Brainteasers say more about the interviewer than the candidate, says a new study.

12 September 2018

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It’s nice to be ahead of the curve, so when newspapers reported this week on a study of trick interview questions, published in the most recent edition of Applied Psychology, we at Two Rivers Recruitment bathed in a warm bath of déjà vu.

Just a fortnight after we dedicated this blog to the subject of interview brain-teasers reported by job agencies in Glasgow, a team of scientists in the US are said to have dismissed such questions as worthless and as a sign of “sadistic” and “narcissistic” bosses.

We’re all familiar with the sort of questions; unanswerable conundrums like 'why are manhole covers round?', 'why are tennis balls fuzzy' and 'how many windows are there in New York?'.

It’s believed such questions originated in Silicone Valley where bosses of companies at the cutting edge of technology wanted to develop new ways of scrutinising candidates’ thought processes.

The scientific challenges faced by such companies often have no known solutions and so they need to recruit people who can approach problems laterally and are capable of thinking in new and creative ways.

That’s fine if you need a quantum physicist to unlock the inner workings of the hadron. Asking him or her to estimate how much New York weighs might be a legitimate question for some, but not if you’re a job agency in Glasgow looking for a part-time Chef with expertise in Scottish tapas. 

And, I dread to think what our candidate base of experienced Aircraft Technicians and Technical Engineers would think if we asked them who would win a fight between Batman and Spiderman.

According to the study, interviewers who use brainteasers are in the position of the game show host who already knows the answers to the questions he’s posing.

“People in such a position have been repeatedly shown to overestimate the likelihood that they would have known the answer had they not seen it previously,” the report said.

“Interviewers using brainteasers, therefore, may be motivated by the desire to protect and enhance their self-esteem. They may simply want to show others how smart they are.”

While such questions have been used by major corporations like Microsoft and Facebook as well as  Oxford and Cambridge universities, their popularity is on the wane. Laszlo Block, a senior vice-president of Google has described them as “a complete waste of time”.  We couldn't agree more!

So what does Good Recruitment look like and how, as a candidate or client, do you decide which job agency is right for you?  Our advice, whether you are searching for Glasgow-based recruitment agencies, or something more specialist in nature such as Aerospace or Hospitality is, firstly, to ensure your chosen agency are members of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC). 

As the professional body for recruitment in the UK, the REC supports its members in ensuring best practice across the country, aiming for a higher standard of candidate experience and ensuring fair, legal and ethical recruitment procedures to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Given that only 33% of all employment agencies in the UK are members of the REC, there is good reason to be choosy.  As members of the REC, at Two Rivers Recruitment, we are bound by the Good Recruitment Charter as well as an annual compliance check to ensure we keep our eye on the ball.

Make no mistake, whilst jobs transform lives, it is people who transform businesses, and good practice is essential to ensure that we can continue to serve the needs of our clients, candidates and industry as a whole.

This is why the REC's Good Recruitment Campaign is so important, with a diverse group of signatories such as the Federation of Small Businesses and the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, it is incumbent upon all employers and recruiters to get on board with raising standards and adhering to the REC's nine principles.

By maintaining good communication throughout the recruitment process and ensuring those involved in the recruitment process follow the REC Code of Practice and undertake the relevant training and qualifications we can all rely a little less on bewildering brainteasers and a little more on common sense to improve the candidate experience.

 

 

 

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