The Modern Day Interview

Modern Day Interview

The history of finding the right person for the job dates back to 1792 BC, when tradesmen sought apprentices to teach their skills to. The modern day system of hiring can however be credited to Thomas Edison, the creator of the light bulb. It is said that Edison would get hundreds of applicants whenever he was seeking to add someone to his workforce. Edison, being the genius that he was, and in trying to find college graduates with knowledge comparable to his own, created a “test” for all prospective employees, which consisted of a series of general knowledge questions. Some were specific to the exact position Edison was hiring for, while others were related to topics such as geography and literature. Newspapers of the day picked up the story and other captains of industry began to use tests of their own in their bid to select the best person for the job. This process evolved into the system of hiring that we have today.

The job interview, for a long time, has been a staple part of many recruitment processes. Job applicants are invited to the premises of the office and asked a series of questions, which will determine whether or not they will eventually be selected for the job. Now, job interviews are not limited to being invited to the office; interviews can now be conducted over the phone or through video calls. A job interview gives the hiring manager the opportunity to determine whether the applicant really possesses the skills and knowledge stated on his/her CV, and also, better assess the candidate.


How many golf balls can fit into a school bus? – Google


A penguin walks through that door wearing a sombrero, what does he say and why is he here? – Clark Construction Group

My wife and I are going on vacation, where would you recommend? – PwC

These are but a few of the questions asked by well-known companies. These questions are aimed at testing how the job candidates think, process, and approach difficult brainteaser questions and how they think on their feet in a stressful situation. The employer may not necessarily expect you to know the answers, but will be pleased to know that you have done your homework. These questions have however been the subject of much criticism. For example, Google has banned hiring officers from asking such questions. In an interview with The New York Times, Laszlo Bock, Google’s Senior VP of People Operations explained why; “On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. “How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations are in Manhattan? They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”

Bock observes that the only thing that works is behavioral interviews, where there are consistent sets of questions that ask people what they did in specific situations. For instance, “give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.” “The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience, and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable “meta” information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.”

Job interviews are now supplemented with presentations, personality tests and aptitude tests. This is to ensure that all aspects of the applicant’s personality are covered. Timed tests can be sent online for applicants to fill and send back to the hiring manager. Social media profiles such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Twitter are often taken into consideration in the selection of candidates, especially for high profile positions.

Job applicants for some top companies can now be put through as many as 7 rounds of interviews and the selection process can last as long as 21 days. These simply illustrate the lengths employers are willing to go through to make sure that they select the best person for the job. Any employee is an investment for the organization and so proper effort must be made in ensuring that whichever person is chosen is well worth the investment.

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