How (not?) to handle this curveball interview question.
Job interviews can be stressful situations. There are so many potential pitfalls to concern yourself with; “What should I say?”, “What should I wear?”, “Will the interviewer notice that my trousers and suit jacket are each a slightly different shade of very dark blue?”. The entire ordeal is already taxing enough without having to concern yourself with weighing up the pros and cons of becoming a member of an entirely different species. Yet, interviewers persist in asking one of the most dreaded interview questions – “If you were an animal, what would you be?”.
A favorite among interviewers looking to catch out unsuspecting applicants, by getting them to blurt out something silly that incriminates them enough to validate the choice of moving their application from the overflowing “Maybe” pile to the pile marked “Hell no, this guy wants to be a giraffe, for some reason”.
Nothing can turn a pleasant, structured, and professional interview performance into complete chaos more than haphazardly picking the first animal that springs to mind, and spending the next seven minutes scrambling through your limited knowledge of wildlife trying to justify why being a hippopotamus would be beneficial in the world of market research.
I myself have fallen prey to this trap many times (not the hippo one in particular) before I set upon developing some well thought out, insightful, and, above all, non-incriminating answers to this question. With that in mind, let’s dive right in and answer, once and for all, ‘If you were an animal, what would you be?’.
Brief side note:
We should get this out of the way first. Humans are indeed animals and are by far the best animals. You can talk about morals, ethics, and principles all you like, but the bottom line remains that no other animal on God’s green earth has been more influential in shaping our planet. Whether that be hunting other animals into extinction, or gathering and using Earth’s precious resources (for better or worse). Philosophical musings aside, we are undoubtedly on top. And if you don’t believe me, go read an article written by some non-human blogger and see what they have to say. Can’t find any? I thought so. Let’s begin.
Which animals not to be.
There are some animals you really don’t want to mention, not because they are bad, but because they have bad connotations. You don’t want to say, for example: “If I were an animal, I would be a snake…or a rat…or a coyote”. You should not pick any of these (and certainly not all three) as this will be a gigantic red flag to any interviewer who hears them.
A common answer to “What animal would I be?” is to say bird, and who wouldn’t want to be a bird. You can fly, soar above the clouds (can birds fly that high?), and travel freely from place to place. An incredible life, but a lackluster employee. What will prospective employers think of this? They will see you are flighty, likely to travel and possibly poop all over everything. Birds don’t like to be caged, they yearn for freedom, and that won’t fit the ideals of corporate business culture one bit. Steer clear of birds. With these negative animals out of the way, we should discuss some common mistakes people are likely to make.
Do not choose your favorite animal.
You must remember you are not musing the idea of an alternative life as another species, but instead deciding upon which animal is most suitable for the role you are interviewing for.
Also, don’t forget that the animal you choose can have ramifications for how you will / would be treated by upper management were you to take on this role. Another popular answer is to be a horse. Horses are focused, graceful, and majestic. But if you were to choose a horse that practically gives your manager a nod that, were you to fall on hard times for any reason, such as illness, old age, or a broken leg, the company is very much within reason to take you out back and shoot you.
Really think carefully about what your proposed animal says about you and your relationship with potential employers.
Which animals you should be
With potential mistakes covered, what is the best approach to choosing your theoretical animal? You must, first and foremost, choose an animal that is suited to the role on offer. For instance, if you wanted to be a pilot, this would be a good time to choose the aforementioned bird. But, not just any bird, a very large bird. One capable of flying itself, and a selection of passengers, to and from predetermined holiday destinations.
Are you interviewing for a role as an office clerk? Then how about the multi-talented octopus? Octopuses (Octopi?) have eight arms and are therefore great at multitasking. And, as an added bonus, they’re capable of supplying their own ink.
A good all-purpose animal to choose is the adorable koala bear. Everybody loves a koala…except for anyone who has met a koala (they tend to be assholes). This is what makes them such a good choice. Koalas provide an immediate sense of joy and warmth, while presenting that hidden sinister edge that people know of, but never truly believe. It shows you to be a likable and popular choice but one not to be taken lightly; an animal to be respected.
And there we have it. The foolproof guide for answering the ludicrous question of what animal you would be if the human was taken off the table. These guidelines are designed to help you, but keep in mind they are just that, guidelines. In the end, the choice is up to you. We can only advise what animal you should choose, not what animal you truly are…
OUR QUIZ ON THE OTHER HAND
Well, that can tell you the answer straight out. Why worry about what animal you would like to be, or think you are, when we can clarify which animal you are for sure. Take our quiz below to see the true answer to the question, ‘If you were an animal, what would you be?”.