“How many golf balls fit in a school bus?” If you were asked this question in a job interview, what would you say? Google is known to ask it, and even pose queries like, “why are manhole covers round?” From those logic-based exercises to AirBnB’s “what would you do if you were the sole survivor of a plane crash?” interview questions are changing. The need now is to assess people’s values, how they think on their feet, and manage a difficult situation.
The theory goes that typical job interviews don’t give hiring managers an accurate read on a candidate’s job performance. Says Wayne Outlaw, author of Smart Staffing, “in an interview, you really need to get beyond the veneer. Some people are good at being interviewed, but that doesn’t always translate to their work.” Thus, the adventurous interviews.
Wondering what such a new process looks like? Here are some themes:
Inviting candidates for a workout. The jury is still out on this, but managers are asking job candidates to join them for morning walks, yoga, and cross-fit classes. A Wall Street Journal article carries stories of CEOs who play basketball with candidates, or send them a text to be there at a jogging track, at 6 AM the next day.
Bizarre as it may sound, this is a technique used to gauge how candidates manage a new/ ambiguous situation, and how they respond to being out of their comfort zone. It’s a test of their ‘real’ selves.
Testing skills in a new context. Telecom company Ericsson sent their potential Head of Innovation from Sweden to the USA, on a 36-hour challenge. His choices – spend the night in a homeless shelter for recovering drug addicts, or get a tattoo. The reason: for a high-powered role, could he operate with ambiguity, get his hands dirty, and engage with the community?
Another candidate, who was well-versed in managing data for fast-growing startups, spent the day at a ballroom dancing studio to help the owners think of new revenue models. Wayne Outlaw recommends this approach to test if people practice what they preach. “They can solve the problem of getting the job, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can solve problems on the job.”
Exploring ethics over skills. This relates to a candidate’s commitment to the job. It’s essential, because it gives us insights into a person’s value alignment with the company, their moral compass, and thought process. And this is where the strange questions come in.
Don Mal, CEO of Vena Solutions, asks candidates if they’d ever leave their families at Disneyland “to do something that was really important for the company.” This helps him understand the applicants’ work ethic.
A new frontier, unusual and experiential interviews have a lot to offer. Yet, HR practitioners ask managers to tread with caution, due to legal and safety issues. Where do you stand?