complete mishmash of various categories with no unifying theme. Minor every day mistakes. Consumer goods. Supervillain schemes. Various medals/rewards. Vague high-level concepts.
    Like, how does one even rank “the telephone” versus “justice”? They’re not even remotely related!

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Yes, I was so confused that I couldn’t even comment! I mean, poisoning the water vs. a lover’s embrace?!?

      1. LKW*

        But is your dead lover? Is he a zombie hugging you so he can eat your brain? I mean, in terms of scale, sure don’t poison the water but you know – technically you can poison the water but not poison it fatally.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Right, and is it a poisoning by incompetence or did someone intentionally do it? I DON’T KNOW.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            But we all know the Illuminati already poisoned the water by adding “fluoride” which is secretly a MIND-CONTROL DRUG so anything you do is really just icing on the cake

    2. Just Jess*

      OK, but at least we can all agree that “a telephone” is better than “an award for a good deed” right?…right?

      …I will fight anyone who disagrees and you will not be allowed to work here!

      1. LKW*

        I’m having fun playing devils advocate today… What was the good deed? I know a few “clubs” that would consider it a “good deed” to burn a cross on someone’s lawn.

      2. TootsNYC*

        If you are truly doing a good deed, you shouldn’t need an award for it, right? That and the medal for bravery should be at the very bottom.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        What if the good deed was motivated by a desire for the reward? Like when 6th grade classes sell lots of magazines in the hopes of earning a pizza party, or at least a troll keychain.

      1. Just Jess*

        OK, but seriously (though nothing about this deserves seriousness!) don’t you actually need a telephone to do most jobs? We don’t know what the hell is going on with this organization. They may need to know that their employees need telephones more than rewards for good deeds, assuming the reward is above and beyond basic pay.

        1. Nobody Here by That Name*

          No joke, I once worked as an admin who had to pitch in on the general reception line, which meant that line rang on my desk every single time. I legit would have turned down a raise and a bonus if it meant getting that forking thing turned off.

          Mind you, I tested as HUGELY introverted in the company’s personality quizzes.

    3. Alton*

      Yes, the weird mishmash is what gets me. At least it bothers to specify that it’s talking about a *new* car, implying that you’ve just gotten it and presumably need/want it. But “a telephone”? What am I ranking, the concept of a phone? A particular phone?

      Also, a “madman” is a person, and everything else on the list is an action, object, or event.

      1. teclatrans*

        The madman really gets me. Setting aside the ableist angle, what is the madman doing? Tending his garden? Chatting with the voices in his head? Is this worse than the telephone?

      2. Just Jess*

        Does this mean that “a madman” is better than “a new car” because a madman is still a sentient living being? …Who the hell am I asking? I’m done with this post.

        Congratulations to everyone who saw this in a job application and did not lose their minds.

  15. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    The interwebs’ technoLOGICAL solution to all your staffing needz.
    We will fill your office with employEASE.

    Now, with all due respect to your inner voice, LW, how can possibly question such a tactic? Doesn’t sound shady, at all.

  16. AnonResearchManager*

    Found it!


    It looks like they gave the OP this test to determine if they were “too chatty” to be an admin (SMH).

    “Keller Williams hiring managers use the DISC as an early-screening tool. For instance, Sue Adler, the New Jersey-based team leader who evaluated Bulwith for a position as her assistant, says she would never hire someone in an administrative role with a high “I” score — “too chatty,” she said.”

    1. DecorativeCacti*

      I interviewed for a position at a Keller Williams and had to take the DISC test, but it was through the Tony Robbins website and not this bizarro stuff. I mean, I still thought it was ridiculous, but not THIS bizarro.

    2. MadMadAlwaysMad*

      I’ve both taken and facilitated DISC training for several of my teams (and it can be very helpful if used appropriately) and I can tell you I have NEVER seen a list like the one in the screenshot. I’ve also never used it as a hiring gate .. more to help existing teams understand how to communicate more effectively with one another and with their customers.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, we did it at Exjob after we were employed for the same reason. Our trainer told us not to take it at face value–it was just a way to make us aware of different communications styles and strategies. She also pointed out, with an actual example, that a person taking the test could take it again a year or so later and get a completely different score.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I’ve taken the DISC from professional administrators a couple times, and this ain’t it. Sure, you have to select if it’s more like you to “plan a party” or “read a book” but not is it best to “a telephone” or “a technical improvement.”

      1. AnonResearchManager*

        They likely update the test every year and/or offer different ranking lists for different types of positions. That’s how they keep a syndicated study making money.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          IDK, I took it last summer, so it was fairly recent. I suppose my company could be working off a version that was licensed 5 years ago, but these questions are a huge leap from what I took in 2011 from a personal coach and 2017. This particular version of whatever this test is appears to be written by 7th graders.

        2. MadMadAlwaysMad*

          Currently, we administer DISC once a year or so to new team members. It isn’t “position” specific and there is nothing on any version I have ever seen (over the past 15 years) that involves ranking that sort of list. There are a series of questions that offer you a choice of two things, for instance you are presented with pairs of words and asked to select the one that best describes you. Often those two pairs of words don’t seem to have much in common, such as “precise or athletic”, but that is about as far out as it gets. What I’m saying is while the first part of the form the OP talks about may derive from the Keller-Willams DISC profile, I don’t think that last part does. I’m facilitating it again in a week or so and we always download the most current version, so I will let you know if that sort of weirdness has entered the building.

      2. ggg*

        I have taken DISC several times at company training courses. The description of my results always says something like, “have you considered a career in science or engineering?” We are a science and engineering company.

    4. A.N. O'Nyme*

      …How does ranking “torturing a person” and “a telephone” even remotely relate to chattiness?!

    5. Minerva McGonagall*

      Yup – DISC is the one test I’ve liked, and gave what I felt were valid results, because it’s a behavioral test (not personality) and limited to how you behave at work (which is only a piece of who you are).

      This ranking thing described above is not part of DISC.

    6. Curious Cat*

      What sort of sleuthing did you do to manage to find this?
      Also definitely not what the DISC assessment is. I’ve taken DISC a few times for various jobs/classes and it’s definitely not like the pic OP submitted with their letter.

    7. NW Mossy*

      Not to mention that in traditional DiSC, a high I is generally someone who values building good relationships. Surely can’t have that in an admin position, what with the facing the public and all.

    8. Turquoisecow*

      Whoa whoa…Sue Adler? I think she might have been my mother in law’s realtor. I thought something was funny about her.

    9. Ribiko*

      I did something similar to this as part of a company teambuilding exercise so that we could learn more about each others’ styles and what motivated us (gaining knowledge, public recognition, etc.). I found it more insightful than I expected, but I can’t see how it would be useful in screening applicants that you’ve never met versus getting to better understand folks you already work with.

    10. Thlayli*

      The wizehire website tells potential employers that they use DISC to evaluate applicants. So it’s very unlikely employers know the list in the pic is being used. They probably think they are getting an actual DISC test.

  17. Kathleen A*


    I just…I mean…It’s so…


    And now I find (from earlier posters) that someone was paid actual money to develop this test? That someone took the time to develop it for, you know, a reason?


