Expect some out-of-the-box questions in your job interview.
When Boston University senior Sophia Shin of Reston, Va., applied for an internship at prestigious consulting firm Bose Public Affairs Group, the last question she expected to be asked during the interview was, “If you could be one superhero, who would you be?”
“That threw me off, because when you go into a job interview you’re stressed, and trying to remember what you’re supposed to say,” said Shin, 21, who studies mass communication and political science. “But I realized that it’s all these seemingly silly and outlandish questions allow you to stand out and really connect with the interviewer.”
It’s becoming more common for hiring managers to ask out-of-the-box questions that reflect a job candidate’s personality, interests and philosophy in addition to — or even instead of — old standbys like “What’s your biggest weakness?” and “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Cost-conscious companies, taking heed of sky-high hiring and training expenses, are looking for more than a candidate with all the prerequisites; they want someone who fits in with the existing corporate culture. In fact, according to a 2012 Deloitte study, 94% of executives think that a distinct workplace culture is vital to a company’s success.
In December’s issue of the American Sociological Review, Northwestern University professor Lauren Rivera argued that cultural compatibility often outweighs skills traditionally valued by employers. The employers Rivera said she studied “explicitly fought for candidates with whom they felt an emotional spark of commonality,” and in doing so, did not always pick the most qualified person for the job. Job interviews, Rivera concluded, are becoming more akin to first dates.
The concept of “company culture” has grown in popularity with the rise of creative companies that thrive on an unorthodox approach to the workday. With no individual offices or seating arrangements, Google encourages a collaborative environment and hires candidates who show a willingness to work as a team. Google spokesperson Katelin Todhunter-Gerberg said new hires must set themselves apart from the company’s two million-plus annual applicants with unique accomplishments — they may be a world champion in an obscure sport or a Sudoku mastermind — to prove that they bring something different to the table.
Event production company Red Frog Events built its downtown Chicago offices with the express purpose of fostering a distinct company culture. The 17,000 square-foot space is furnished with an indoor treehouse, campfire and giant hammocks. Employees can rock climb, zip-line, drink beer on tap and make their own s’mores from dispensers filled with marshmallows, Hershey’s Kisses and graham crackers. They are also given unlimited vacation days and a paid sabbatical every five years.
“Someone can be a high achiever but doesn’t quite fit into the culture, and that person wouldn’t be a long-term fit for us,” said Chief Innovation Officer Greg Bostrom. “Anyone that’s not a perfect cultural fit doesn’t have a shot.”
At Red Frog Events, every new hire starts out as an intern. After a three- to five-month trial period, only 10% to 15% of new employees are hired.
“We ask interview questions pertaining to leadership and customer interaction, but we’re also very interested in your personal life,” Bostrom said. “We may ask, ‘What’s the craziest prank you’ve ever pulled?’ because we want to know about your little quirks and see how you fit into our culture.”
However, there can be consequences to hiring for cultural fit. Rivera’s study suggests that hiring based on similar interests and backgrounds can limit diversity. And according to a 2011 Forbes study, diversity drastically improves productivity and workplace innovation.
In extreme cases, hiring based on personal traits, rather than skill sets, could lead to legal action.
“Title VII prohibits workplace discrimination, which means you can’t consider certain factors when you’re hiring, directly or indirectly,” said Lori Rassas, an employment attorney and author. “If you ask someone what they do for fun and they say that they’re very active in their church bookstore or are a member of The Republican Committee for Re-election and you don’t hire them, you could be opening yourself up to a discrimination lawsuit.”
Powered by Facebook Comments