I’ve just got wind of the latest fad in the recruitment industry.  You’ve probably been doing it for months already.  It’s called Extreme Interviewing, and apparently it’s the latest thing.  The idea is you ask candidates weird questions to put them under pressure and see how creative they can be in the moment.   Of course a wacky idea like this had to come from the likes of Apple and Google, but it’s now catching on in more, shall  we say, “conservative” corporate environments.

I love the idea.  They’ve been using it for a while in those terrifying interviews the last few surviving candidates on The Apprentice have to go through.  I remember so well the choleric Claude Littner (who puts the fear of God into me) putting a candidate through this:

Claude:  “It says here that one of your key strengths is your ability to build relationships with people.”

Candidate:  “Yes, that’s right.”

Claude:  “Well, you’re not building a very good relationship with me, are you?”

On another memorable occasion he told candidate Stuart Baggs, who had the audacity to claim he was a big fish in a small pond:

“You’re not a big fish.  You’re NOT a big fish.  You’re not even a fish.” 

Oustanding.  If you missed this hair-raising moment, take a quick look here.

According to the Daily Mail, the most popular  Extreme question is “What kind of dinosaur are you?”  Apparently “Tyrannosaurus Rex” is not a good answer.  On the one hand, since this is the most common dinosaur, you might be thought unimaginative (even though it may just mean you don’t know many dinosaurs). On the other, the answer might be interpreted to mean that you’re a bully and a predator.

I’m grateful to Heidi Nicholson from Richmond Solutions for supplying these other popular questions (I’ve supplied my answers in brackets):

  • If Germans were the tallest people in the world, how would you prove it? (Feed them from tubes suspended 8 feet off the ground)
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you? (pi r squared)
  • What is your favourite TV commercial? (The one that never got past the cutting room floor)
  • What do you think of garden gnomes? (They need to get a life)
  • Name me three Lady Gaga songs? (I refuse to on principle.  Deal with it)
  • With a four-minute hourglass and a seven-minute hourglass, how can you measure exactly nine minutes – without taking longer than nine minutes? (Stupid question:  if you want me to measure exactly nine minutes, I clearly can’t take longer than nine minutes.)

What are your answers?

Now I’m wondering my Extreme questions would be.  I could spend all day on this, but maybe I’ll share the first three that come to mind:

  • What are the three best things about wasps?
  • Make a case for banning facial hair.
  • Explain the colour Red to someone who was born blind.

How would you feel about being asked questions like this?  I actually think I would enjoy it:  it would make the interview more creative and as there are no right or wrong answers I could let the creative bit of my brain out to play.  I suspect how you respond to the questions like these is a function of your own personality, and others would find them much harder to deal with.  Hence why, in fact, it may be a very sensible technique to use in an interview.  Why wouldn’t we want to examine how well developed the creativity muscle is as well as probing for more logical data?

Do please let me have your top 3 Extreme Questions.  I want to get Claude to try them out on the next Apprentice!

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