    1. AndersonDarling*

      I don’t think someone was actually paid to develop the test. Rather, I think someone masterminded the test to scam sucker employers into buying it.
      Moo ooo ah ha.

  18. Tomato Frog*

    Is this a stealth vocabulary test? You say a blunder or a token of love is worse than poisoning the town water supply, and they figure you don’t know what blunder means?

    1. Pollygrammer*

      I think it has to be a stealth something test. Do they time how long you take to settle on your rankings, maybe? To decide if you’re thorough and conscientious? That’s the only thing I can think of.

    2. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

      Heh. I imagine the employer going through that process and deciding that some vocab deficiencies aren’t a dealbreaker, then first day on the job, Jane casually remarks “I’m so glad I’ve found a place where my penchant for poisoning municipal water supplies is not only tolerated but embraced.”

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      It is my number two.*
      I don’t know what number 1 would be, but telephone is number 2. Kind of like the quiz itself. A real, big number 2.

    2. Emilie*

      Maybe the whole test is actually just set up to figure out, how the candidate feels about telephones?

  19. boo*

    “I mean, I feel confident that ‘receiving a medal for bravery’ is better than ‘poisoning the town’s water supply’ or ‘torturing a person…'”

    I dunno, Alison, it kind of depends on who’s giving out the medal… (also, it kind of depends on the town.)

    Anyway, my best guess is, there’s an inter-office D&D game, and they want to know your alignment. Always go for Chaotic Neutral, it’s totally the scariest.

    For Your Consideration
    1. A life of adventure
    2. Prostitution
    3. A foolish thought
    4. A decoration for bravery
    5. Torturing a person
    6. A wreck
    7. A token of love
    8. Poisoning the city water
    9. Justice
    10. A lover’s embrace
    11. A technical improvement
    12. Imprisoning an innocent person
    13. A new car
    14. A blunder
    15. A madman
    16. A short circuit
    17. An award for a good deed
    18. A telephone

    1. AnotherAlison*

      A medal for a good deed seems like a no-brainer best. . .until there is a plot twist, and you received it for a good deed that you didn’t actually do. A technical improvement seems innocuous, till you start thinking about the singularity. And what if the innocent person is only imprisoned for a day? Maybe that’s not so bad. . .

      1. boo*

        “A technical improvement seems innocuous till you start thinking about the singularity.”

        Haha, I know right? A life of adventure sounds great, but are we talking about *my* life, or just in general? Because adventures leave behind a lot of collateral damage, so if I’m not the hero, I’m out.

        Token of love? Who from? That could be a chocolate heart or it could be the heart of a dead rat sandwiched between two dead doves and nailed to my front door. Pass.

        Poisoning the city water? You know, a lot of people thought fluoride was a Communist plot, until they stopped getting all those cavities. It’s all about perspective.

        Torturing a person? Well, sure that sounds bad, but what if they met on fetlife and made a scene plan and a safe word beforehand? Must be Tuesday.

        A blunder? The slinky was invented by accident!!!

        I think I’ve made my point.

          1. boo*

            … see also, multiple choice… (It’s (a), but in a circumstance where the words meant slightly different things it’s clearly (c), and with that assumption then (b) is back in the game, too! Which makes me see (d) in a whole new light…. Hmm…)

        1. Nonnon*

          Are we saying “madman” as in “not a politically correct term for a neurodivergent person”, as in “harmless eccentric who sings lullabies to their lawnmower”, or as in “my boss who brings in a cricket bat to work and swings it around menacingly”?

          1. Lily Evans*

            I immediately went down the Mad Axeman of New Orleans thought path, so I would’ve ranked that one pretty bad…

      2. essEss*

        I was thinking imprisonment wasn’t all bad, especially if there’s a comfy bed and some books or knitting needles. I’d call that a vacation.

      3. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        When something is advertised as a technical improvement, it usually ends up being torture.

    2. Lunch Meat*

      How many people are present to see me receive the medal? Do I have to come up with something to say? I might torture someone to get out of that.

      1. LKW*

        Or according to boo’s options above, you might just have to remove a pinky finger – could be torture, could be romantic token. What if the decoration for bravery is the finger, taken from a prisoner of war. So so so many options. OP – can you write a short story weaving these things together and submit that as your cover letter?

        1. boo*

          CHALLENGE ACCEPTED (in order from my list above)

          Dear Sir or Madam,
          I’ve always considered myself destined for a life of adventure, so when my favorite prostitute had a foolish thought and suggested I apply to your company and get a real job, I looked at her like she’d just handed me ‘a decoration for bravery,’ if you know what I mean. Usually I like to stick to my strengths, which in my case tends to be torturing a person—before I found my calling I was a wreck!
          But, that gal of mine was insistent; she’s always maintained that what I do is basically a glorified hobby, and I can’t deny that without my vast fortune I’d go broke doing it. So, as a token of love I postponed poisoning the city water supply (part of my crusade for justice-that’s mostly at night, it won’t interfere with my work performance.) I told her I’d apply to this job, and then opened my arms for a lover’s embrace (an art to which she has made many a technical improvement! When she takes me in her arms, I’m so instantly aroused I could almost be imprisoning an innocent person.)
          After the embrace I tried to weasel out of it—I even tried to distract her with a new car, but she saw right through me! It was a blunder. So, like a madman, I hired someone to write me a resume! While the resume-doctor was doing her thing, I did a quick short-circuit of the city, if you know what I mean (of course you do, unless you were out of town on the night of the 10th). Unfortunately, some bumbleputz looking for an award for a good deed foiled that plan a little earlier than expected, but it did give me time to come back to my cavernous home, and write this cover letter, explaining how it is that I came to apply for this job.
          Sincerely yours,
          A. Telephone (Mr.)

      2. LQ*

        To me the real problem with the medal is that it’s a medal, it’s not the good deed. People could give out medals like candy and not worry about good deeds, is it the medal and not the deed? A medal is a chunk of metal or more likely plastic which was created by people making poverty wages. That doesn’t seem very good to me.

    3. Antilles*

      I like that you put a “foolish thought” right next to “a decoration for bravery”. In a lot of cases, the bravest person is the one who’s too foolish to realize that they really should be running away.

      1. boo*

        Ha, I didn’t think of that! I just felt like a foolish thought is a nice thing, so I ranked it high. But totally…

    4. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

      Chaotic neutral is definitely the scariest. I’m in a campaign where I’m basically lawful evil (long story) and yet I’m more predictable and less wantonly cruel than our chaotic neutral barbarian. At least I have *rules*!!!!!

      1. selina kyle*

        Lawful vs chaotic is the difference between Harvey Dent and The Joker. One’s pretty scary and one’s the Joker.

      2. Zert in rehab*

        Wanton cruelty = Chaotic Evil

        Actually the scariest alignment is Lawful Neutral. Those idiots will do anything.

      3. many bells down*

        I try to avoid using Chaotic Neutral because it usually just makes the DM mad. But somehow we ended up with an almost entirely CN, LN, and True Neutral party this time around. It’s going to be … something.

        1. Liane*

          Husband and I don’t play RPGs in the same group–except for the the odd con game or 2–and it’s largely because he plays what I call “Chaotic Neutral with Annoying tendencies.”

          1. Red Reader*

            I know several people who play Chaotic Stupid. Constantly. (Including in real life. Which probably explains a lot.)

