Interviews Questions

Google’s “off the wall” questions during interviews started a trend of asking questions that seemed to have little to do with the open position the candidates were interviewing for.

Your interview questions are a precious opportunity to learn about the candidate before you decide to hire. You should take advantage of the situation by asking questions that tell you your candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. After all, finding those red flags after hiring the wrong person is costly. So, you need to ask the right questions.

These three questions below were actually used by interviewers at Google and were ultimately abandoned, with good reason. Instead of trying to be “quirky,” create an insightful moment with these alternative questions to ask during interviews.

1-A) Design an evacuation plan for San Francisco.

Unless your company is actually in the business of designing evacuation plans, this question doesn’t gain any insight into your candidate’s skill set for the role they are interviewing.

Instead, ask this question during interviews:

1-B) What’s the one skill that makes you the most qualified for this position?

It’s pretty likely that the candidate listed a plethora of skills that they have on their LinkedIn bio, cover letter, and resume. Asking them to pick their top skill not only gives you a window into what they think is the most necessary for this position, it’s also a great conversation starter into the examples they have to back up this skill.

This is one of the goals of interviews: understanding what’s most important to your candidates. Knowing this helps you choose candidates who share the same values as your team and makes it more likely that the team will enjoy working together.

2-A) A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened?

Take a moment and picture your favorite co-worker. If that person couldn’t solve this riddle, would that diminish your opinion of their ability to work well?

Hopefully not. That’s silly. In fact, this question is just silly.

(In case you’re wondering, the answer is–get ready for it– he landed on Boardwalk (as in he was playing Monopoly).)

As much as this question can test one’s ability to think laterally and remember games from our childhood, it’s barbaric in a competitive interview situation where we compare the responses between candidates.

Want to gauge someone’s potential? Don’t use riddles that have no bearing on their actual job performance.

2-B) How would you describe your working style?

You’re trying to gauge someone, and the best way to do this during interviews is by asking them.

There are many different ways for someone to describe their personal working style. Having them identify it will help you determine if your styles match. Look for insights into what motivates the candidate, how much hand-holding they may require, and if they can work collaboratively. Prevent a future headache for your managers and look out for working styles that sound unsustainable and will lead to burn out.

It’s important to maintain a balance of working styles and avoid disruptive influences to better deliver on your business. You ease everyone’s expectations when you create a culture with a consistent, collaborative working style!

3-A) Explain the significance of “dead beef.”

This esoteric computer science trivia question is not a good way to qualify your candidates.

For those who are curious, “dead beef” is a reference to the hexspeak value DEADBEEF. Early computer programmers and students learning low-level programming use hexspeak to represent values in their assembly language programs.

A hit or miss question like this doesn’t give the candidate any chance to demonstrate their ability to be successful. Give the candidate a chance to address their past successes and how they plan to be successful in your company with these questions:

3-B) How have you defined success in the past? How would you define success in this role?

One way you can lower the stress out of an interview is to ask about their past successes.  Speaking to their accomplishments should be easy and build their confidence going into the remainder of the interview.  

Also, this question gives you insight into their strengths and what they are proud of. Additionally, the second question adds a twist and turns the focus on how they might apply the lessons of their past successes to their role at your company. It’s important to ask this question to validate that the candidates understand why the role is important to your company and how the success of that role aligns with the success of the company.

Interview questions are important because they are one of the ways we perform our due diligence when making hiring decisions. The insights we gain during our time with the candidate help us make informed decisions later on. Think about what information is critical to make a hiring decision and craft your questions accordingly.

The questions that we ask are also reflective of our own values.  Send candidates the message that you care about getting to know them and are respectful of their time.

Asking effective questions is the path to a better candidate experience and a more efficient hiring process. This style of questioning may not come naturally to some, and interviewing, in general, is a skill that requires practice. Proper interviewer training is the key to avoid stumbling through your interviews.

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About the Author:

Aaron is an Engineer at GoodTime! He works remotely in sunny Austin, TX. When he’s not programming computers, you can find him working on his garden or playing with his dogs, Pablo and Arya! Follow him on GitHub.

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