I read an article a few days ago that listed the top 25 weirdest interview questions that applicants encountered on that job interview (http://t.co/DA9Ktjl). I found myself laughing at some of the questions like “If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and trapped in a blender, how would you get out?”
As I reflected more about the questions I could not help but wonder if they really actually help filter good candidates from bad ones. I suspect that some of the questions can help demonstrate if the person is creative or not, or whether they are good at math or not. However, are the answers good predictors of whether the candidate would succeed on the job or not? I sincerely doubt that the answers can go beyond telling the interviewer that the candidate is good at Trivial Pursuit. It is possible that they can shed some light on the candidate’s ability to think quickly or deal with pressure, but for a completed job like that of a project manager these are but one or two dimensions of the job.
There is no doubt that within a 30 or 60 minute interview, it is almost impossible to assess the competence of a person let alone try to predict if they can do the job. I don’t want underestimate the job interview because it can still tell us a lot about the likability of the person or the potential chemistry with the hiring manager. However there are other activities that the hiring organization needs to engage in as part of the evaluation process.
These activities can include asking the candidate to participate in a simulation, meet with an extended team, or submit samples of past deliverables. Additionally, one activity that is critical is to talk to the references that the candidate provides to get a sense of past performance.
Finally, in the spirit of trying to make the interview a bit more scientific, when interviewing a candidate for a project manager position we can include questions that go beyond assessing basic knowledge or likability. One of my favorite interview techniques for project managers is to give them a marker and ask them to chart out on a whiteboard the process they have used or would use to manage the project.
The result of this exercise for me can clearly show which candidates are not cut out for the job. While it won’t guarantee star performance, it has helped me weed out likable but incapable candidates.