3 Inane Interview Tactics You Must Avoid
Hiring employees is a particularly important and difficult task. You want to recognize people who would fit in with the company's culture and embody whatever characteristics that would support overall strategy.
But the dirty secret in hiring is that few people are particularly good at it. Even worse, sometimes the most clueless assume that clever stunts and obscure questions help them uncover gems when, actually, they're probably scaring off good candidates who think they've just walked onto the set of "The Office." Here are a few of the biggest bloopers we've seen of late. If you find yourself doing any of these, stop. Immediately.
Ask (Really) Stupid Questions
"Clever" questions have been in vogue for years. Some companies, particularly in the high tech and consulting fields, gained reputations for tossing out mind-crushing brain teasers. In fact, Google stopped the practice, as it found that the questions didn't help them hire better and only served to make the interviewer feel smart.
But that hasn't stopped many others from trying to find the Magic Questions. One allegedly asked at the Clark Construction Group, according to career site Glassdoor, was, "A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?"
Does this do anything other than let you screen for the people who could come up with the best excuses when calling in sick? If you can't explain with a straight face what the question has to do with job performance and make a cynic believe you, drop it immediately from your list.
Demand a Performance
Every interview demands a performance. You expect people to be at their best and on their toes. Some companies take the latter too literally. An electronics superstore in Wales allegedly asked sales assistant candidates to dance during its job interviews. Alan Bacon, a 21-year-old job candidate, said that he was "embarrassed and uncomfortable" when the group interview (itself a pretty questionable tactic) was split into two and each had to make up a movement routine to Daft Punk's "Around the World." How many people will have the elan of a Stephen Colbert, who ended up dancing and lip-synching "Get Lucky" when the French duo backed out of an appearance?
LivingSocial supposedly did something similar, according to Glassdoor, in that it asked people their favorite song and then had them perform it. It might make sense if your company is Cold Stone Creamery and you expect employees to sing after receiving a tip (though turning employees into performance monkeys has its own downsides, even in the name of a "fun, festive atmosphere"). But checking someone's stage fright when singing is largely a waste of time.
Begging Candidates to Kiss Your Backside
There's trying to be clever and embarrassing potential employees. But they don't hold a candle to effectively screening candidates for toadies. Reportedly, a general laborer candidate was asked at Kraft Foods to rate his or her interviewer on a scale of one to 10.
Come on, now. Who expects an honest answer? If you stretch things, you could try to argue that a management candidate would need to know how to be honest and yet diplomatic. But people low enough on the food chain that probably no one will ask their opinions on anything?
From the candidate's viewpoint, you might as well ask them to just out and out lie and say how great you are. What an incredible waste of time.
ERIK SHERMAN | Columnist
Erik Sherman's work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, and Fortune. He also blogs for CBS MoneyWatch.