Interview to save time not waste it

“You’re shrunken down to the size of a nickel and dropped into a blender, what do you do?”.

This is a famous interview question asked by Google as depicted in the movie, “The Internship”. It’s probably based on some real Google interviews when candidates are asked sometimes ridiculous brainteasers to predict a person’s way of thinking.

Other organisations getting creative with interview questions include:

“If you were 80 years old, what would you tell your children? – McKinsey & Company

“Why is a tennis ball fuzzy?” – Xerox

“If you were on an island and could only bring three things, what would you bring?” – Yahoo


Outlandish, certainly. But do these questions really help in the hiring decision to find the hidden gems?

Even Google themselves have revealed in a study of their own hiring practices that really, they’re not any better at interviews and at sorting the wheat from the chaff.

Surely the entire interview process is in need of a revolution / overhaul. Classic questions such as “Why should we hire you?” or “Do you have any weaknesses?” don’t inspire any imagination and can usually be hit back with a straight, rehearsed bat if the candidate is smart enough to do a minimal amount of research on the net.

While the creative brainteasers may invoke thought and ideally more than just a one-word answer, I don’t recommend them. There are always better ways to explore a candidate’s critical thinking skills or to get them to solve a problem that they would encounter in the position that they are interviewing for. Interviewing candidates day in and day out in my position every day, I’ve found that I’ve kept reverting back to a trusty set of questions which helps me drill deeper into how a candidate thinks, their aptitude and how they react to real world situations.

Here’s a list of some relevant agnostic interviewing questions you could consider for your next interview:

  • How do you break down a large idea into manageable pieces?
  • What changes have you made in working with others to be more effective at work?
  • What is your proudest moment at work?
  • What qualities in your co-workers bother you the most?
  • Walk me through the first four things that you would do if you got this job?
  • How do you take advantages of your strengths?
  • Describe the manager who would get the very best work from you?
  • What steps do you follow to study a problem before making a decision?

Another thing that I love to do and always advocate my clients to do is to create scenarios or role-plays in the interview session which the candidate has to act out. This gives a very good snapshot of how the person will be like to work with and remove any bias around rehearsed answers.

Essentially, you’re getting a better picture of the person. Take a moment to review your interview questions. Mixing and matching interview techniques will help keep the interview interesting not just for you but also for the candidates. People dread interviews so if you can make it a pleasant and memorable experience, your employer brand reputation will grow even if the candidate wasn’t hired. Most importantly, you’ll be getting the right people that truly fit your organisation’s culture and team. And that’s important to performance.