          1. many bells down*

            Yeah, and CN especially seems to be mostly an excuse for bad roleplaying. “I don’t want to develop my character, so they’re wacky and do anything they want!”

            I had very specific reasons for choosing it this time around, but I’m going to have to rein myself in to make it not-obnoxious.

            1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

              I am lawful evil because I’m a devil possessing the mind of another player character (my husband’s elf). Really, we set it up to explain why we take turns going to sessions- one of us stays home with our toddler but both of us wanted to play. For various reasons, I can’t actually play out most evil actions (don’t want to let on that I’m possessing an elf) but I can be super snarky and cynical and have fun stare-downs with paladins. And I can be like a reverse moral compass for the others, who now know I’m a devil. If I approve of your choice, maybe you’re getting too dark? My character would definitely send out this ranking email.

        2. SC Anonibrarian*

          One of the members of my gaming group treats all of the Neutral categories as thematic variations on ‘lets see how many times I can make the DM (or the rest of the party) speechless with frustration’ so the lustre is a bit off the lily for me. I appreciate the category option in abstract, but I always think of That Guy and then I want to scream.

  20. Violet*

    Some of things on the list are crimes against humanity. I wonder if the company wants you commit such crimes?

  21. Katniss*

    I’d find prostitution being on there useful in one way: since it’s morally neutral, I can know where the “middle” of the list is.

    But that’s in the mind of a person who isn’t twisted enough to think that this is a useful test, so all logic has clearly exited the picture long ago.

  22. Em Too*

    Maybe the hidden test is whether ‘a technical advancement’ is right at the top? If so, you get the techy start-up job?

  23. Snark*

    Well, whatever that test is telling them, it’s given you one important datum: this is possibly the most jive-ass employer on the planet.

    1. ExcelJedi*

      Not in the US. Nothing about this is in line with NHS ethics guidelines re: research on human subjects, and wouldn’t get through an IRB at a university or research institute.

      I mean, maybe if it was for someone who was particularly unethical or thought they were above ethics requirements, but I’d doubt it.

  24. Jesmlet*

    It’s either a reading comprehension/attention check (stupid/useless but not crazy) or they actually think this is important in which case, run far far away.

    1. Liane*

      Does this qualify for the annual poll? Because there HAS to be at least 1 bad boss involved or the company wouldn’t be using this so-called hiring tool.

  25. Earthwalker*

    What do you suppose the scoring is? “You got a 95%. While most of your answers were correct according to our answer sheet, you have ‘madman’ and ‘short circuit’ in reverse order. Considering that three applicants have scored 100% correct, we will not interview you at this time.” Or is it “you took an hour to complete the test so we know that you are detail-oriented, which is good in its way, but other candidates finished in five minutes, which tells us that they are fast, ‘get it done’ workers. We cannot use you at this time.” Or is it, “You finished the test while 10 others began it and then cancelled out of the application process. We know you will follow orders no matter how silly. We are very interested in you.”

  26. Temperance*

    I’m not saying that you should do this, but I would mess with them by ranking all of the clearly awful stuff as best and the nice things as worst, because that’s what you get with stupid questions like this.

  27. Foreign Octopus*

    You know, every now and then a letter comes to Alison that makes me pause and go ‘huh’. This is one of those letters.

    I’d love to know who thought this was a good idea and how many people it passed through to actually get sent to candidates. I’d also like to know what they’re “correct” order is.

  28. My First Time Posting*

    “A Lover’s Embrace” is near the bottom of the list if that “Lover” has halitosis and/or is “hygienically disadvantaged” – especially if both is the case

    1. Teal Green*

      Is the “Lover’s Embrace” consensual or non-consensual? Perhaps they’re checking my tolerance for sexual harassment at work?

  29. Olive Hornby*

    My strong suspicion is that they’re looking for admins who will perform ridiculous and pointless tasks like this one without complaint.

  30. The Ginger Ginger*

    Why does this list sound more like a creative writing prompt/challenge than anything else? Write a piece of fiction that includes ALL THESE THINGS!

    At least that would be fun. As a job application this is….disturbing. I can’t tell if the employer is staffed by sociopaths and is recruiting, or they’re trying to screen that out.

    1. The Ginger Ginger*

      And based on the weirdly antiquated vocabulary happening here, I demand that the writing sample be in the steampunk genre.

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      Ooh… someone applying for a job, gets the test, and thinks it’s a list of tasks they have to complete…

  31. Gayle Davidson-Durst*

    Very disappointed that “Seeing your enemies driven before you and hearing the lamentation of their women” was not one of the items.

  32. Irene Adler*

    I think I’d just put them in alphabetical order and leave it at that.

    Let them figure out my reasoning.

  33. Nita*

    Maybe this is a secret test for how much BS you’ll put up with in the job? I mean, people who don’t want to put up with BS will probably walk away, and keep on walking.

  34. Plague of frogs*

    OP, you had me at “is it typical for applications to ask you to rate atrocities?”

    I suspect this is just a reading comprehension test gone horribly wrong, but just in case it is something more, it is imperative that you make it to the next level of interviewing to find out what they ask. I think it will involve conundrums about accepting a Medal of Bravery for poisoning the town’s water supply.

  35. Nonnynonn*

    Soo, I’m asexual. A “lovers embrace” would be pretty torturous for me so I’d be tempted to rate that towards the Worst end. Wonder how they would handle that??

    1. Flower*


      I’m demi – a (ahem, *my*) lover’s embrace would be wonderful, but I was looking at prostitution and wondering if they wanted it from a moral point of view (neutral, as far I’m concerned) or as a “for me” (torture).

  36. Mark Richards*

    Rate these blunders, from most to least classic:
    1. Getting into a land war in asia
    2. Going in against a Sicilian when death is on the line
    3. Poisoning the city water

    1. A. Ham*

      Trick question.
      2 and 3 are irrelevant if you have built up an immunity to the poison. but 1 is a bad idea no matter what.

  37. Liz T*

    I’m hoping “An award for a good deed” is a trap. Like, “Good deeds are their own reward you psycho, never apply with us again!!!!!”

    1. SallytooShort*

      “I say you ranked ‘an award for a good deed’ as worse than ‘torture’ and ‘poisoning a city’s water supply.’ Congratulations! You have the job!”

  38. Oxford Coma*

    You can circumvent this stupid quiz. Just send a video of yourself sitting in a large armchair, stroking a white Persian.

  39. MMM*

    UGH I had to take this exact “test” for a job recently. Definitely sent screenshots to friends to confirm that I wasn’t the only one thinking it was outrageous, and also definitely googled it to see if it was a proprietary screening tool of that company or if it was (more shockingly) something that is widely used. I never did hear back, so who knows, guess I don’t have the appropriate morals to be a marketing coordinator??

    1. LKW*

      I bet you didn’t put A Foolish Thought as the worst item did you? For marketing I think Foolish Thought wins always as the worst item. A good marketing campaign can turn anything around right? Poisoned water? Nope, it’s a product feature! Torture – “Enhanced Interrogation” my friend. Prostitution – say hello to Corporate Lobbying!

