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Are You Hiring Clowns?

It is a disturbing trend: Companies are asking stupider questions of candidates than ever before. You know why? Because they can.

Look, I get it. You heard about some tech company doing it. You read How Would You Move Mt. Fuji? and thought it was brilliant. You want to be innovative. Or hip. Or whatever. Hell if I know, I’ve never been any of these things.

Whenever someone wants to ask a stupid question in an interview, this is what I ask:

Are We Hiring Clowns?

If so, I have no problem having a clown jump through hoops and put on a circus act. I do have a problem with making people who aren’t clowns put on a circus act and jump through hoops though.

That whole thing about resumes and interviews being poor predictors of success in the workplace has to do with the fact that doing well in those situations rarely has anything to do with the job at hand. Let’s stop pretending that we are savants when it comes to interviewing and realize that successfully finding the right fit based on a standard resume and interview protocol is more of a happy stroke of luck than anything else.

So why are these tech companies spending thousands of dollars developing complex puzzle questions if they don’t get results? I would suggest three things:

  1. They think it works because they continue to see success. I would say that they are successful in spite of their erroneous selection methods. Many companies can be successful in this situation.
  2. They think they are more innovative than they actually are. Using the two commonly cited examples, Microsoft isn’t really an innovator of new products (just reinventing their current products like Madonna every couple of years). Google’s most successful innovations outside of search have come through acquisition (YouTube is arguably the most successful product by Google outside of search and they bought it).
  3. They’ve become part of a hazing culture. If everyone in an organization has had to go through the pain of that sort of selection process, they believe that everyone in the future should as well in order to become part of the culture there.

What are your thoughts on these interviewing tactics?

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