The web is full of great examples of Google interview questions. If you do a few quick searches, it seems like a Google’s creative interview ideas consist of a battery of outrageous “outside-the-box” questions to test how quickly applicants think on their feet.
But how critical will it be that your applicants know what happened to the man who pushed his car into a hotel and lost his fortune?* The answer doesn’t matter; they’re testing your creativity when faced with a basically unanswerable question.
But there’s more to creativity than inventing a reason for manhole covers being round. And there are certainly other ways to test it. Here’s why asking wonky questions can get you wonky hires:
Off-the-wall doesn’t equal creative
If you asked Salvador Dali how he would escape from a blender if he was shrunk to the size of a nickel, you might get a pretty…err, interesting answer. But that might not indicate whether or not he’d be a great sales manager at your company.
That’s because being able to synthesize an answer to the blender question doesn’t necessarily mean they’re creative in their own field. It requires a person knows their field forwards, backwards, and sideways. It requires a person to be so well-versed in the tools available to them they’re comfortable making up a few of their own. But it doesn’t require a nickel-sized version of them to escape from a blender.
Simply put, there are better ways to test it.
It’s not particularly fair
What if a great engineer is too busy thinking of more efficient alternatives to explain why manhole covers are round? Should it be even the slightest mark against them, if they’re a wizard at C++? Do these questions take place before or after you see how good they are at writing code?
For better or worse, anything you pose to an applicant can end up being something that disqualifies them. Should you look at an applicant differently if they bomb this question? No, but you will. Any terrible answers will probably make it hard to move on — make sure they can only be tripped up on truly important subjects.
Interviews should relate directly to the job
What’s the best way to interview a salesperson? Have them sell! What’s the best way to interview an engineer? Have them code! What’s the best way to interview a designer? Have them design! What’s the best way…
See a trend? The best (read: the only) way to evaluate someone’s skill at their jobs is to watch them work. Shift the interview from the past tense — away from the resume — and into the present. Have them give you a demonstration of their skills on the spot. Ask them to talk you through how they’d perform an important task in their field.
Apply creative interview ideas to come up with novel ways to create real-life situations (partner coding, sales scenarios, etc) rather than dreaming up outlandish tasks such as — on the spot — designing an evacuation plan for San Francisco.
* He was playing Monopoly. Our thanks to this great article from Business Insider for some Google interview questions.