“That’s it, I’ve had enough, you can start looking for my replacement today” he said in a frustrated tone of voice as he slammed the phone down and stormed out of the conference room. I could swear that I heard a sigh of relief from the CEO who was on the same conference call, even though he was in Tokyo and I was in Singapore. I felt for certain that a big smile must have run across his face as we had already been planning to replace Steve, the APAC Regional Head of IT. We had been on a conference call when the CEO, Brian told him to do something that Steve had argued against for weeks, when he finally lost it. Steve was a technical guru, however his interpersonal skills were limited. He was impatient, argumentative and while he knew a lot about artificial intelligence he knew very little about emotional intelligence.
Steve could easily have answered any of the following questions:
1. An apple costs 40 cents, a banana 60 cents, a grapefruit 80 cents, what would a pear cost?
2. How would you test a calculator? (IBM)
3. How many street lights in NYC? (JP Morgan)
4. Estimate the demand for plastic bags in the USA? (Bain)
5. Describe the internet to someone who just woke up from a 30-year coma? (Digitas)
6. What is your dream job?
How many could you answer? What on earth do any of these questions have to do with my ability to do my job as a graphic designer, social media marketer, marine biologist, account manager, equity trader, product developer, free lance spaceman or ventriloquist I hear you all ask?
An interview is a test and all questions in an interview are tests. Interview questions must be validated and designed to determine on the job performance.
What is the right answer to “What is your dream job?" If 10 hiring managers ask you, you can be sure that there is no one single correct answer but there will be 10 different amateur psychologist interpretations of the right answer based on their own biased opinions. If those same hiring managers asked their best performing employees, would all of them give a consistent answer?
The problem with brain teasers and other unvalidated tests is that they are often used to screen out great candidates and can create a false impression of candidates such as Steve, who appeared calm under pressure, patient, even relaxed when he was asked these type of questions at the interview by Brian.
Google and other firms have now discontinued the use of brain teasers.
Read the follow up post to this "If you have good table manners Bill Gates will hire you!" and find find out what to do in an interview if you are asked a question like “What’s the colour of success?”