Employers gear questions to assess compatibility

Aug 3 2012 - 5:19pm

There is little doubt that employers are getting more creative in the questions they ask in job interviews. They are doing so for very good reasons -- to learn how you think and to assess whether you likely will fit into their culture.

By asking, "How many gas stations are in the U.S.?" for example, they want to learn how you approach answering such a difficult question, as well as learn how creative you are.

By the way, there are somewhere around 150,000 gas stations in the U.S. (according to Census data) and over 90 percent of those are convenience stores. Such is the power of doing an Internet search. If you have a Smartphone with you (in silent mode, please), you could ask if you may use it to do a quick Internet search, but if they want to learn how you think or how creative you are, the answer will likely be no.

You may approach the answer by estimating how many gas stations are in your hometown and then estimate the town's population compared to the U.S. population, and then simply multiply it out.

You may give up on the answer right away or go silent as you try to think. You may also think out loud and let the interviewer know what you are thinking and why.

Whatever you do, the interviewer is beginning to understand how you think through a very difficult question and how creative you are.

Another popular question deals with the wacky scenario of you being reduced to the size of a nickel and thrown into a blender, which will start in 60 seconds. You are asked, "What would you do?"

A company such as Google Inc., which receives about 1 million applications a year, does not necessarily want to hire the smartest candidates. They want to hire the candidates that best fit their culture of creativity, and these types of questions help them determine that.

While many of these offbeat, brain-teasing-type questions originated with Google because it has such a huge pool of applicants, many other employers are also beginning to use them.

Other quirky questions that have become popular are, "If you were an animal (or even a tree), what type would you be?" and "If you were a superhero, which one would you be?" These questions deal with learning more about your personality.

Glassdoor.com is a website that collects frequently asked odd questions in job interviews. They have collected thousands of questions asked by hundreds of employers, along with comments and reviews.

The Labor Department estimates that there is an average of six applicants for every job opening. While this puts more pressure on those looking for work, the reality is you cannot prepare for all the offbeat, quirky and brain teasing questions an employer may ask in a job interview.

You can, however, go into your interview knowing as much about the employer as you can learn and be ready to deal with any and all questions that may come your way. And then, don't be surprised if a few of those questions seem a little wacky or unusual. They are almost certainly being asked for very good reasons.

Ron Campbell has worked extensively in the job preparation and job search industry. He can be reached at 801-386-1111 or campbellrv@gmail.com.


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