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?’
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?