For years I taught interviewing skills to groups of managers and executives -- behavioral interview questions that focus on past performance, the best predictor of future performance. I would conduct “mock” job interviews in which I played the role of the applicant and took actual interview questions from the group.
Often I would be asked, “If you were a ______ (fill in the blank), what would you be?” That blank was often filled in with words like tree, fruit, animal, and so on.
Participants justified this question with explanations like, “I want to see if the applicant can think on his or her feet,” or “I want to see how creative the person is.” And I always suggested alternative behavioral questions that better measure an applicant’s creativity and/or ability to think spontaneously.
Recently, on the first night on my Israeli Army base as a civilian volunteer, our instructors, to help “break the ice” and introduce the 20 volunteers to each other, asked the question, “If you were a kitchen appliance, which one would you be? And why?”
My original reaction . . . resistance. Memories of my work as a human resource management consultant were triggered. And then I remembered that this was NOT a job interview. I tried to think of my response. I had plenty of time because the instructor started at the back of the room and, having always appreciated those who sat in the front row during my workshops, I sat in the front row . . . on the end. I would be the last to have to respond. That gave me plenty of thinking time.
One by one, the volunteers began to answer.
“I would be a coffee pot because I can’t start the morning without my coffee.” The deep masculine voice came from the back row.
“I would be the coffee mug because I am warm on the inside and nice to hold,” said the brunette with the French accent.
“I would be a sieve because information goes in one ear and out the other.”
As I listened, I kept wondering what I would say. What kitchen appliance characterizes me? Five thousand miles from home, I visualized my kitchen and the appliances I own.
The group continued.
“I would be a corkscrew because I would want to get to the wine.” People chuckled.
“I’m pretty sharp so I’d have to say I’d be a knife.” I later learned that he was a retired police officer.
The voices were now in the row just behind me. And I had no idea what I would say.
“I’m a blender. I like mixing things up.” I turned to see that the man seated directly behind me was clearly the tallest in our group.
Someone was a set of candle holders, another was the Sabbath candles. Then people began duplicating others -- a second person said he was a coffee pot, and another repeated the corkscrew metaphor. I didn’t want to duplicate someone else’s response. I wanted to be unique.
All that remained to respond were the two women seated to my left. They took their turn.
“I would be a teapot because I’m short and stout,” said the small grey-haired lady who, I later learned, had fled Russia to settle in Israel.
“I’m chopsticks,” said the youngest member of the group, the curly-haired woman sitting next to me, “because they travel lightly and can be used for so many multiple purposes.”
It was my turn. As my mind’s eye perused my kitchen, I saw it. And it came to me.
“I would be a crock pot. I work long and steady and I can be left on my own to achieve the end result. And I love bringing diverse elements together to work in harmony to create something amazing that’s better than any of the individual parts.”
Yes, that’s what I would be. That’s the kitchen appliance that best characterizes me. I would be a crock pot.
Sarah Birnbach is a writer and author who shares the transformative power of journaling, providing encouragement and insights to help people on their journey to their "best self" and is the creator of the free 52-Week Best Self Program.