  40. anon24*

    This reminds me of the school assignments: “use all these terms in a paragraph”

    I might be maniacal (and bored) enough to write that paragraph and send it to them. “I had to get a new car after a life of adventure led to a blunder caused by a foolish thought which caused a wreck. This happened at the reservoir, and when I got out of my totalled car I witnessed a madman poisoning the city water. I tried to use a telephone to call for help, but this location lacks a certain technical improvement, so a short circuit caused the cell phone tower to be malfunctioning, and my call did not go through. The madman saw me and started chasing me. I knew he wasn’t about to give me a token of love or a lovers embrace, so I ran for my life afraid he would shortly be torturing a person (me!). I was saved by a heroic person who happens to work in the field of prostitution, but I never told anyone of her presence at the reservoir that day because I was afraid that with her career, the need for “justice” would lead the cops to imprisoning an innocent person. So instead, I got credit for stopping the prisoner, and my award was a decoration for bravery and an award for a good deed”

    Do I get the job?

    1. ArtK*

      I followed your link and yes, that’s what it seems to be. I wonder if this company is paying to use the test. I notice that the Hartman people are *very* strict about the wording to be used in describing the questions. In any case, it all smells of pop-psychology. I took a glance at their claimed “validations” but didn’t pursue whether they were in independent peer-reviewed journals or not. My suspicion is that, like Myers-Briggs, all of the positive articles are published in a journal with ties to the organization.

  41. beanie beans*

    The commenters are seriously cracking me up, which is about the only reasonable response to having to answer this questionnaire as part of a job application.

    Company: We keep hiring admin assistants who turn out to be evil villains! How can we better screen our candidates to prevent this from happening in the future?
    Wizehire.com: Oh we’ve got you covered.

    1. Nobody Here by That Name*

      Company: We evaluate our employees by faking a fire drill during the interview process. Surely nobody can top that in terms of useless test to employee task ratios!

      Wizehire.com: Hold my beer.

      1. beanie beans*

        Company: We keep getting employees who like to question authority. How can we make sure our employees will follow directions? Like help the boss cover up their affairs, deliver notes to gravesites, and drive the drunk boss around.

        Wizehire.com: The hoops we make candidates jump through ensure only the most desperate job seekers apply, and only the most willing to put up with a miserable workplace will move forward.

      2. Pam*

        We had the California Shake-Out earthquake drill during interviews once. The interviewee actually got under the table with us.

        Reader, we hired him.

  42. LeLah*

    This looks like a terribly executed ripoff of the Hartman Value Profile, which is an interesting and useful assessment.

  43. Bea*

    Dealing with the vendor’s rep who is responsible for these “tests” is worse than buying a car. I don’t want to even look at the genius who crafts them. (I’m still dodging the woman because “I do not care enough to listen to you about this pseudoscience, we just use it as a filter…” didn’t get the message across.

    We use them to screen out people who will show they’re interested in applying and the results don’t ever even get much thought. I flunked the Excel test and was worried that would get me bumped until I got here and realized it wasn’t important at all. Whomp whomp whomp.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Umm… how would this screen for people interested in applying when they are already applying? Screening for desperation should be a red flag.

      1. Bea*

        We’ve had a massive amount of applicants who will set up an interview and no show. It’s an interesting situation to say the least. The job market is batty and this has been a thing I’ve seen happening for multiple companies. So really applying is not enough at all.

    2. beanie beans*

      So it’s just getting applicants to jump through hoops. Here I thought if I wrote a solid cover letter that actually explains why I’m interested in the job, I might have a shot at that job. But companies like this value being willing to complete meaningless tasks as a bigger indicator of interest than actually explaining their interest.

      1. Bea*

        I dream of a world where everyone writes a thoughtful cover letter and actually shows up to the interview.

        I understand you’re point. Most of us here are hard working professionals who do exactly that. Sadly in my line of work and looking for entry level positions to be filled, I’ve had entire days blocked for interviews and an entire roster of no shows. So the hoops help slightly in that case.

        I almost didn’t do the test myself and pass on the opportunity. Thankfully after jumping through the hoop I got the job and liked how it all turned out. So yeah, it sucks but it’s not always as serious as we take things during the job hunt process.

        1. Observer*

          And you’re really telling me that making people do this stuff improves your outcomes? Color me skeptical.

        2. beanie beans*

          I guess I can see it a little better now from your perspective Bea. That does suck.

          It’s too bad that if it’s only used to weed out people who aren’t serious about applying, it’s clearly causing people stress if they don’t know their answers don’t matter, only that they took the effort to answer it. Like your example of having to do an Excel test if you never have to use it. Surely there’s a better way to give people some more meaningful hoops to jump through that might actually help you evaluate candidates? (of course I can’t think of any at the moment but it’s making me understand the logic behind some of the seemingly tedious applications out there)

  44. TwoTuxedosandaMicrophone*

    This post is quite timely – I’m part of a hiring committee where one member felt very strongly that we use a behavioral assessment as part of the process. It was the chair of the committee’s opinion that individuals would be insulted by being asked to take one (it’s for a higher level position). Apparently you can take it and the results will tell you whether or not someone has an entrepreneurial attitude toward work.

    I’m curious if this is common practice to be asked to take a behavioral test and if you would find it personally insulting?

    My personal opinion is that it’s maybe ok to ask them to take it as a managerial tool – as in “We’re trying to discover how you work best and how we can best support your working method.” But as part of the hiring process? I’m not convinced.

    1. SallytooShort*

      This one is particularly bad but it has become relatively common in certain sectors to do a behavioral test of some sort.

      I, personally, think it’s all junk science and just wrong to include as part of hiring. Not legally wrong. But I think it’s a waste of the applicants time and means you are basing at least partially basing decisions on what is most likely nonsense.

      Doing it with current employees? It’s a bit silly but harmless.

    2. Karo*

      I think it depends on the assessment. If it’s the same assessment that I had to take to work at the grocery store back in high school, I’d be a little insulted. If it’s something that purports to help you understand how to manage me, I’d be skeptical but not actually insulted.

    3. Nobody Here by That Name*

      Years ago my company used personality evaluations as part of the hiring process for SVP level positions. However, this was via a search firm that did the tests in house, i.e. if you were using that firm to find you a job you’d already opted to take this test. And the idea behind the test was to get a feel for how the candidate might fit into the team as a whole. It was never used as make or break criteria for the final offer. More like okay, if we had a position where someone who was an extrovert would excel, we might factor that into the decision if their tests AND their multiple interviews indicated they were an extrovert.

      All of which is to say it can be done but it’s really a minor data point and I can’t see requiring it if it’s not being done already. We certainly wouldn’t have asked if the search firm didn’t have the info to offer.

    4. clow*

      personally, if i see this as part of an assessment, i dont apply. I don’t want to work for a company that thinks these tests are a good way to assess people. If an applicant sent a test similar to this to assess an employer, the resume would be chucked out. The hiring process should always go two ways. Honestly, the best way to find out how someone works best is to actually get to know them and get to know how they work.

    5. all those punk rock guys*

      I don’t know if I’d find it always insulting (I mentioned above about the one I’d taken where I’d stricken that employer forever after from my places-to-apply list), but I’d certainly always find it something to roll my eyes about and question the judgment of the people who decided to do it. I’m totally fine with questions pertinent to the job, although self-certifications that you know X, Y, and Z are worth the pixels they’re printed on, and people can always google. But anything that has nothing to do with the job or is all about personality, I’d have serious questions about values and priorities. What is the test supposed to tell you? What do you need it for? What makes it superior to every other?

