Many interviewers use puzzle questions

Graduates looking for jobs may wish to prepare themselves for puzzle questions at interviews. This is the suggestion of new research from San Francisco State University, which found many companies are asking interviewees questions that appear irrelevant or unfair in order to gauge their responses.

These include people being quizzed on matters such as how many barbershops are in a certain city or why manholes are round in shape.

Chris Wright, Associate Professor of Psychology at the learning institute, noted employers often ask such questions in order to get a better idea of an individual's thought process.

Mr Wright advised job-hunters to expect the unexpected when it comes to interviews and to realise there rarely tend to be right and wrong answers for these conundrums.

The findings have been published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology and Mr Wright stated: "What I find, when I see graduating seniors entering the workforce, is that they very rarely have knowledge of these types of questions."

Chartered Psychologist Dr Charles Johnson comments:

"This goes to show that the unstructured, unsystematic interview is still alive and well. Applicants being subjected to such interviewing practice would have some grounds for suggesting they were treated unfairly, as the research literature on interviewing since the 1970s suggests that such interviewing practices are often likely to be unreliable and inaccurate.

"So, why does it happen? Interestingly, it is no longer the case that the interviewers are likely to be untrained or ill informed. Almost all interviewers in large organisations receive some training. The more likely explanation is that interviewers have become dissatisfied with the quality of the information produced by structured interviews, such as the behavioural interviews examined in Chris Wright’s paper.

"The main issue is that applicants have become familiar with structured interviews and have often had considerable training in how to pass them.  The result is that structured interviews are providing less value than when they were first introduced.  Puzzle interviews may be a means of circumventing this problem but they need to be very carefully designed and controlled to actually be fair and provide value."