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Suggestions for Questions to Help Screen Job Candidates

SixSix Registered User regular
edited March 2011 in Help / Advice Forum
Thought I' throw this out and see if I could get some good ideas. I'm looking to hire someone in the next few weeks, and the job is going to require a pretty interesting mix of technical competency, artistic creativity and organization and communication skills. In these trying times, any job posting is flooded with applications, qualified or no, and what I'm hoping to try and do is ask some simple, non-obvious questions on the posting that might help me easily reduce the pool a bit. The trick, though, is that I'm looking for things to ask that require some creative thinking but that aren't easily Google-able, like for instance "Why are manhole covers round?" That might work well in an interview, but it's too easy to fin the answer before submitting an initial job application.

One example of the kind of thing I'll be asking (in addition to all of the regular job posting nonsense):

What is I*4|IV*4|V*4|ii*2|IV*2|V*2|I*4?

Any suggestions?

Six on
XBL, PSN, & Steam: SixkillerNYC Twitter Flickr

Posts

  • brain operatorbrain operator Registered User
    edited March 2011
    Are you going to do a pop quiz or do you want to ask something that's actually relevant to the job?

  • SixSix Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Are you going to do a pop quiz or do you want to ask something that's actually relevant to the job?

    It's all relevant to the job :)

    XBL, PSN, & Steam: SixkillerNYC Twitter Flickr
  • oldsakoldsak Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    I was once asked in an interview "name a change you would like to make to a piece of software and explain why."

    I should add, this wasn't for a programming job.

  • SixSix Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    I like it :) I was thinking of asking about someone's favorite OS and why, but I think yours works better.

    XBL, PSN, & Steam: SixkillerNYC Twitter Flickr
  • bowenbowen Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    There's no real way to judge that organization and communication on a written application, that's what you have to wait until the interview to see. Most of the things you'd want to see in person, like their competency See if they just give you an answer or walk you through their thought process -- "How many quarters tall is the Empire state building" for instance. Creativity you might want to ask them to storyboard some fictional process, or brainstorm for some fictional job process they will be in.

    Also, I want to relay this to you and maybe other potential hiring people, don't ever ask a candidate to help you solve current business problems that are causing issues. I had an interview bust out a laptop and show me code and ask me how I would fix it, it's pretty obvious that he wanted me to fix it for free during an interview (or at least tell him how so he could direct people to do it). Any trained professional will be very hesitant to give that kind of advice unless they're desperate. Make it as fictional and fake sounding as you possibly can, please!

    I'm not sure there's a good way to to test that stuff on a job application unless you want them to google it, or come down in person to fill it out. And trick questions are frustrating for the people you potentially want to hire, unless I'll be dealing with trick questions all day.

  • DelzhandDelzhand motivated battle programmerRegistered User regular
    edited March 2011
    bowen wrote: »
    "How many quarters tall is the Empire state building"

    Is this a trick question? The answer is 4, right?

    jk0Btsj.png
  • SixSix Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    bowen wrote: »
    There's no real way to judge that organization and communication on a written application, that's what you have to wait until the interview to see. Most of the things you'd want to see in person, like their competency See if they just give you an answer or walk you through their thought process -- "How many quarters tall is the Empire state building" for instance. Creativity you might want to ask them to storyboard some fictional process, or brainstorm for some fictional job process they will be in.

    Also, I want to relay this to you and maybe other potential hiring people, don't ever ask a candidate to help you solve current business problems that are causing issues. I had an interview bust out a laptop and show me code and ask me how I would fix it, it's pretty obvious that he wanted me to fix it for free during an interview (or at least tell him how so he could direct people to do it). Any trained professional will be very hesitant to give that kind of advice unless they're desperate. Make it as fictional and fake sounding as you possibly can, please!

    I'm not sure there's a good way to to test that stuff on a job application unless you want them to google it, or come down in person to fill it out. And trick questions are frustrating for the people you potentially want to hire, unless I'll be dealing with trick questions all day.

    This gets into way more than I'm really asking, but thanks.

    I'm just looking for interesting questions that have the potential to prompt interesting and insightful answers. A response email to a job posting is only the tip of our hiring process. I'm not looking to ask one or two questions that will lead me to the single candidate I want to hire. I'm seeing if the collective brain of H/A can offer another perspective on the initial screening that I hadn't thought of :)

    XBL, PSN, & Steam: SixkillerNYC Twitter Flickr
  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    edited March 2011
    I appreciate the idea and understand why you'd like to do this, but as someone who is job hunting currently, I would recommend against that for a couple of reasons.

    If you're having them submit the answers to you, it defeats the whole purpose as they're doing it from home so we'll probably just see a H&A thread of, 'Help, I have a tricky job application!'.

    Also determining the real goal of a question is a pretty involved science. If you're trying to get them to think creatively, you're just getting them to think like you; subject bias(?). Think of the old text adventures like the King's Quest series - knowing 'uvula' isn't creative, it's just pedantic. If you want to do a screening, do it right and hire a company who specialize in that science.

