Application: Brain teaser questions reveal more about the company than about you

Brain teasers in job interviews can be particularly tricky.

Brain teasers in job interviews can be particularly tricky.

Tim Gouw / Unsplash

Even if questions like “What are your strengths and weaknesses” are annoying in the job interview, they have a significant advantage: They are part of the standard repertoire of HR professionals. It is accordingly easy to prepare for this.

On the other hand, it is different with brain teasers that hit the applicant by surprise: “How much does the Empire State Building weigh? What is your favorite type of ice cream? ”Sounds like a joke – but such questions were actually asked in the job interview at Apple.

Brain teasers are intended to lure applicants out of their comfort zone. But can HR professionals really learn something meaningful about the candidate with questions like this? According to organizational psychologist Don Zhang, the answer is a resounding no.

Brain teasers reveal more about your interlocutor than about yourself

With his colleagues Scott Highhouse and Chris Nye from Louisiana State University, Zhang conducted a study that showed that brain teasers reveal more about the recruiter than about the candidate himself.

“We examined 167 HR staff how pronounced their personality traits of the ‘dark triad’ are, which represent the negative sides of personality,” describes Zhang the study, published in the scientific journal “Applied Psychology”, in an article for Psychology Today. The researchers then asked the participants whether they would approve or reject brain teaser questions in the interview.

Read also: Application to Adidas, Daimler and Co .: The largest German companies are primarily looking for a quality in their applicants

The result: Those who preferred to ask brain teaser questions when applying were more likely to have narcissistic, sadistic, socially awkward or cold-hearted traits. In a second experiment, the scientists also found that HR managers who ask brain teaser questions have difficulties in adopting the applicant’s perspective.

According to Zhang, brain teasers not only reveal something about the applicant – they can also damage the company’s image.

Companies are doing themselves no favors with brain teasers

“From an applicant’s point of view, the job interview is the first direct contact with the company,” says Zhang. “An unpleasant experience can have a detrimental effect on the company’s reputation and image.”

In a job market that is becoming increasingly competitive, according to Zhang, it is crucial that companies attract talent. Employer rating portals such as Glassdoor or Kununu offer job seekers the opportunity to report negative experiences with their application. Bad reviews can mean that the best potential employees do not even apply.

Companies would not only be doing applicants a favor by foregoing brain teasers, but also themselves.

This article was published by in January 2020. It has now been reviewed and updated.


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