A Proust Questionnaire for HR Candidates? I’m Game.

Kathy Rapp Interviewing, Kathy Rapp, Television

On Barbara Walter’s holiday special this year, she interviewed the Obamas and used a form of the Proust Questionnaire.  I knew the type of questions from the back-page of Vanity Fair (yes, I read trash mags) so hearing Barb ask the President and First Lady such questions made me think about the insights we’d get from candidates using similar methodology.  Come on, “job-related” is a broad term, after all.

The Proust Questionnaire is a personality type quiz often incorrectly attributed to Marcel Proust.  Per Vanity Fair it is, “a Parisian parlor game and it is believed to have been popularized by the daughter of the 19th-century French president Felix Faure.  “Antoinette Faure’s Album” – contained entries from many in Faure’s social circle.  She would invite friends over for tea and then ask each an identical sequence of questions: [What is] your favourite virtue?…Your idea of misery?…Your present state of mind?,” and so forth.  They would all answer, in longhand, in her little red book.”

Barbara’s questions consisted of:

  • What is the trait you most deplore in yourself, and the trait you most deplore in others?
  • On what occasion do you lie?
  • What do you think is the most overrated virtue?
  • What’s the biggest misconception about you?
  • What three words would you each use to describe each other?
  • Which historical figure do you most admire?
  • What is your biggest peeve about each other?
  • What is your idea of perfect happiness?
  • If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  • If you were to die and come back as a person or as a thing, what would you want to be?

For the HR pros I interview, my top ten (in the order referenced above) would be:

  • What’s the trait you most deplore in your boss?
  • When have you NOT lied as part of your job in HR?
  • What do you think is the most overrated HR product?
  • What’s the biggest misconception about HR at your organization?
  • What three words would you use to describe your “ideal” self?
  • Which current figure do you most admire and why? (who really remembers anything about historical figures?!)
  • What is your biggest peeve about this interview?
  • What is YOUR idea of the perfect candidate for this job?
  • If you could change multiple things about yourself, what are your top three and why?
  • If you were to die and come back, would you work in HR?

Fun, no?  I may have to weave some of these questions into my 2012 interviews just to see the reactions.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

In case you’re curious as to how your answers to 20 of the Proust questions match up to “celebrity types”, Vanity Fair has an interactive version here.  I couldn’t resist and turns out I’m 91% like Jane Goodall.  This of course means I’m going to use one of my gift cards to go buy her biography to see why we’re so aligned….other than the obvious devotion to studying the mating habits of chimpanzees for many, many years.

Kathy Rapp

Kathy Rapp is the CEO of hrQ where she helps companies find groovy HR Talent for permanent or project roles across the country. Prior to joining hrQ Kathy booked more than 15 years of diverse HR leadership experience working in F500s and start-up organizations. A connoisseur of the intersection between pop culture and business, Kathy believes many talent insights can be gleamed from the succession planning lessons experienced by Van Halen and AC/DC.