    And on a personal note, it really sucks to be that impersonal. The application should screen abilities and give some insight into the person, the interview should determine personality. Have them send a work sample or two - ask for one "creative" and one "technical". By letting them choose, you'll get a better idea of what they feel is important; i.e., 'creative' could be a really well-written block of code.

    Final note - whatever you decide to do, make sure you ask all the candidates the same questions, as to avoid any HR issues.

    Excision wrote: »
    My girlfriend is going down tonight!

    Steam:MichaelLC
  • SixSix Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Also, these aren't interview questions - I'm thinking them more as brain teasers. Something that may elicit a response I hadn't expected that could set people apart from the hundreds of resumes I'm about to wade through.

    XBL, PSN, & Steam: SixkillerNYC Twitter Flickr
  • SixSix Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    MichaelLC wrote: »
    I appreciate the idea and understand why you;d like to do this, but as someone who is job hunting currently, I would recommend against that for a couple of reasons.

    If you're having them submit the answers to you, it defeats the whole purpose as they're doing it from home so we'll probably just see a H&A thread of, 'Help, I have a tricky job application!'.

    Also determining the real goal of a question is a pretty involved science. If you're trying to get them to think creatively, you're just getting them to think like you; subject bias(?). Think of the old text adventures like the King's Quest series - knowing 'uvula' isn't creative, it's just pedantic. If you want to do a screening, do it right and hire a company who specialize in that science.

    And on a personal note, it really sucks to be that impersonal. The application should screen abilities and give some insight into the person, the interview should determine personality. Have them send a work sample or two - ask for one "creative" and one "technical". By letting them choose, you'll get a better idea of what they feel is important; i.e., 'creative' could be a really well-written block of code.

    Final note - whatever you decide to do, make sure you ask all the candidates the same questions, as to avoid any HR issues.

    Every application for this position is going to start with an email from home in response to the job listing. This is simply something I'll be putting on that listing that will hopefully give me some insight and set more interesting candidates apart. if someone wants to craft their answer by soliciting the help of a video game forum, and ends up sending something really interesting, good on them :)

    XBL, PSN, & Steam: SixkillerNYC Twitter Flickr
  • bowenbowen Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Delzhand wrote: »
    bowen wrote: »
    "How many quarters tall is the Empire state building"

    Is this a trick question? The answer is 4, right?

    That is one of the answers yes.

    The other answer is the currency quarters. Maybe quarters are 1/16 of an inch, and there's 192 quarters in a foot, and the empire state building is 1000 feet tall (that's a guess, you may not know it in an interview but the point isn't the correct answer, but the process). So you'd guess it's 192 * 1000 = 192,000 quarters.

    But regardless, Six, is your point to reduce the potential applicants or find the right one? You can ask all these zany questions but you risk turning away the prefect candidate. I mean I may put Windows/Linux as my OS of choice but that doesn't really tell you anything about me.

  • SixSix Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    bowen wrote: »
    Delzhand wrote: »
    bowen wrote: »
    "How many quarters tall is the Empire state building"

    Is this a trick question? The answer is 4, right?

    That is one of the answers yes.

    The other answer is the currency quarters. Maybe quarters are 1/16 of an inch, and there's 192 quarters in a foot, and the empire state building is 1000 feet tall (that's a guess, you may not know it in an interview but the point isn't the correct answer, but the process). So you'd guess it's 192 * 1000 = 192,000 quarters.

    But regardless, Six, is your point to reduce the potential applicants or find the right one? You can ask all these zany questions but you risk turning away the prefect candidate. I mean I may put Windows/Linux as my OS of choice but that doesn't really tell you anything about me.

    This isn't about finding the right one. It's about setting a pool of potential "right ones" apart from the vast ocean of wrong ones I'll be wading through. If you just put "Windows/Linux" as your answer without saying anything about why or giving any other reason to set you apart or learn anything about you, then you're right, it doesn't tell me anything about you. It doesn't mean someone else won't use the opportunity a bit better.

    If the process ends up turning away someone who might have fit, well, shucks.

    XBL, PSN, & Steam: SixkillerNYC Twitter Flickr
  • bowenbowen Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Yeah I'm trying to avoid steering you in that direction because a great deal of interviewers do just that. It took us almost 3 years to fill a reception job because they asked the wrong questions, and, filtered applicants based on those questions rather than waiting until the interview to see how they'd respond.

    You may as well just take your stack of resumes, and cut it into 3 piles, one is throw away, one is interview, one is interview + seriously consider. The 2nd one can be considered if they interview extremely well. That is essentially what you will be doing with questions like these. Unless you want to seriously go through all the applications one by one and judge their answers.

    I want you to find the best person and not the best application filler! If your company has any web presence one could easily tell you the answers you want to hear just by doing a little research.

  • SixSix Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    bowen wrote: »
    Yeah I'm trying to avoid steering you in that direction because a great deal of interviewers do just that. It took us almost 3 years to fill a reception job because they asked the wrong questions, and, filtered applicants based on those questions rather than waiting until the interview to see how they'd respond.

