Recently, Inc. Magazine published an article showcasing “17 of the Weirdest Interview Questions Google and Other Big Companies Ask to Identify Top Talent”. The list includes gems such as “Choose a city and estimate how many piano tuners operate in a business there,” and “Tell me a story.” While certainly each of the questions on the list has an intended purpose, before adding these to your next list of interview questions, take a minute to consider their quality and usefulness in a high-stakes setting.
Questions like the ones presented in this article can be detrimental for the candidate experience. During an interview, a job candidate is just as much assessing whether the job will be a good fit as the interviewer. Using bizarre questions may be perceived as trickery or could even leave the candidate unclear about what an organization is truly looking for in an applicant. Although the questions may tap into a candidate’s ability to think on their feet and to come up with creative solutions to a problem, there is an obvious gap between the questions themselves and the job requirements. This gap introduces the opportunity for candidates to become skeptical about the selection process. Ultimately, using unusual interview questions runs the risk of diminishing the face validity of the interview process and leaving candidates clueless about whether or not they displayed the sought after skills.
Rather than using questions like those described above, it is preferable to use structured interviews with targeted, behavioral questions to measure an applicant’s traits, skills, and abilities. Specifically, behavioral interview questions are standardized and carefully worded questions that allow candidates to have equal opportunities to provide information. They are written to assess a candidate’s past behavior with regard to a specific skill or ability, and function under the premise that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior in similar circumstances. A behavioral interview question may read something like, “Tell me about a time when you were able to solve a problem without clear direction,” and prompt the candidate to describe the situation, the actions the candidate took, and the end result of the situation.
It is safe to assume that questions featured in Inc’s “17 of the Weirdest Interview Questions…” article would not be ideal behavioral interview questions, as it is quite unlikely that a candidate has worked through a problem in the past which required the tally of how many piano tuners operate in a given city! Being transparent in your questioning about what qualities you are looking for in a candidate will allow you to get a clearer picture of someone’s actual skills, and allow the candidate the best possible opportunity to showcase their talents.