“Why is a tennis ball fuzzy?” “Why are manhole covers round?” and “How many cows are in Canada?” Major companies such as Google, Xerox, Microsoft, and Zappos are renowned for asking oddball questions in job interviews. Employers often say that they ask these types of questions to gain some insights into the candidate’s thinking process.
However, a new study has found that while these questions actually reveal little useful information about the applicant, they may expose a serious dark side of the person asking them.
The study published in Applied Psychology provides evidence that the answers to brain teaser job interview questions do not contain useful information about the competency or character of the candidate, but that people like to ask them anyway because they give the interviewers power and speak to their ‘dark personality traits.’
For the research, 736 participants were provided with various job interview questions and asked if they would consider using them when hiring someone. They then completed questionnaires that allowed researchers to assess their personality traits.
Those participants who would consider using brainteaser interview questions when hiring someone were more narcissistic, more sadistic, less socially competent, and believed more strongly in the power of intuition in the hiring process.
“Use of brainteasers in the hiring process provides little information about the suitability of the job applicant but considerable information about the callousness of the interviewer,” said co-author Dr. Scott Highhouse, of Bowling Green State University.
If an employer asks you one of those brain teaser questions in an interview, try your best to answer it. As your math teacher used to say, show your work. Do your reasoning out loud so that the employer can hear your problem-solving process.
If everything else about the employer, the workplace, and the role seem good, then the job is likely okay. But remember, job interviews go both ways. You are assessing the employer as much as they are scrutinizing you. Is this really a place you want to work, with these people, for this boss?
So, always watch out for red flags before you accept the offer. Oddball interview questions that have no right answer could indicate that you are dealing with a sadistic callous narcissist and that you’d be better off steering clear.