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If You Could Have Dinner With Any Person, Dead or Alive, Who Would You Choose?

Hiring managers will try to get to know you deeper by asking, “Who would you choose to have dinner with, regardless if they are dead or alive?”

Whether you idolize Jimi Hendrix, obsess over Oprah, or eat up Abraham Lincoln trivia, it’s fun to learn about past and present iconic figures. But what do those interests say about you as a job candidate?

Read on to learn why hiring managers ask who you’d choose as your dream dinner date and how to answer this peculiar interview question.

Why do interviewers ask this question?

It’s essential for hiring managers to understand your values. What issues matter to you? What topics get you fired up? Asking who you’d like to have dinner with can shed light on those interests and help an interviewer learn more about you, which can help determine whether you’re a good fit. 

They also want to see if a tricky question trips you up. Can you come up with an answer on the fly, or are you tongue-tied? If the position requires you to think on your feet, your response can indicate your skills in this area. 

What interviewers are looking for when they ask you to name a dinner companion

First, they want to see if you can name someone quickly. Being able to make good decisions on the fly is a positive quality in a candidate. They want to ensure you’re not flustered when put on the spot.

Next, they’re looking to see who you name. The type of person you pick and the reasons for your choice can help an interviewer understand what kind of people you want to surround yourself with. As the old saying goes, you’re judged by the company you keep; this is a perfect (albeit imaginary) example.’

Next, they’re looking to see who you name. The type of person you pick and the reasons for your choice can help an interviewer understand what kind of people you want to surround yourself with. As the old saying goes, you’re judged by the company you keep; this is a perfect (albeit imaginary) example.

How to answer, “If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive, who would you choose?”

Name someone well known

While your actual ideal dinner date might be an obscure Revolutionary War general or little-known indie folk singer, it’s best to pick a person the interviewer has heard of. Otherwise, they can’t glean much context from your response.

It’s fine to name someone you know personally, like a family member–if you can give a strong reason for your choice, which helps the interviewer learn about you despite not knowing the person themself.

Explain the reason for your choice

Explaining the reasons for your choice is a great way to help shape a hiring manager’s perceptions of you. Is it a leader whose values you admire? A visionary who revolutionized your industry? A celebrity that’s known for being charitable and kind?

Try to point out positive characteristics that you strive to emulate or skills the person has that you want to hone yourself. 

Answer honestly

One of the reasons interviewers ask unusual questions is to get a glimpse of your personality outside of the traditional, unmemorable interview topics. They want to hear you speak with genuine enthusiasm, so it’s best to choose someone you’d actually be excited to meet. 

How not to answer

Name a polarizing figure 

While you might think it would be fascinating to pick the brain of a brutal dictator or a serial killer, these answers could rub an interviewer the wrong way. Keep your response G-rated and politically correct to avoid making a negative impression.

Sample answer to “If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive, who would you choose?”

Example #1

“I would love to have dinner with Winston Churchill. I’ve always been fascinated by his ability to bring people together and inspire them to take action, which qualities I want to develop to become the best leader I can be.”

Example #2

“My great-grandmother was a pioneer in the women’s suffrage movement, but I never got to meet her. I think it’s admirable that she stood up for what she believed in, even at the risk of negative consequences, which is a quality that’s valuable even 100 years later. I would love the chance to gain some words of wisdom from her.”

While there’s no “right” or “wrong” answer to this creative interview question, it’s still important to prepare for. Your answer is an opportunity to make a positive, memorable impression on your interviewer and cement your chances of moving forward in the selection process.