Here’s a question you may never have thought to ask a job candidate: “If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out?” Yet that’s what a hiring authority with Goldman Sachs asked when interviewing a candidate for an analyst position.
Or what about this question, “What do wood and alcohol have in common?” That one was put to a candidate for a staff writing job with Guardflex.
Those are just two of the 15 oddest questions, allegedly asked by top flight employers in the US in 2010. The US job site Glassdoor.com sifted through 80,000 interview questions shared online by job-hunters to compile their list of stumpers.
With 40 years of interviewing candidates to successfully match people and organizations across the GTA, staffing experts at The Bagg Group don’t recommend peppering interviews with brain-teasers. But we do suggest asking candidates some behaviour-based questions, albeit straightforward ones.
We know that skills and experience aren’t the only factors to consider when hiring for a full-time position, contract work, or temporary placement. The candidate also needs to have the attitude and approach that fits with the organization’s culture.
We work with our clients across the GTA on developing attitude-based questions that make sense for the position. The key when asking these types of queries is to put your own bias aside, and stay focused on listening for the traits that meet the needs of the team. This can be trickier than it sounds.
Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, author of Great People Decisions notes that we all have a strong natural tendency to hire people who are like us, or make us comfortable. But he warns, to make a good hire, we need to seek a match for the team’s personality, not our own.
An interviewer might be a lone wolf who recognizes and appreciates another lone wolf when he or she meets one. But if the position involves a lot of team-work, then it’s the collaborative type who’s the best fit. And that’s where the behaviour-based questions come in.
“Describe what a team environment means to you?” and “What would you do if some team members reject your idea?” are examples of queries that provide insight into a candidate’s approach to group dynamics, according to University of California research.
Or you could take a more unique tact and pose the question said to have been asked by an interviewer at Capital One, “Rate yourself on a scale of one to 10 on how weird you are.” But that might not tell you much.
An interviewer with Volkswagen in Germany allegedly asked a candidate who was vying for the position of business analyst, “What would you do if you just inherited a pizzeria from your uncle?”
The interviewer apparently hoped to determine how the candidate would handle any project that she inherits. At The Bagg Group, we maintain it would prove more helpful to ask the question straight up, just to be sure the answer isn’t influenced by a sudden craving for a cheese and pepperoni slice.
By the way, as to what we’d do if we were reduced to the size of a pencil and stuck in a blender, most of us agree with an online commentator who said, “I’d take a job with a different company.”