    You may as well just take your stack of resumes, and cut it into 3 piles, one is throw away, one is interview, one is interview + seriously consider. The 2nd one can be considered if they interview extremely well. That is essentially what you will be doing with questions like these. Unless you want to seriously go through all the applications one by one and judge their answers.

    I want you to find the best person and not the best application filler! If your company has any web presence one could easily tell you the answers you want to hear just by doing a little research.

    A few things:

    - These little questions are not the totality of the application or even a significant part of it.
    - The name of the company won't be on the job posting
    - If they end up not telling me much, so be it. I think they have the potential to offer a little insight into the application I didn't have before. But if not, I'm back where i started
    - Again, these aren't interview questions.

    XBL, PSN, & Steam: SixkillerNYC Twitter Flickr
  • bowenbowen Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Okay that fixes it a bit.

    I guess I would stick to brain teasers and hope someone wasn't an asshole and didn't just google the answers (pretty obvious). The quarter one is good from a logic standpoint, creativity I have absolutely no idea because I am not creative. Organization you can ask them how'd they'd outline a project for something, communication you can ask them some common dealing with customer questions.

    Just be aware you probably won't end up with much in the help of filtering.

  • SixSix Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    If I ask something that's easily googleable, it's a pretty useless question, I think :)

    We used "What is I*4|IV*4|V*4|ii*2|IV*2|V*2|I*4?" on the last posting we had a req for, and it helped. I just thought I'd see if there were some cool ideas others had for something similar.

    XBL, PSN, & Steam: SixkillerNYC Twitter Flickr
  • brain operatorbrain operator Registered User
    edited March 2011
    Six wrote: »
    - The name of the company won't be on the job posting
    That'd be an auto-dismiss for me, unless I was really desperate. Your best candidates won't be desperate. You might want to think this over.

  • SixSix Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Six wrote: »
    - The name of the company won't be on the job posting
    That'd be an auto-dismiss for me, unless I was really desperate. Your best candidates won't be desperate. You might want to think this over.

    We're cool, thanks :)

    XBL, PSN, & Steam: SixkillerNYC Twitter Flickr
  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    edited March 2011
    I guess I'm not seeing how asking 'creative' questions will help.

    You still have to read them, then decide if it's 'correct' and/or 'creative' enough. Again, I understand what you're trying to do, I just don't think it will get you what you want.

    I mean, I coul theow out some:

    "You're at a military base in the US working on a contract. You look at the analog wall clock, and the big hand is pointing straight up and the little hand is 90deg to the right. What time is it?" (whatever time it is when you ask the question.)

    "There are two toggle switches on the wall, and there is a ceiling fan with a light fixture in the room. How do you know which switch is which before clicking them? (Neither, the fan isn't installed).

    Excision wrote: »
    My girlfriend is going down tonight!

    Steam:MichaelLC
  • DarkewolfeDarkewolfe Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    This is one of those threads where the OP is receiving a large amount of advice in a direction he doesn't like, and is therefore ignoring it. I'll agree with many people here, if I didn't know what company I was applying for and was in largescale application mode, I would disregard your posting and pursue an employer who was being less ridiculous in their initial requirements. Remember to be respectful to applicants as well. Asking a brain teaser/trick question isn't helping you determine who is qualified. Save that for the interview when you're also measuring personality. You're going to lose quality applicants going this way.

    "Well, look at this. Appears we got here just in the nick of time. What's that make us?"
    "Big Damn Heroes, Sir."
    "Ain't we just."
  • SixSix Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    I'm going to be reading all (or most) of the responses anyway. Giving someone an opportunity to surprise and delight, or at least demonstrate a little creativity is all I'm hoping to do.

    Someone could ignore the question and still be a great candidate. This isn't the totality of the process :)

    XBL, PSN, & Steam: SixkillerNYC Twitter Flickr
  • bowenbowen Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Six wrote: »
    If I ask something that's easily googleable, it's a pretty useless question, I think :)

    We used "What is I*4|IV*4|V*4|ii*2|IV*2|V*2|I*4?" on the last posting we had a req for, and it helped. I just thought I'd see if there were some cool ideas others had for something similar.

    I would have no idea where to even begin with this. Like I said, you'll want to stay away from "trick" questions.

    To me it looks like some wackadoo wants to multiply Roman numerals with Arabic decimals. To someone else it might be a subscript for video, or maybe to a politician it's an excerpt from the constitution and those are the articles you want.

    I guess it would help us if you told us what kind of position you're trying to fill so we can give you better questions?

  • SixSix Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Yeah, looks like this thread isn't going to help much, so I guess it can be locked :)

    XBL, PSN, & Steam: SixkillerNYC Twitter Flickr
  • DeebaserDeebaser Alpha Teemo Fake Board GamerRegistered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Six wrote: »
    - The name of the company won't be on the job posting
    That'd be an auto-dismiss for me, unless I was really desperate. Your best candidates won't be desperate. You might want to think this over.

    Yeah, I also wouldn't be willing to do all that much homework for "Mystery Company A". This has more of a hazing vibe than a "garner useful information about the applicants" vibe.

    You might want to revise your req listing if you're having difficulty filtering out the dregs.

This discussion has been closed.