Does “what colour represents your personality” really get you the best person for the job?

Jan 11, 2012 | Recruitment

Why wacky interview questions are a waste of time, and my four tips to make sure your interview questions get you the information you need.

I don’t often get to read the Evening Standard anymore, now I don’t have the joy of the hour-long commute. However my husband has that privilege and I had a flick through his copy this morning.

An article by Simon English caught my eye, about- wacky’ interview questions, favoured by Google according to a new book by William Poundstone (“Are you smart enough to work at Google?”). Poundstone collected job interview questions from Google applicants over an eight year period and in the book claims to show us all how to answer them and get a job at Google. Assuming we want one.

Examples of questions include “What animal are you?” “What colour represents your personality” and the like. In his article English indicates that he believes this type of question to be “degrading”, doesn’t make sense even in creative industries and isn’t good for anyone “other than the ever-expanding HR department” and is more about trying to be “wacky”.

I’m inclined to agree. Regardless of the job, I can’t see that a candidate’s belief that, say,- a lion represents me’ is the best way to answer this question (note, I do not say their belief that a lion is genuinely the appropriate animal to represent them, because of course they will try to guess what animal Google want to hire…) is seriously going to give any credible indication as to whether they can do the job in question effectively or not.

I have written about this subject before but it’s close to my heart as I am always keen to prevent employee problems as far as possible by helping employers get the best person to start with.
So before you go ahead with interview questions designed either to catch people out, or demonstrate how hip and happening your business is, think about these top tips for effective interview questioning:

  • Remind yourself that what you want to find out from the interview process is which candidate will perform best in the job.
  • Think about what you need them to do when they are in the job. What will a high performer in this job achieve, and how are they likely to do that? What kind of behaviour achieves those results? Think about previous incumbents if there are any. Who performed best, and how did they differ from those who weren’t as good?
  • What tools will they need to do that best? What experience will genuinely be necessary to perform like that? What attitude will they need to demonstrate? What skills will help them do that?
  • Once you’ve got that, write yourself questions based on the skills, experience and behaviours and attributes you’ve worked out the best performer will have asking candidates to give examples of when they’ve demonstrated those.

The person who can give the best real-life examples of having performed as you need them to in order to do the job really well is most likely to be the best person for the job. Which makes sense when you think about it. Does “What animal represents you?” really indicate who’s going to do the best job? Even in a creative industry? I’d say not.

For more about writing effective interview questions, see Quick tips for writing effective interview questions and click here for your copy of my comprehensive guide to effective recruitment including 6 pages of tried-and-tested effective interview questions.

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