Glassdoor.com has released a listing of the Top 25 oddball interview questions, as I was reading over the list I was trying to imagine what people would say in response to some of these questions and I couldn’t help but laugh. Here is a quick rundown on some of the sillier questions and what I was thinking as I read over these (read the full list here):
“If you were to get rid of one state in the US, which would it be and why?” – Um yea good luck answering this one…it’s fraught with the peril of offending someone. Maybe a safe bet here would be Alaska? Its home to Sarah Palin and the chances of actually meeting anybody from there are low (shoot I actually know a great HR pro from Alaska so scratch that).
“My wife and I are going on vacation, where would you recommend?” – What exactly does a vacation destination really tell you about a candidate? They hate cruises. You love them. Unless you are hiring for a cruise line it doesn’t tell you anything about their quality of work or how long they will stay with your company.
“If you had turned your cell phone to silent, and it rang really loudly despite it being on silent, what would you tell me?” – “I’m sorry; I thought I had turned it to silent.” What else could you say!? Oh by the way you can avoid this by leaving your phone in the car or shutting it off when you go in to interview.
Good interviewees won’t get flustered by these questions and probably read articles like this to prep for interviews. People that aren’t good interviewers or are inexperienced will get flustered and shaky…great you’ve proven that you can fluster a candidate. What exactly did you learn about that candidate?
Now that I vented, I did see a couple questions that I liked:
“Jeff Bezos walks into your office and says you can have a million dollars to launch your best entrepreneurial idea. What is it?” – This was for a product development position. I like this question because the answer illustrates creative thinking and how a candidate sells ideas; you probably need those skills if you are developing new products.
“You are a head chef at a restaurant and your team has been selected to be on Iron Chef. How do you prepare your team for the competition and how do you leverage the competition for your restaurant?” – This is a good question because it gives the interviewer a feel for how the candidate thinks on their feet, organizes their thoughts and prioritizes.
Some will tell you the oddball questions I didn’t like are great, they will say those questions show how candidates think on their feet.
I don’t buy it. Research tells us one of the best predictors of future success is to get people to demonstrate their actual skill set. George Anders, talks about this at length in The Rare Find.
He studied Teach for America’s (now) successful interview process. Teach for America used to ask the cutesy oddball interview questions but still struggled to get the right hires. They redesigned their process to include teaching in a simulated classroom and found that was a far better predictor of who would be a good teacher.
Interviewing is far from an exact science. Developing questions that will predict success at your organization is time consuming and difficult. Despite the hype it’s unlikely these oddball questions are going to solve your problems. I could walk you through how to make an omelet but that doesn’t tell you much about the quality of work I do or predict my future success.