Hiring gaffes: Irony of brainteaser interview questions


A job interview. FILE PHOTO

Traffic snarled up and thwarted much of Nairobi last Friday.

Numerous tertiary learning institutions held graduation ceremonies across the city. Completing university or technical and vocational education and training marks a salient milestone in many young people’s lives.

A variety of sources place the number of our fellow Kenyans graduating from college at between 15,000 to 85,000 annually.

As the multitudes of joyful graduands go forth from their institutions and traverse our great country, many will face the uncomfortable reality of miserable job searches.

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Post-collegiate job searches often prove stressful and tiring wrought with the expectation of success, trepidation of failure, and uncertainty.

Supply and demand for employment present the challenges of so many young adults chasing limited positions.

But some firms go a step further and intentionally inflict misery on job seekers.

Much of the argument surrounding putting employment candidates through uncomfortable situations involves watching their reactions to seeing how they handle stress all the while erroneously thinking such scenarios mimic real work life.

Different stress-inducing interview day techniques include stress positions such as placing the candidate uncomfortably facing the sun or in a wobbly chair to see if the candidate will speak up and request a change.

Another infuriating misery inducement utilised commonly by international organisations in Kenya involves brainteaser questions.

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I have received reports from several of my students that various investment banking, technology, consulting, and NGO employers have asked such questions as how many Sh1 coins can fit into a Toyota Prado, if you lie down flat on the ground how many of your bodies would it take to circle the circumference of the earth, demonstrate how you would sell me a pen, how many matatus are there in Nairobi County, among others.

These preposterous questions often stun job interviewees causing them to stumble.

Ironically, the interviewers usually are agnostic about whatever answer they receive.

Instead, they prefer to hear the job seeker’s reasoning and decision-making process.

As an example, the first brainteaser listed above might be reasoned such that two bankrolls of 40 Sh1 shilling coins can fit in one’s hand, and roughly 2,000 of my hands can fit into a Prado, therefore two times 40 times 2,000 equals 160,000 possible Sh1 coins in a Prado.

Or a candidate may discuss in terms of estimated cubic feet, etc.

Research by Scott Highhouse, Christopher Nye, and Don Zhang show the disturbing irony of such brainteaser questions during job interviews.

Narcissism and sadism explained the prevalence and likelihood of employers using brainteasers in job recruitment practices rather than the usefulness of those questions.

Further, employees who had to go through such interviews filled with brainteasers found the experience either helpful or abusive depending on how indifferent seeming and callous an interviewer came off during the process.

Google's parent company Alphabet ceased including brainteasers in their Kenyan and international recruitment.

They find no statistical correlation whatsoever to actual future job performance, job success, or career advancement. Other firms should follow suit.

The entire brainteaser movement is a colossal unnecessary waste inflicting unnecessary stress on youth.