      Because personality quizzes are so common these days recreationally and as ice-breakers, that’s how they seem to be to me: some kind of frivolous thing that has no basis in anything real.

      And if it did have basis in anything real? I’d expect to get the questionnaire from my therapist, not a random website.

    6. Struck by Lightning*

      Considering that when I was a psych minor 25% of our grade was making Meyers Briggs & another one that escapes me at the moment come out to whatever specific result the prof selected that day….

      Yeah, I think they’re pointless & indicate enough problems in the hiring company I would withdraw from consideration.

    7. Nita*

      I think that after a certain point, when one isn’t fresh out of college, a person’s resume is as good as a behavioral test. Better, even. A person can tweak their test answers to make themselves look more “entrepreneurial,” but is there any evidence in their resume that they’ve taken initiative, done more than take others’ orders, taken charge of their career?

  45. Aiani*

    This is really reminding me of an episode of a Elementary. Someone came up with a test that was supposed to test for sociopaths. Then they were using the results as a way to find people who might be willing to work as assassins. So OP, maybe someone wants to find out if you would be a good assassin.

    It’s a bad sign when your hiring practices seem suspiciously similar to episodes of murder mystery shows.

    1. LKW*

      Actually there is a test for psychopaths – the Hare Psychopathology Check List – is used by psychiatrists and neurologists studying psychopaths & sociopaths. It’s pretty comprehensive and you have to score within a certain range to meet the definition of psychopath.

      1. Psychopaths are terrible*

        It’s not a questionnaire though. No psychiatrist would rely on someone’s written answers to determine if they’re a psychopath – psychopaths are pathological liars after all! It’s a very complex process, it takes into account a person’s childhood, sexual relations and so on (interestingly, promiscuity is one of the items on the checklist, as well as superficial charm).

  46. Christmas Carol*

    So is it OK to poison the air we all breathe, just a little bit, by burning coal in our electrical plants, if it puts more ‘merican miners back to work? And what about the downstream water table?

  47. Ainomiaka*

    And here I thought “Do you like to touch beautiful objects was going to be the weirdest application question. Those are something else though.

    1. Been There, Done That*

      I am fascinated by what job this question would be for. Museum curator? Lingerie sales? Jewelry repair?

      1. Ainomiaka*

        It’s late but if you are still reading, but cosmetic development, actually. Like working in a lab to make better hair/skincare. That company had the weirdest personality test I have ever seen. That question has become a standing joke between my husband and I but there were many crazy ones. I didn’t pass the screening, so I have no way to know what they were looking for, but I never applied there again.

        1. Annie Moose*

          OK, that just makes me question things even further. Because if you combine “skincare” with “liking to touch beautiful objects”, what I’m getting out of this is someone who is like, “Your skin! It’s so beautiful! I must touch it!” and lunges at your face to pet your cheekbone.

  48. strawberries and raspberries*

    On second thought this actually looks like a great Cards Against Humanity round.

    1. Chaordic One*

      These should also inspire at least a couple of good Demotivational posters like those at Despair.com.

  49. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

    This…almost looks more like someone was trying to construct a psychopath test. Like…for real.

  50. lazuli*

    This blog post was written by the co-founder of WizeHire. Looks like he suggests adding random activities to the job-application process to “weed out” people who aren’t “go-getters.” Eyeroll.

    “Those who are finding successful agents are using some unconventional tactics to make it not so easy (i.e., too easy) to apply. They’re separating the wheat from the chaff by employing what — at first blush — seem like some stupid questions in their application process. These quirky extra steps, though, aren’t stupid after all. They’re quite the contrary. By using them, you too can find more motivated, productive agents who are willing to go the extra mile to get results.

    “…Extra steps such as these can help filter out those who lack initiative and drive, and leave you knowing you’re talking with someone who will put the effort forward to get your job — and then get their job done.”


      1. The New Wanderer*

        Exactly! That doesn’t prove that the questions aren’t stupid, just that only desperate people will bother.

        He’s basically saying that no one cares what the answers are as long as they’re filled in so it doesn’t matter if they’re stupid questions, just that there are hoops to jump and if you want hoop-jumpers, here’s your gimmick.

    1. Paper Librarian*

      I hate this. He recommends making applicants fax in their application. I know how to fax, but I’m not going to waste my time for your stupid test.

      1. Paper Librarian*

        “The truly unworthy candidates won’t even bother. The somewhat better ones will invest the effort to travel to their local Kinko’s to scan and fax their resume. The great candidates, though, work smart. They quickly figure out they can send a fax straight from their computer using Hellofax.com, Pamfax.com or Faxzero.com.”

        Ahhh, yes. Only the true gems can figure out Google.

        1. Natalie*

          Actual great candidates: “Fax? Are they serious…? Well, I guess I’ll skip that one for now” and then they never come back.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Yup. . .”Geez, if they’re still using fax machines, am I going to have to do all my work longhand and enter it into the shared computer once a week? Pass.”

            1. Nobody Here by That Name*

              Seriously. Sorry, I’m unable to work at companies that require me to time travel back to 1992.

          2. Betsy*

            Yes, if anyone asks me to fax anything I reply, very believably, ‘Are you sure that still exists? I don’t think it does anymore?’

            Luckily, I’ve never had to send a fax for anything work-related before. I know I shouldn’t be so facetious, but I get so annoyed about having to use such outdated technology. It’s just the bank and the occasional government department that have requested faxes recently. I feel like fax was pretty much over before I started in the workforce in the late 90s.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I very rarely have to fax things–like, once every few years. I give them to my husband to do from his office. I’m not sure what they just deduced about me.

        3. Observer*

          In other words “we’re clueless idiots who don’t realize that really good candidates won’t waste their time because THEY HAVE OPTIONS.”

      2. SC Anonibrarian*

        And money. Not many jobless people have faxes in their homes and around here it’s between 1 and 2 dollars per page.

    2. The Ginger Ginger*

      If someone asked me what I would do if I was the only survivor of a crash in AN INTERVIEW. I would decide immediately that it was not a good cultural fit and go out in a blaze of glory. Overwhelm them with follow up questions.

      Where did we crash? Snowy mountain? Deserted beach? Downtown Denver? Why did we crash? Meteor strike? Is it still burning? Can I harvest the fire? Am I injured? What size was the plane? Is enough intact to shelter in? Did the luggage survive? Can I rummage through bags? Were there any scientists or gun enthusiasts on the plane with pertinent baggage that I would find during a search? What’s the local wildlife made up of? Average temperature? Is it raining? Are there Zombies?

      Welcome to a DnD nightmare, dear Interviewer, you’re now the Dungeon Master.

      1. Nobody Here by That Name*

        I was JUST about to comment on that bit. Is this guy screening for psychopaths? “I dust myself off and go finish my sales call!”???

        Yeah, at that point he deserves people asking about the muscle to fat ratio of the rest of the team in case they need to be eaten on this sales trip to the Andes.

        1. The Ginger Ginger*

          Right? Honestly, if something so bonkers came up in an interview my first inclination really would be to ask follow up questions. I’d just….pursue the extreme, in this case.

