Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Companies should use caution when using unpopular puzzle interviews

Date:
October 15, 2012
Source:
San Francisco State University
Summary:
In today's tough job market, more job-seekers could be facing interview questions like this: Why are manholes round? Or how many barbershops are there in San Francisco? Puzzle questions are especially popular in the tech and financial industries. New research finds that people generally see the questions as unfair and unrelated to job skills and performance, compared to traditional interview questions about past work performance and goals.

In today's tough job market, more job-seekers could be facing interview questions like this: Why are manholes round? Or how many barbershops are there in San Francisco?

New job-hunters need to be prepared for these "puzzle interview" questions, says SF State researcher Chris Wright, even though they may consider them to be unfair or irrelevant.

"I always give graduating students two primary suggestions. Expect the unexpected and be aware that you might get an off-the-wall question like this," said Wright, associate professor of psychology at San Francisco State University. "And realize that no one's really looking for a right answer, because so many of these questions are really more geared toward gauging your thought process."

Puzzle questions are especially popular in the tech and financial industries, where hiring managers see them as a good way to measure creativity, flexibility, critical thinking and the ability to work in novel and sometimes uncomfortable situations.

But Wright and colleagues have discovered that people generally see the questions as unfair and unrelated to job skills and performance, compared to traditional interview questions about past work performance and goals.

They videotaped mock interviews with both types of questions, and asked undergraduate students to watch the interviews and rate both the interview's content and the job seeker's performance. The puzzle interviews got mostly negative reactions from the undergraduates, even when they were told that the job applicant was interviewing for a position like software engineer or financial analyst.

But in an intriguing twist, the students said the applicant performed better in the puzzle interview than in the traditional interview. Wright thinks that the puzzle interview "may have seemed so off-the-wall" to the students that they were impressed by the poise and "relatively decent answers" given by the applicant.

Real-life job applicants also tend to dislike these puzzle questions, the researchers note, which poses a problem for industries that rely on them in their recruitment and hiring. Qualified applicants who don't like or trust the interview style might avoid companies that use puzzle questions, they suggest. It's also possible that questions seen as unfair or not relevant to a job could be the subject of a hiring lawsuit.

"And then there's still the question hanging out there, which is do these puzzles actually measure anything?" Wright said. "I think there's a feeling that these types of questions measure broad constructs like intelligence, but that there might be a lot better tools out there to measure this."

Some employers moved to puzzle interviews because they felt that applicants were too well-prepared for the traditional questions, having found the "right" answers through career Web sites and other sources. But Wright said job seekers can now prep for the puzzles as well, using sites like My Tech Interviews and others.

Puzzles may be unpopular, but companies such as Google, Microsoft and others still include them in their interviews, and graduates need to know how to handle them, Wright said.

"What I find, when I see graduating seniors entering the workforce, is that they very rarely have knowledge of these types of questions," he said.

The study by Wright and colleagues was published online on Oct. 15 in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. Co-authors include former SF State graduate student Steven Oshiro, Chris Sablynski of the University of the Pacific and Todd Manson of Indiana University, Southeast.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by San Francisco State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Chris W. Wright, Chris J. Sablynski, Todd M. Manson, Steven Oshiro. Why Are Manhole Covers Round? A Laboratory Study of Reactions to Puzzle Interviews. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 2012; DOI: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2012.00963.x

Cite This Page:

San Francisco State University. "Companies should use caution when using unpopular puzzle interviews." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121015132625.htm>.
San Francisco State University. (2012, October 15). Companies should use caution when using unpopular puzzle interviews. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121015132625.htm
San Francisco State University. "Companies should use caution when using unpopular puzzle interviews." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121015132625.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Science & Society News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Get on Your Bike! London Cycling Popularity Soars Despite Danger

Get on Your Bike! London Cycling Popularity Soars Despite Danger

AFP (Sep. 1, 2014) Wedged between buses, lorries and cars, cycling in London isn't for the faint hearted. Nevertheless the number of people choosing to bike in the British capital has doubled over the past 15 years. Duration: 02:27 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thailand Totters Towards Waste Crisis

Thailand Totters Towards Waste Crisis

AFP (Sep. 1, 2014) Fears are mounting in Bangkok that poor planning and lax law enforcement are tipping Thailand towards a waste crisis. Duration: 01:21 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
California Passes 'yes-Means-Yes' Campus Sexual Assault Bill

California Passes 'yes-Means-Yes' Campus Sexual Assault Bill

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 30, 2014) California lawmakers pass a bill requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on campuses. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
As Drought Continues LA "water Police" Fight Waste

As Drought Continues LA "water Police" Fight Waste

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) In the midst of a historic drought, Los Angeles is increasing efforts to go after people who waste water. Five water conservation "cops" drive around the city every day educating homeowners about the drought. Duration: 02:17 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins