What kitchen appliance would you be?

Last night I watched a reality TV programme set in a recruitment agency.  It was predictably cringe worthy.

At one point in the programme the cameras followed a candidate to her interview.  One of the interview questions posed to her was: ‘If you were a kitchen appliance, which one would you be?’

Oh please.

Can we just stop it now with the silly, hypothetical, nothing like real life interview questions?  What animal / movie star / cartoon character would you be?  Who would win a fight between Spiderman and Batman?  And so on.

If you are going to ask an interview question, you need to know what you want to get out of it.  What a good answer looks like.

So what is a good answer to the kitchen appliance question?  A kettle?  A saucepan? The slow cooker?

What are we really assessing here?  Whether someone can think quickly? Whether they can be creative?  The thought process behind the answer?  How the candidate behaves under pressure?  Maybe some of these reasons are valid, for some roles and for some organisations.

I know that there are companies out there famous for asking challenging and quirky interview questions.  Google are probably the best known.  But most of us are not hiring for Google, or anywhere like it.  And here in lies the problem.  Because ideas like this spread.  Before you know it interviewees up and down the land will be asked how they would unload a 747 full of jelly beans.

Unless you can articulate exactly what a question like this is adding to the process of selection, then just don’t ask it.

Equally, I’d also like to see a little less reliance on competency based questions.  You know, those ones that begin ‘can you tell me about a time when….’

There are two problems with questions of this type.  The first is that they are backward looking, and your business is not going that way.  The second is that they ignore the context.  I can give you examples of successful HR work I have done over the years, from restructures to TUPEs, from development programmes to (don’t tell anyone) employee engagement surveys.   Now maybe I was successful because I am awesome.  Or maybe it was because I had a great team around me, particular resources at hand, or because of the culture in which the work was set.  Whilst past performance can be a predictor of success, it ain’t always necessarily so.  Context is equally as relevant.

Recruiting someone for the team is one of the most important decisions that a manager can make, so let us treat it appropriately seriously.   And if you really want to get to know your candidate, then a strengths based approach wins every time.  It will certainly tell you more about the whole person than them explaining why they are most like a cat ever will.

For the record, if I was a kitchen appliance, then I am going to be the fridge.  Because you will often find us both full of chocolate and wine.  Now, do I get the job?

9 thoughts on “What kitchen appliance would you be?

  1. Thanks Gemma, for a very entertaining, but pointed, article. I turned the programme on for about 20 seconds and had to leave it. Thanks for putting up with it. Guess `i would be the Espresson machine, because I am a strong energising person 🙂

  2. I think compentency based questions are to ascertain behaviours and approach to work – asking someone to ‘think forward’ in an interview is a simple as ‘please imagine what you might do’. BDI’s are still the best and most relevant way – although, of course, not the only way to ascertain someone’s effectiveness to work.

  3. Think that was weird? Try some of my Oxford interview questions from aeons ago – truly bizarre. Still blagged my way in though!

  4. Pingback: Best Blogs 22 Mai 2015 | ChristopherinHR

  5. This has to be one of your best blogs Gemma. I’ve been indoctrinated in to the competence-based hell that is the interview “tell me about a time when…” I’ve also sat through the most ridiculous “how would plan this piece of work…” situations where vagueness is taken as evidence. Evidence my a$$. Most of the hunches I’ve ever had about people played out into them being great hires. I could have employed all the long haired people and that might have been as successful as the competence-based interview. You are so right when you talk up context of examples here. We do seem to have fixations on some methods and then in response we think that some trendy idea is the answer. “I’d be a food blender because of my adaptable tools to make whatever was needed”. Tosh.

    I am now aware of the most amazing interview techniques I’ve ever heard about from Menlo Innovations which I won’t repeat here (because you’ll read about them in Joy Inc and my features coming up) but will give you the headlines: collaborative, scenario-based, exercises which test not only someone’s technical skills but their ability to work with and help others.

    See, we need to know how people empathise, give, react, respond and create belief & trust more than their ability to fantasise about an abstract; repeat or embroider a truth from their past or perform in a tested scenario built for lab rats.

    Like everything these days, there is no one model. There is a tired set of old orthodoxies and skater-boy remixes are not the answer either.

    Want to assess human beings with skills and talents are right for your organisation? Get the values (real ones not fake ones) aligned; give them the chance to show their human qualities and you can help them learn all the technical stuff you need.

    Me as an appliance? I’d be the kitchen table. Huddle around me for a social exchange or lean on me at a time of need. The occasional polish won’t hurt me either. Just be considered with the anti-bac wipes though.

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