          I had an interview for an internal role where one of the team members (who I already knew) asked a question like this as a joke (he stated it was clearly a joke). “If I asked you to put an elephant in a suitcase, what would you do first?” And I asked if it was a real elephant or a toy, and how big the suitcase was. Because how would you proceed if you didn’t know the parameters of the question?!

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      “What would you do if you were the only survivor of a plane crash?”

      Of course, for me, if I’m looking for a top-performing sales hunter, the best answer would be, “I dust myself off and go finish my sales call!”

      …Oh, BARF.

    4. Ten*

      After reading this post, all I can say is: A company with a process like that deserves exactly the type of hires it attracts.

  51. bopper*

    I imagine they don’t get a lot of info for “normal” people, but it would screen out the people who prefer to torture people. I am sure they put this question in because they have seen people that need to get screened out.

  52. OP Here*

    I’m so glad that everyone else thinks this is weird.

    At the start of the test, everything was a lot more normal (for a personality test.) It was things like “Rank these four traits from most like you to least like you: Enthusiastic, Thorough, Adaptive, Flexible.” Many of the questions had two or more options that were essentially synonyms, like adaptive/flexible.

    The “rank these traits” had to have 20+ examples that were all essentially identical. Many synonyms and repetition.

    The reason that I rolled my eyes about it at all is that I don’t think most people would answer it honestly. Everyone, to some degree, would be influenced by what they think the company wants to hear. I tried to be honest, but in cases where I felt I embodies traits equally, I tried to pick the “better” one. Maybe that’s just a Slytherin mentality, though. I do also put more stock in someone’s self-assigned Hogwarts house than this test, though.

    This was near the end of the test. There were a couple more long forms, but this was the most outrageous one.

    I haven’t heard back, and don’t really expect to! But it’s also only been a week, so it’s totally possible I could.

    1. Need A Change*

      I agree since I just did this same test. I got the interview(s) and now hoping that I get the call, but I found it strange. Like you said in the post these things have a bad track record anyway and everyone answers how they think the company wants it.

        1. OP Here*

          I’m not really interested in debating my choices, because as many people have pointed out, there are so many factors at play. I didn’t want to rank “prostitution” highly even though I actually have no problem with consensual sex work, for example. It’s a very badly designed test.

          But the image in the post is what I submitted.

          1. Curious Cat*

            Totally understand! Didn’t mean to come across that I was trying to debate, just jokingly curious :)

            1. OP Here*

              Sorry, I think I phrased that poorly. I meant it more as a disclaimer that I don’t want to debate than an accusation. :) You’re fine!

    2. Ann O.*

      I can explain this test to you. At one of my old jobs, we had a business coach c0me in. I recognize the personality diagnostics that we did from your description and from the screencap.

      Actually, now that I’m trying to find the words to explain the test, it’s challenging to explain it! It’s evaluating your values, but not in the sense of morality…. but rather literally what type of interactions with the world do you find valuable. The reason why you had that one section with the 20+ examples that are all essentially identical is to work against gaming the test. I don’t think any personality test is completely ungamable, but the various sections are using different approaches to get at the same evaluation of values to make sure that your answers are coherent with each other.

      If I remember correctly, the torturing a person vs. poisoning a city well is getting at a good of the many vs. good of the few orientation (we interrogated the coach about that one because we were all so curious).

      I don’t think personality tests should ever be used as part of a hiring process, but I will say that the results of this test were uniformly excellent for us. Mine was not 100% dead on (it thought I needed a clean workspace… ha!) but it was the best I’ve ever seen. I actually gave my husband the second on how to communicate with me because it was so great. Our particular business coach was very big on emphasizing that there is no wrong but rather that team’s need a balance of value-orientations. This is pretty common sense when you think about it… teams need individual members strengths and weaknesses to complement each other. We are generally good fits in certain environments/teams and not others.

      1. Student*

        This is business-astrology, or business-tarot-card reading. It is just a scam.

        It always comes out looking good to the person getting the results. That’s the point.

        It’s supposed to make you feel good about yourself. The feel-good bit primes you to ignore the information that is obviously wrong, just like tarot readings or astrology horoscopes, and to keep coming back for the positive affirmations. If you looked at anybody else’s business horoscope instead of your own (and you didn’t know it was somebody else’s horoscope), you’d have felt just as good about it. The time investment part makes you feel ownership and investment in the final results, and that’s part of why it’s long and involved. Just like a good tarot-card-reading performance will get you involved and ask you some questions and get you to touch and draw the cards and play up the staging and setting, this business version plays up the same staging in a different way to hook you emotionally.

        The quick way to tell a scam like this from something with real results: Did the results of the test tell you anything uncomfortable? Did they point out (accurately) any real flaws you have and need to work on yourself? Things that are non-trivial, and will take real effort on your part to change? If the answer is no, then the test didn’t tell you anything useful to you and actionable to improve yourself – it just made you feel good and told you everyone else must be the problem, like any good scam should.

        1. Ann O.*

          I don’t feel it’s worth going into too many details on the why, but you are off base and assuming both test and results took a form that they didn’t and existed in a context that they didn’t.

          And to be blunt, I don’t appreciate the condescension of your assumption that you were telling me new information or that you can judge something you had no experience with based on very little description.

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          My favorite is when a bad horoscope tells me that I actually don’t have all my actual weaknesses. Apparently I’m very bad at Virgo-ing.

          “You’re highly motivated and can’t rest until the job is done right.” Surprise, I’m actually profoundly lazy.
          “Your home is probably spotless.” HAHAHAHAHA oh god someone save me I’m covered in an avalanche of laundry I never folded or put away
          “You don’t have much time for daydreams, your mind is always on practicalities.” I am the very model of a total utter space cadet, and in the meantime I usually forget to come in out of the rain.

  53. Hmmm*

    I think the whole test was designed to screen out people who think telephones are worse than torture. /s

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Since that seems to include half my coworkers, maybe my office should have been using this test!

  54. Need A Change*

    So I just took a similar personality profile test for a job I just finished interviewing for. I guess I ranked it correct as I got the interview and the follow-up interview. Now I’m just waiting for the answer…..

    1. Eye of Sauron*

      So where did you rank torture in relation to poisoning the water supply in relation to the telephone?

      You know you are going to have provide an update to us and how the choices are evaluated when you get the job and have inside intel, Right?

      1. Need A Change*

        I listed torture before poisoning with telephone in the middle someplace. I got the results from the overall personality test, but I’m not sure how these answers factored in. What I did find interesting is they listed all the “Types” out and gave pros and cons about them all. As far as what the company was looking for apparently I had the right type to move forward. Felt like I nailed both interviews and was told 2-3 weeks blah blah that was almost 2 weeks ago.

        The bigger issue is the job was taken down and put back up the next day. I’m trying to take Alison’s advice and put it out of my mind, but it stings. I assume the put it back up since they haven’t hired yet, but the COO I interviewed with said I was in the final 3 and I decision would come from this batch. I’m trying to hold off on the “hey checking in email” since I was given a clear timeline, but it’s hard. I feel like I would be a good fit and it would be a step up in my career. Add in as of last week my current company is restructuring our management team and I’m one of the lucky ones who has to reapply for my job since my current job was “eliminated” along with two other managers.

