This Questionnaire Is Not Always Hopeless

, , , , | Working | June 19, 2017

(I’m applying online for a job at a chain pet supply store. There’s a pretty exhaustive application process, including a long list of statements you have to mark on a 1-5 scale from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” Most are pretty typical for an entry-level retail job. For example, “I work best as part of a team” or “I appreciate constructive criticism from my superiors.” And then…)

Application Questionnaire: “When I look at the world around me, I feel little or no hope for mankind.”

(For the record, I marked “moderately disagree.” I never did hear back about that job, and not taking a screenshot of the question is one of my great regrets in life.)

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  • Max

    Yeah, it’s their way of saying stuff like “do you have a mental illness” without directly asking it.

    • Wendigone

      I can’t wait for the day they get called on it and forced to both stop and pay out their arses in fines for the discrimination

      • Jeff

        I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works.

        If they designate “professional behavior” as an “essential function” of the job (which they could easily justify in the context of retail floor staff) then the ADA won’t be able to protect those with mental illnesses if it is determined that said illness prevents them from acting professionally 100% of the time.

        Citation: Darcangelo v. Verizon Md. Inc., 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37660 (D. Md. June 7, 2005)

        Further, employers only need to provide reasonable accommodation if the employee (voluntarily) discloses their illness, with documentation and such.

        If you don’t, even in a situation of “you know it, I know it, everybody knows it” they can evaluate you without taking it into consideration, and turf you that way.

  • Phil Peligroso

    That was a trick question. If you disagree with the statement, you are clearly not cynical enough about the world to be working in the retail industry. Better luck next time!

  • Daniel Code

    The developer of the questionnaire must be a regular Not Always reader.

  • Blaine Wheeler

    Oh God I just LOVE those questionnaires… Why not let, you know, the INTERVIEW be the assessment of my personality and not some ludicrous online form…

    • EricKei

      Makes sense to me — but the purpose of these things (which have cost me more than one potential job interview…) is to *reduce* the number of people making it to the interview stage. If they get a hundred apps, they want a way to reasonably explain why they only gave four interviews.

  • Megan

    I took one of those for Rite Aid about 10 years ago. First, I had to do it from a landline so I had to go to a friend’s apartment and use his phone because all I had was my cell. I was going along just fine until it asked me how often I’m late for work: never, rarely, often, or all the time. I used to pride myself on always being early to work (mostly because the job I had just left would write us up if we weren’t logged into our systems on the dot), so I chose “never.” The machine actually said that I was falsifying my test and booted me out. I called the manager of the store immediately, who called corporate, and was told that since I failed (because I’m always on time to work) they couldn’t hire me.

    • Celoptra

      that’s bullshit..

    • Wendigone

      That’s pathetic and I hope someone sues them over that bull someday.

    • Lorraine ER

      I had to take one of those along with a timed math test over landline for a manger job at Hot Topic a zillion years ago. I think I remember being warned about not answering “perfectly” on the personality test but I’m not sure. I did it over a friends house who worked there already and she gave me a few pointers. I may have gotten tripped up on something small like that if she hadn’t!

      • Novelista

        A former classmate whose husband started hiring people told me you should always choose the “strongly” options, as that’s what they look for. (If it turns out that I got hired more than once because of that advice, then that definitely makes us even for all the trips she went on with me when we were girls!)

      • Megan

        I scored a few when I was working at Fashion Bug (even longer ago), and lots of people failed for the dumbest reasons. I knew that if I had had to take one to get that job, I wouldn’t have passed. Those tests are ridiculous.

    • Katrin Schirmer

      see this is why i never answer that positively to questions like that. even if i feel its true, on a test it will look like your just putting what they want to hear, so ill make it the next step down, because that seems more believable.

  • grmrsan

    I love the “Do you take drugs?”
    “Seriously, what drugs do you take?”
    “It’s ok, we’re totally cool with it, we know you take them.”

    Just change take drugs to “steal from your employer” and you have the rest of the test questions.

    • Jeff

      The pre-background questionnaires for police applicants are hilarious that way.

      “Do you have an outstanding warrant?”
      “Have you been caught committing a crime within ?”
      “Have you committed a crime in and not been caught?”
      “Have you been caught committing a crime outside ?”
      “Have you committed a crime outside and not been

      Like… who would actually mark “Yes” to any of those in an application to the police?

