Brainteaser questions may seem like a clever way to get to know a job candidate, but all they really do is make the interviewer feel smart.
Can I get a hell yeah?
Google and a bunch of other tech companies are famous for brainteaser questions. You know the ones: the kind that ask something like, “Why are manhole covers round?”
Defenders of the practice will say that the questions are valuable because they tell interviewers how a candidate thinks when solving problems, etc. They’ve always pissed me off because I really can’t get interested in how to solve them. You can see examples of these questions here.
This just in:
Google now views brainteaser questions as a complete waste of time. More from a New York Times interview with Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google:
Q. Other insights from the studies you’ve already done?
A. On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.
Two things that tells me about Google these days. They remain data-driven, so the above statement is based on research on hiring practices inside the Google campus. And they’ve grown up to the point where they’re now willing to kill things they once held sacred and made for great PR.
But wait, there’s more…
Bock goes on to say the secret sauce to hiring effectively at Google is—wait for it—behavioral interviewing. I kid you not:
Instead, what works well are structured behavioral interviews, where you have a consistent rubric for how you assess people, rather than having each interviewer just make stuff up.
Behavioral interviewing also works—where you’re not giving someone a hypothetical, but you’re starting with a question like, “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.” The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience, and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable “meta” information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.
Smartest people in the room. Back to behavioral interviewing. Key phrase: Drill in, dig deeper, and you win.
Google’s just like you, except with Vince Vaughn as an intern. And cash—lots of cash.
This post originally appeared on The HR Capitalist.
Kris Dunn is the Chief Human Resources Officer for Kinetix, the RPO firm for growth companies. He has over a decade’s experience in the HR biz, as well as several diplomas, including an undergraduate degree from Northeast Missouri State University, an M.A.E in Education from UAB and an MPPM from Birmingham-Southern College, as well as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification. He started The HR Capitalist in December of 2006 with the goal of building a community where he could learn from his readers. Get in the mix, subscribe and get active today at The HR Capitalist.