Creative companies sometimes overdo their creativity in designing a selection process. Within certain circles there appears to be a bid to out-do the competition in the creation of fatuous interview questions. There’s one school of thought that suggests asking people slightly odd or unconventional questions tests their creative thinking. One must question that school’s accreditation.

While standard interview questions can be a bit dull, are the alternatives more efficacious?

If you were a jelly bean, what colour would you be?

What does creativity smell like?

If you were stranded on a desert island with only a cardboard box, a shoehorn and bottle of Maderia, what services could you provide to the local bivalve population?

Employers, particularly those in the technology sector always seem to be finding new ways to assess creativity and embarrass interviewees. But ludicrous questions are quite unlikely to help an interviewer assess whether or not a prospective employee can manage an Excel spreadsheet, appropriately answer a customer call or provide input at the afternoon meeting.

If the new question to assess creativity sounds like it had been dreamed up at a late night pub session, it probably requires a sober second thought. 

Eccentric interview questions reveal more about the personality of the interviewer than the interviewee.

Use these three key rules to keep interviews valid, reliable and focused.

  1. Use common questions and a consistent framework. This should be tied to a framework of core competencies or specific job requirements. Spell out in detail exactly what the requirements of the position are and what the characteristics of the ideal candidate are. Use questions that are specifically targeted to the skills, knowledge or behaviour associated with the job.
  2. Make sure all interviewers are briefed in the same way. This is strongly related to the first point. Interviews can have their own (sometimes bizarre) ideas about what makes a candidate successful. If there are multiple evaluators, each should be making similar types of judgements based on the common set of criteria.
  3. Identify ‘select in’ as well well as ‘select out’ factors. Be aware of dark side and possiblie derailing traits such as Narcissism and Machiavellianism. Have a check list for ‘bad’ behaviors as well as ‘good’ attributes. Does the candidate dodge questions, talk over the interviewer and boast about their achievements? Do these behaviours check the “yes” or the “no” box?



For more information on designing a selection process, see Chapters 8 and 9 in High Potential: How to Spot Manage and Develop Talented People at Work