  55. AnotherJill*

    Now I’m having flashbacks to the interviewer who asked me to explain why I was rated as “unconventional” on one of their personality tests.

  56. Narise*

    Shouldn’t they use these test to select people to serve on jury’s instead of admins? Just a thought.

  57. Veronica*

    I just had to do some online training at work on laws related to race, gender, disability, etc. So I spent quite a bit of time reading the materials and figuring out the difference between law A and law B, and what can and cannot be expected in terms of accommodations. Then I get to the actual test part, which is full of questions like “Wakeen disagrees with a proposal made by Sally. What should he do? A. Call her a feminazi and refuse to work with women ever again. B. Ask if he and Sally could discuss the issue further. C. Tell Sally that her place is in the kitchen and she shouldn’t contradict a man.” I mean, why did I spend time reading the materials if the quiz questions could be correctly answered by a reasonably bright three-year-old?

    1. Eye of Sauron*

      This is kind of like our tests like this at work. The only correct answer ever is “Consult with HR”. I guess we’re not even bright enough to answer questions like yours.

    2. Magenta Sky*

      And yet, I’ll bet you lunch that a nontrivial percentage of people fail it.

      (Just finished my biannual sexual harassment training for California. Starts off with the two characters used for all the examples hearing how friendly and close the company is, it’s just like family. Followed by three hours of the most broken, dysfunctional company in the history of the world (because they have to show examples of all the ways you can get your butt sued for not running your business like an grown up).)

  58. LaterKate*

    Were you applying to be an admin assistant to Gru? Because I feel like that’s literally the only way this is helpful in hiring.

  59. Princess Cimorene*

    A had to take one of these before for a receptionist job. It was bizarre then and it’s bizarre now. There’s no point in this, it proves nothing about me except that I can try to rank things in the most decent order I can to trick the system, even if I’m all about torturing people and poisoning water supplies. Absolute waste of time. I hated it. Almost didn’t want to take the job, but at the time I was desperate.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      That’s exactly what it screens for, too–it’s like the company has donned a baseball cap emblazoned “Apply to work here only if you are truly, truly desperate.”

      1. Magenta Sky*

        “We don’t want our employees to stick around long enough that we have to give them a raise.”

  60. Allison*

    I have one better than this. After a second interview with a company, they asked me to come in to their office for 4 hours of testing. Not only that but there were 2 personality tests and 8 essay questions as preparation for the 4 hours. I declined to continue on in the process.

  61. Taylor*

    My first time job hunting for sales associate jobs while freshly in college opened my eyes to the absurdity of hiring questionnaires. I think the average application took 3hours between doing multiple quizes and tests. All of them had, what felt like, hundreds of questions about whether you’re effected by other people’s emotions, if you work slow or fast, if you mix personal matters and work. THEN that one goddamn application for the sales floor at a craft store. A full blown IQ test with incredibly short question timers (something like 10s per question) and the hardest one I’ve ever taken. Completely conceptual questions. If horse=florb and a florb is an animal but not all blops are florbs is a duck a blop. Just like WHAT THE F. They were like brain teasers a normal person might ponder over for 20mins and you had seconds. And straight up advanced math questions. So insane. I think it would be easier getting into Mensa.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      It’s like they deliberately want to waste as much of people’s time and humiliate people as much as they can.

  62. Sarah*

    I am going to be laughing about this for days and weeks to come. Some day years from now I’ll be filling out an application which will undoubtedly ask a silly question and I’ll say to myself, “At least it didn’t ask me to rank torture or as better or worse than poisoning the town water supply,” and I will still be laughing about it. Thanks for sharing OP!

  63. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    Whoa. I would use this weird questionnaire to make my easy snap assessment of this company, and seek a job elsewhere. Talk about a bad first impression of a potential employer!

  64. AKchic*

    I would have so much fun with this “test”. I would refuse to do it online and insist on answering it in person because there are no real right answers here. It is all 100% subjective based on shades of nuance and circumstance and definition.

  65. Meißner Porcelain Teapot*

    Well, seeing as this is the kind of hiring practice I’d expect from someone like the Joker, I’d say you dodged a bullet ;)

    Seriously, that test is ridiculous. Close, trash, move on to the next. These are not the employers you’re looking for.

  66. TheAssistant*

    Ah, this brings me back to the day when I spent what felt like forever filling out the applicant tracking system for Kohl’s, was made to take a personality test before I could submit my application, and just straight-up failed the personality test. I told my father and he about died laughing (because we have the same personality) and decided if my personality was a failure to Kohl’s, it was a bullet dodged.

  67. Elizabeth West*

    …I also felt that this is basically some pseudoscience masked as smart interviewing.

    You nailed it. Those personality tests are no more accurate than horoscopes. I’ve had a few, and any company that administered them as part of pre-employment screening never turned out to be a good one.

    Recently, I had to take a logic test for an admin role (word association, number sequences). That surprised me–I was expecting clerical testing but I got that instead. (She said they give it to everyone. Okay, whatever. Don’t expect the number questions to be correct. I finished the entire test and she said most people don’t get past 70 questions so it was okay if I didn’t. Then she comes back in and I’m done, haha.)

  68. senatormeathooks*

    Hahahahaha. The request to rank prostitution and torture is so loaded, as if there’s anything similar about them. It’s like asking “What’s better, a pair of glasses or a banana?”

  69. what's my name again?*

    Forgive me if someone has already mentioned it, but…
    it should have included:
    Having cancer
    Having an eating disorder.


  70. Zip*

    Can you add a category to the list like “Torturing a job applicant by giving them a bizarre list of activities to rank”? You could rank that as number one.

  71. Fluffer Nutter*

    Heavy sigh- I took the exact same test a couple months ago as part of my “onboarding.” See: most overused, nonsense business jargon on 2017. It’s bizarre, but if it’s any consolation OP the results are actually the most accurate and the only time in my career I haven’t felt like these personalaity tests are an utter waste of time and screen space. I still don’t love my work having such an intimate personality profile but I guess the days of work/life separation are long gone. Doing them pre hire though- oof- intrusive and hugely weighted against people from other cultures or not English 1st language speakers. If you get an offer, I think it’s fair to ask how it’s being used/stored etc. Good luck!

  72. Fafaflunkie*

    And here I thought the Topgrading method was the most heinous way of hiring. Seriously WTF? What happens if I chose “a blunder” above “a foolish thought.” In the recruiter’s mind, am I a better person? What a stupid way of judging an applicant.

  73. Erin*

    Dude, I mean…wow.

    I’m a psychometrician in training (2 years left!)… And there is just no way to validate this for anything. Whaaaaaaa is going on here… Maybe the owner’s sick idea of a joke, or trying to solicit responses on a measure their second cousin twice removed is developing….wooooow.

  74. Ylime*

    I actually filled this same questionnaire out recently–or something very similar. I remember taking note; it felt like phishing or something that was set up to fail. I didn’t hear back from the company so I don’t know the purpose, if any, but it felt weird and somehow dated (and it was RIDICULOUSLY long). I think my can-do attitude is the only reason I completed it; I knew about halfway through I wouldn’t enjoy working for a company that set up a test like this.

