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Miss California and the Impossible Interview Question - What Would You Have Done?

April 23, 2009
by Gwen Darling
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In case it was a toss-up in your household on Sunday night between the Miss USA Pageant and … say… oh I don’t know . . . Desperate Housewives . . . and the hotties on Wisteria Lane got “heads,” I’ll give you a quick recap of the pageant’s most exciting moment, according to an onslaught of media reports issued the following morning (because I, too, was glued to DH):

During the show, pageant judge Perez Hilton, an openly-gay celebrity blogger, asked Carrie Prejean, Miss California: "Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit? Why or why not?"

Carrie replied, "Well I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. Um, we live in a land that you can choose same sex marriage or opposite marriage and, you know what, in my country and in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there. But that's how I was raised and that's how I think that it should be between a man and a woman."

Carrie’s response apparently provoked a mixture of applause and boos from the audience. "The way Miss California answered her question lost her the crown, without a doubt!" Hilton told Access Hollywood after the pageant. "Never before that I'm aware of has a contestant been booed at Miss USA."

So. What’s a Miss California to do in this incredibly difficult no-win interview situation? Lie? Or tell the truth? Clearly the question was a trap – she would have faced significant repercussions by landing on either side of the fence. I suppose the “safe” response would have been one of those vague, wishy-washy, all over the board responses that never answer the question, but sound pretty great coming from someone whose chief aspiration is to be "more talented" than the next girl in the swimsuit competition. You know, something like, “Well, Perez. That’s a great question! I’ve never been to Vermont but I do know they make Ben and Jerry’s ice cream there (gosh - are they married?), which is what I plan to donate to the poor starving children in those countries where they don’t have ice cream, in my quest for world peace.”

But I'm guessing that your chief aspiration is something a bit more lofty than looking smashing in sequins, so what would you do when asked a delicate “hot button” interview question? You know the kind – something that’s just barely this side of legal to ask, but that’s answer could easily paint you into a labeled corner. Should you be honest, like Miss California, and knowingly forfeit the chance at your dream job, or should you respond with a vanilla, politically correct, safe answer? Does the PC answer constitute lying? Is all fair in interviewing and war? What would Tim Tolan do?

Very sorry can't come. Lie follows by post. (refusing a dinner invitation)
Lord Charles Beresford

(For the record, although it appears my personal views are more accepting than Miss California’s, I do commend her bravery for standing up for her beliefs and forever saying goodbye to that glittery tiara on national TV.)

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