“I hear that when Bill Gates did his interviews, he would ask people to lunch and see how they eat and what they do. To me that's more effective than questions.”
This is a direct quote from someone who had commented on the questions that 8 hiring experts ask candidates.
Here is the link http://mashable.com/2014/01/10/hiring-experts-interview-questions/
Now suppose that you were lucky enough to get through several rounds of interviews and you were asked to go to lunch with Bill or Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, James Caan, Alan Sugar, David Cameron, The Pope or the Head of the Church of Scientology how exactly should you behave in order to nail that Global Head of Marketing, Applications Developer, Campaign Strategy Advisor, iPod, iPad, iBall, iHead product specialist role?
What criteria would Bill be using to assess you at lunch? It could be whether you eat meat or chose the vegetarian option, how much and/or how fast you eat (a kind of Boolean strategy), if you speak with your mouth full (how is that possible anyway? I tried it and almost choked to death!), do you eat with just the fork American Style or go all European and use both, what if he takes you to an Ethiopian joint? Do you politely ask for a fork or dig in with your fingers. What will he think of you if you accidentally spill a glass of red wine on his nice white shirt because he said “Oh, is that dead pigeon I see flying past the window?” and as you turned around knocked the glass over.
You have to ask how is your performance at the lunch event connected with your ability to come up with an innovative marketing strategy that increases Microsoft’s global revenues by 35% in the next 12 months. Suppose that you were at lunch with Steve Jobs and you currently worked at Google where you had just launched a new product called the GoogleBall that looked like an eye ball that you could throw into the air and that operated on wind and solar power and beamed back a 360 degree picture of the landscape in front of you and Steve just had to have you on board to develop one for Apple. Would he really not hire you because of some issue with your table manners?
These type of tests – yes going to lunch is a test, may have some relevance when applied by a tiny percentage of the best hiring managers who no doubt will have full range of other criteria for selection but they are not scientific and I would not advise anyone to use them to make a hiring decision.
So what do you do if asked unvalidated questions, believe that someone has evaluated you on the basis of table manners, dress sense, sense of humour, ability to do an improvised dance or any other weird and made up on the spot test?
Always be polite, always be aware of your tone of voice, volume and non verbal communication and ask if this is a validated test that has been designed to hire for the role. You can also ask how this is connected with the work you will be required to do (if the job was to impress Bill Gates at lunch then going to lunch with him would be relevant). Remember that the interview and the whole hiring process is a two way exchange and you have the right to know and understand what the process entails. You even have the right before the interview begins to ask what if any type of tests they will be using and if these have been used to hire their best performers. Great hiring is more science than art.
Read the follow up post to this "Why you will fail" as I will be covering the three most important things to consider when applying for a job and how knowing what they are will increase your chances of getting the job and performing well once you start.