    1. Matt*

      So did I – don’t know if it was the same, but very similar – however it wasn’t an application test, but rather some sort of personality test to help determine which future roles in the company would be the right fit for you (say project manager, key account manager, developer, …).

  75. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)*

    My fellow nerds, I think you are all thinking too much. As a long time Admin, I can testify that our value lies in our ability to prioritize and organize (or in this case alphabetize) without judgement.

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  76. Champagne_Dreams*

    I know that assessment test, it’s called Zero Risk. Just another way to apply pseudoscience to make people feel like they’re not shooting in the dark when making hiring decisions. You know, instead of investing resources into training managers on selection & interviewing.

  77. Usually a lurker*

    For what it’s worth, I took a very similar, if not exactly the same, quiz as part of an interview process a couple of years ago, even though I thought it was goofy and a little concerning. I got the job and couldn’t be happier that I did.

    I’ve even seen my results: however I ranked prostitution, it indicated that I was highly organized…

  78. Lindsay J*

    I am pretty sure I took this same or a very similar quiz for a job.

    It had several lists of rankings like this. One I recall had the options:

    A mother-in-law
    A broken refrigerator
    a television that has been struck by lightening

    Apparently however I ranked these stupid things was enough to get me into the next round. Then the interviewer was very rude and hostile. In general it was a terrible interview process and I was glad not to be offered the position.

    1. Serin*

      A mother-in-law
      A broken refrigerator
      a television that has been struck by lightening

      Sounds like a tarot deck.

  79. Fizziywhizkid*

    I actually know the company that makes this particular test. I did some translation work for them many years ago, and recognized it instantly.
    The owner of the company is convinced this is the next Myers-Briggs, and has been touting it as such.

  80. Wintermute*

    I would be very interested to see if someone could make a legal case for disparate effect here, and maybe using that to crowbar in to attacking the legality of personality tests as a whole.

    The legal concept of disparate effect is basically “this appears neutral on its face, but in practice, it discriminates because it affects one (protected class here) more than others. A classic example would be a strength test, you prefer applicants that are stronger– not that you set a minimum bar that the job justifies (like “must be able to lift 50 pounds for an 8-hour shift) but if one candidate can bench 320 you’ll prefer them over the one that benches 315. Sure that APPEARS neutral but it’s obvious that this would grossly prefer men over women. A similar issue applies if you favor candidates based on geography on a narrow basis (as in not “we want a local candidate” but “we want a candidate that lives between 12th and railroad ave. and 24th and telegraph rd.”) because that’s often used as a proxy for racial discrimination.

    These tests are terrible pop psychology personality essentialism, but it turns out that people committing personality essentialism are often being WIDELY essentialist, and I’d bet you a dime to the hole in a donut that all kinds of implicit judgments are being encoded into these tests that give them gender and racial biases.

    This test includes such an explicitly sexualized and gendered question that it serves as a potential good test case if you can prove bias is occuring in the analysis of results. To prove that you’d have a long road: you’d need to prove women answer that question differently than men (that part is likely to be easy, on EITHER side), that the question favors one gender over the other (inevitable based on how it’s scored if there is a difference), that the test overall has a bias (getting harder), that this bias affects their hiring decisions (getting sticky here), and that the end result is a wide discrimination (this is the sticky wicket, the courts have backed off 80/20 as an acceptable gender ratio, but they still demand a significant bias in the end).

    But I think a cogent argument could be made and I’d love to see an enterprising lawyer try to take on the personality test woo industry with hard science and call them to account for their many crimes against good hiring practices.

    Though in general as a pro life tip “It was only one question on an exam! the behavior could not have been pervasive enough to be sexual harassment!” is not the worst defense ever, but it doesn’t say good things about your company if you have to use it!

  81. HolyShirtBalls*

    Everyone is clearly on board with this being bananas. As for actual advice, personally I would probably email the company, and withdraw myself from consideration while also letting them know how terrible this is.

    I would say something like this:

    Hello (hiring manager, or whoever),

    I was applying for the job of Teapot Inspector with your company and was concerned by some of the items on the questionnaire (See attachment). I am hopeful that it is an oversight due to you using an outside screening firm, and not indicative of the actual company I was applying to. I’ve decided that I will likely not move forward with my application because of this, but I wanted to pass it on in case it truly is an oversight.

    A question like this could not only potentially trigger a candidate with a traumatic event in their past, but also some of these terms are no longer considered accurate or appropriate. For example, a madman is a person with a mental health disorder, which is certainly illegal to be discriminating against him for, and seems legally questionable on a hiring survey.

    I am fully qualified for the position, and am withdrawing from the process because this question says more about you as a company, than it would about me as a potential hire. It is likely costing you other excellent candidates who value a functional workplace, so I thought the decent thing would be to show you.

    Best of luck,

  82. Jenny Jenn*

    That is part of a DISC profile test. We took them at my company. My dad actually works for a company that uses this particular DISC profile as part of three test they administer as their product (an employment assessment company).

    I know for certain because I recognize all of those particular answers (including “poison the water supply”). I could probably guess which provider they are using.

    The actual answers don’t figure in to the assessment (i.e. “we only hire people that put “poison the water supply” in one of the bottom two slots”). They are used to determine your DISC profile as well as your individual motivators (are you driven more by extrinsic or instrinsic factors?). The questions themselves and the results they derive from your answers are statistically proven to be valid indicators of personality and job performance.

    It sounds like whoever administered the profile did a very poor job of explaining what it’s purpose was and how the results were used. We were prepped before we took it and sure to prep all applicants about what the test was. With no context, questions like that can absolutely seem alarming.

  83. Fishcakes*

    I TOOK THE SAME TEST. Right down to the “madman” and “poisoning a city water supply” options. It was part of a DISC assessment that cost my employer a lot of money. It was an utter waste of time and complete bs. My results were equal in all categories and the consultant had excuses for any discrepancy between me and what the test said I was like.

    Interestingly, my boss has literally not spoken to me since I took that test. It’s been a year now.

  84. Candi*

    The prostitution one vs torture gets me. Because all prostitution is not of the same kind.

    Is it enslavement? Enslavement in all but name? Is the person bullied into it? Does an abuser force them too?
    Or do they prostitute willingly, because they like the money (and maybe enjoy the activities)?

    Willingly going into the business for themselves is better than torture, since it’s a free choice. The other aspects -they are torture, or worse.

    Or the water supply thing -putting fluoride (useless, but harmless in the usual amounts) in the water has been considered poisoning it, same for using chlorine to kill crap so it doesn’t make people sick. (Hello, cholera.) Dumping radioactive waste, though, is pretty unequivocally poisoning the water. That kind of automated form has no way of judging a person’s mindset on the issue or what they define as “poisoning”.

    This list -it strikes me as trying to be smart and thoughtful, and failing so badly at it, there’s not really a good comparison to illustrate it.

  85. HiresForAttitude*

    I think this is used to weed out the lunatics, with enough options that there are multiple right answers, but it’d be very glaring to flag crazies.

  86. Database Developer Dude*

    If you’re a prostitute, you get to have sex, make someone else happy, and get paid for it. If you poison a town’s water supply, you kill potentially many people. That definitely won’t make anyone happy. I’d say the choice is clear.

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