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Can "Trick" Questions Help You Hire the Best Applicants

When the Final Candidates Are Equally Qualified, Ask a Trick Question to Set Them Apart

Some "Tricks" Can Be a Hiring Treat

There are literally thousands of job interview books available in bookstores right now, all designed to help people nail that interview and get the job of their dreams. Within all those pages, helpful authors take people through the tried and true questions to master in order to succeed, from the generic "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" to the practical "Talk to me about some of the projects you worked on while you were at your last job."

But buried beneath the classics are a few books with titles such as "Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?" In fact, just memorizing the 25-word subtitle of the book could be its own question: "Trick Questions, Zen-like Riddles, Insanely Difficult Puzzles, and Other Devious Interviewing Techniques You Need to Know to Get a Job Anywhere in the New Economy."

Most people will see a book or a blog post like that and treat it like a game show. Ha ha! I wonder if I can answer those crazy brain teasers! However, I began to wonder if the effectiveness of these questions was being undervalued -- by both the hiring company and the job-seeker.

I wrote about an example in my career where a "bonus question" at the end of a job description surprised me with how effective it was at determining the strength of an applicant's candidacy. Some reader feedback argued that this was an irrelevant, unfair, or self-centered “trick question.” To re-emphasize, each and every resume was reviewed, and all candidates were evaluated for their experience and qualifications as the primary qualifier. The bonus question was just that -- a bonus.

That’s how many employers judge applicants as well. If someone is going for a job in finance, he/she might come up with a great response to the question "If you could build a new animal, using the best parts of existing animals, which parts would you use?" But if that person doesn't have a history of balanced budgets and a love for numbers, they’re not getting the finance job. However, if they DO have the background AND ace the other questions, chances are much greater you'll hire them. Let's explore why.

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