      • Will Flynn

        Surprisingly enough, those type of questionnaires are common in the logistics field as well. What I have found, through 27 years of experience, is that they pose the same questions 3 or 4 different ways and hope that folks will get confused and actually answer one truthfully (read that as something that incriminates them). I despise those questionnaires, but have never failed at one because I know how the game is played. They do not want honesty, they want folks who will nod their heads and go along with everything corporate says like a good little automaton.

  • AKchic

    My oldest applied for McDonalds and their either or questions were hilarious. I took a few photos of them, but they are on my old phone. I’m talking weirdly stupid juxtapositions.
    “I work well within group situations” vs. “I prefer to work alone”
    followed by
    “I like falafel and green paperclips” vs. “snot tastes like grape jelly and pine cones”
    or something like that.

    • Laren Dowling

      That first one is actually a valid question. Although there should be an option for choosing “both.”

      • AKchic

        Oh, I agree, the first was valid. I was just highlighting the differences in questions. I really wish I had my old phone where the photos of the questions are stored. Unfortunately, it’s in a box at home, and I really don’t want to dig it out.

  • Christine Wood

    These questionnaires are horrible and promote discrimination against people with neurological disabilities.

    • shellshock3d

      That’s actually true. They word them in such a way as to trick you. Like how they have 3 different questions that all mean the same thing but are worded differently. A regular person would answer all correctly but someone with a mental disability would not.

  • CeeCee

    These questions are so fishy. They’re basically trying to weed out handicapped or people without cars or crap like that. My brother failed one because the question was:
    If given the opportunity, people will steal product.
    My brother, being cynical, agreed with the statement. Apparently the logic of the question was, if you agree, you’re going to steal because other people. My dad works in HR and says the best way to answer these is to stay roughly in the middle. Don’t go for ‘always’ or ‘never’ or ‘very’ because the tests don’t like ‘extreme’ answers. It’s bullshit.

    • Ellis Joens

      I’ve anecdotally heard just the opposite- that they filter out moderate answers, so you should always go for the extreme answers.

    • Harold Wagner

      It is bullshit. So apparently we’re supposed to ‘lie’ to get the job.

      • bahknee


      • That’s exactly what we’re supposed to do.

    • Rob Tonka

      “My dad works in HR and says the best way to answer these is to stay roughly in the middle. Don’t go for ‘always’ or ‘never’ or ‘very’ because the tests don’t like ‘extreme’ answers.”

      I applied for a grocery store job in college. Some of the questions pertained to marijuana. Do you use? Do your friends use? What % or your friends.

      I thought the same thing. Extreme will be looked at as bullshit. So I answered truthfully. I did not use, but 1-5% of my friends did(basically I knew like 2 people that smoked weed).

      That was the only thing I could think of that was objectionable on that application. Never got called in for interview. And I knew someone who worked there and she was like WTF did you put that on the app for? So the lesson I learned is, be snow white on the application.

    • Nicole

      Being too neutral will cause a fail too. You need to appear to have stances on some things. 😐

    • Robin

      That’s the problem with having people who don’t understand psychology try to interpret a test like that. The thing is, unless the test says *all* people, it’s ridiculous to think that the statement is anything but true, because if it wasn’t true that *some* people will steal given the opportunity, then there would be no theft. Thinking otherwise means you wouldn’t be diligent when customers act suspiciously.

  • Pogla

    They’ll give you the same question six months after hiring you to see if their management skills are working.

  • Gabby Signs

    I despise that section. Wendy’s application made me do it twice and one of them had that question

  • Wormgod

    Oh yeah, I’ve done hundreds of online questionnaires, and noticed that a lot of them have questions like that that almost seem to be designed to weed out anyone with depression. Pretty sure they’re just trying to get happy, friendly people for customer service, but it runs me the wrong way.

    • Especially since you can have depressive people perfectly capable of faking it.

  • Led Lawless

    Can’t they just be more straightforward and ask if you’ve ever worked in food service, customer service, or retail?

    • Christine Wood

      No because then they’d have to put Effort into hiring people.

  • Silent Hunter

    They need to make these questionnaires illegal, all they do is discriminate against disabled people.

    • What do you mean?

      • Silent Hunter

        Well it seems to me, they ask these questions, that depressed people would answer yes to, and yes answers probably exclude you from getting an interview. That’s immoral.

        • Hmm… I understand what you mean, and I agree with you.

          But from a business standpoint, I guess they don’t want depressed people to be dealing with customers.

