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Around the web - Weird questions can get you the best talent

23 August 2012

Posers such as ‘How do you get an elephant into a fridge?’ display lateral thinking, according to the online magazine People Management reporting on a recent survey from Michael Page.

Most candidates in job interviews would not mind being asked offbeat questions which have little apparent connection to the job in hand, research has shown. Two-thirds would welcome questions such as ‘How would you get an elephant into a fridge?’ and ‘which three non-essentials would you pack on a trip to Mars?’ according to a survey from recruitment firm Michael Page.

Interviewers often deploy such ‘curveball’ questions in order to test the ingenuity and lateral thinking of candidates and their ability to think on their feet. Two in five (41%) said they had experienced such a line of questioning at some point in their career, although 54% admitted they would be surprised to be confronted with it.

While 66% said they would feel confident about their ability to answer such a question, a third (33%) said they would struggle with it and would either answer that they didn’t know or would challenge the relevance of the question.

Other examples of the genre include ‘why are manhole covers round and not square?’, ‘estimate the number of light bulbs in this building’, or ‘which famous person would you most like to swap lives with for the day?’.

Dean Ball, regional managing director of Michael Page, said: “Weird interview questions can spark interesting reactions from candidates , but they are also an extremely useful way for businesses to differentiate between candidates who have similar qualifications and experience on paper. They give candidates a chance to step outside the traditional boundaries of the interview process and really demonstrate their creativity, ability to apply logic and how they work under pressure. Such questions can also provide a light-hearted moment in what can be quite a formal situation, giving the employer a real chance to see a candidate’s personality and how they might fit into the company culture, so businesses shouldn’t shy away from them.”

He added: “If used correctly, obscure lines of questioning can really help employers to build a clear picture of a candidate’s potential, so it’s worth exploring how they might fit into your assessment processes. They can sometimes take candidates by surprise though so make sure you take time to think carefully about the questions and what kind of response you are hoping to achieve.”

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