You know those interview questions that always make you wonder “What does the shape of a manhole cover have to do with this position?” or “I guess I wouldn’t move Mount Fuji, as it seems fine where it is and I feel that would be a waste of my time.” Well, good news and bad news. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, these questions are pretty much as useless as they’ve always felt and tell an interviewer exactly nothing abuot how a person will actually perform at the job in question. The bad news? They’re probably not going away any time soon.
Google and Microsoft were both early adopters of these bizarre questions, many of which read like Zen koans instead of questions a person who may employ you would ever seriously ask you. Seriously, the first time someone asked me at an interview “Why are manhole covers round?” I had to have him repeat himself because I thought he was having some sort of episode. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.
These sorts of questions have cropped up in interviews over the years — especially in the tech industry — thanks to HR people and middle-managers who think they’re a good way to judge a person’s critical thinking skills and creativity. Because creativity is clearly something that can be quantified in a single sentence question you pulled out of Management for Dummies. Protip: If you think creativity can be judged that way, you have no business hiring creative people, much less managing them.
Regardless: Many managers swear by these questions, and whole books have been penned on the subject, which, as it turns out, don’t hold up under scrutiny. It turns out that while these brain teaser style questions may have been a helpful tool for switching up interviews at one point, they’ve long since stopped being useful, as anyone who cares to can crib an answer from the legion of books we mentioned earlier or just look it up online.
Now that this is the case, there’s no real reason to keep the questions around except for learning how a person answers brain teasers can tell us about how that person will perform at a job. Which, it turns out, is right around exactly nothing. Considering the pace at which reasonable change comes to corporate culture, we can expect these questions to be eliminated from interviews, I don’t know, probably about when the Sun dies out? Give or take a million years.
- Work. It pretty much universally sucks, right?
- Um, I’m not “hanging out on Facebook all day.” I’m engaged in a job search
- We’ll bet there were some of these stupid questions on the Apple pizza cook interview