          But part of that depression could come from how hopeless their life is at the moment (due to lack of work)…. so, aren’t they just fuelling an impossible cycle?

          Personally, I think it’s best if as many applications as possible progressed to the interview stage… IMO, you can’t really get to know someone until you meet them.

          • Silent Hunter

            Exactly, I think they should have to interview each applicant whose resume/CV meets their requirements.

          • Okay, but businesses can’t subscribe to common sense.

          • Silent Hunter

            Good point, but in an ideal society the law would.

        • EricKei

          Of course it is — but it’s (probably) not *illegal*, like asking “Do you suffer from depression or have similar symptoms to someone who suffers from depression?”

          Corporations just love to skirt the “Legal but not really ethical” line, and they will tend toward the latter every time.

          • Silent Hunter

            Oh I know it’s not. But since that’s why they ask these questions, I think the questionnaires should be considered like the same thing.

          • EricKei


        • Leigh

          Yep, I had to fill one of these in once. I answered honestly, because I thought that would be best. My depression and social anxiety prevent me from answering ‘yes’ to certain questions that every retail job requires. And all that’s available is retail jobs. But I’d rather be honest than lie and get in over my head.

  • I would have marked strongly agree… There is little hope for the future of mankind…

  • Jackie Fauxe

    If that’s one of your greatest regrets in life then I’m a bit envious of your life, although I am happy for you.

  • Lorraine ER

    A lot of chains have those questionnaires and many have the same questions as others and even repeat the same questions in different wording throughout the survey. You could find it again pretty easily although those things utterly suck to have to fill out so idk if it’s worth it just for a screen shot! ;P
    Borders, rite aid, CVS, Barnes and noble, petco, petsmart, Target..I may have mixed some of these up but I think I filled out ones for all of those stores a long time ago. There was one particular job search I did where everyplace I applied seemed to have them and I didn’t have internet at the time. I would use the library computer praying I could fit in 2 job applications before it kicked me off for meeting the 2 hour time limit. 🙁

  • “Well, when I look at a question like this…”

  • Roeduh

    I’ve run into that question on so many applications now… I’ve tried answering it a number of ways, but I never figured out what the “ideal” answer is. You do have to have some cynicism to survive retail, with just enough optimism to not murder-suicide in the store.

  • Novelista

    Has to be Petsmart! I don’t remember that question, but I know their questionnaire is long to the point of annoyance.

  • Denton Young

    I don’t know what i would actually put, but how I feel is “strongly agree”.

  • Blake Barrett

    I remember filling out an application with a personality test. One statement rubbed me the wrong way, and it wasn’t until years later that I learned why. The question committed the complex question fallacy. The statement read, “I used to have trouble arriving to work on time, but I overcame it.”

    • Chimpchar

      So if you say disagree, do they assume you’ve never had trouble arriving to work on time or that you still do?

      • Laren Dowling

        And that’s the problem with the question.

      • It’s a leading question that makes assumptions

  • Kitty

    *clicks 3* Depending on what I see on the news, I might click 5.

  • Annie Dodd

    This question addresses the characteristic of optimism – which is positively associated with narcissism and negatively associated with Machiavellianism and subclinical psychopathy in the Dark Triad of personality. The OP’s response to this question probably wasn’t decisive in not being asked back – unless they were looking for a powerfully charismatic manager or someone to euthanise pets.

  • Jake

    So. I’ve always answered that question with a 2 or 4 (for slightly agree). Interesting to note almost every time I get those questionaires I get a call back.

    Few things I have learned. They repeat the same question 3-4 times to guage if you lie, or if you change your answer. Limit yourself to 5 nuetral responses (basically saying you don’t want to answer). I tend to use those for poorly worded questions. Limit yourself to about 10 or so “slightly agree/slightly disagree” answers. They want you to have pretty firm stances. This also ensures that you appear human, instead of “faking it” for the quiz.

    I do so love when they also attach a personality questionaire as well.

    The only time I failed a quiz was the walmart manager quiz. You kinda had to be.. well.. I was too honest on my first quiz. I had a manager take the majority of it for me the next time.

    • I have my sister help me with them. I tend to be too honest

  • Harold Wagner

    “When I look at this question, I feel little or no hope for mankind.”

  • I had a test for a now closed bookstore some years ago, before the application process was online. It had a question of, and I quote “most people have experimented with illegal drugs. What drugs do you use, and how often.”
    Seriously.. There were some other, stupid leading questions too. Never did get the job though.