How many golf balls can fit into an airplane? How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle? How many times a day does a clock’s hands overlap? These are the kinds of impossible brainteasers that Google’s interview process used to be famous for. But no longer!

Laszlo Bock, Google’s Senior VP of People Operations, recently stated in an interview that “brainteasers are a complete waste of time.”  The tech giant used big data to conduct studies into thousands of their past interviews and found zero correlation between interviewer ratings and on-the-job performance.

Google has since scrapped its weird and wacky puzzlers for the only type of interviewing that really works, according to Bock: behavioural interviews.

Bock believes behavioural interviews work best because instead of giving someone a hypothetical, you’re asking them to draw on their own real experience, such as “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.”

How can you use behavioural interviews?

Like Google, you can use behavioural questions to assess whether a candidate’s past behaviours match the job you’re hiring for. Here are a few key tips for conducting behavioural interviews –

  • Just like Google, your questions should be relevant to the actual job you’re recruiting for. Prepare a list of behavioural questions based on the key attributes identified as necessary for a successful hire.
  • Use this set list of questions to benchmark ALL applicants. According to Bock, behavioural interviews work best when you “have a consistent rubric for how you assess people, rather than having each interviewer just make stuff up”.
  • During the interview, listen for real tangible results in their answer. What quantifiable evidence have they used?
  • What role did they play in achieving these results? Be careful of phrases like “I helped with” or general “we” statements. Ask follow up questions to determine what their specific contribution was.
  • Drilldown follow up questions are key to good behavioural interviews. Get candidates to elaborate their answers to push beyond ‘rehearsed’ responses. “Tell me more about X.” or “Can you explain what you meant by you did Y?”
  • How they answer can give you cues into their ability to process and deliver information. Does their answer follow a logical flow? Are they able to present their answer in a concise manner?

As Bock explains, you’re getting two kinds of information when you get someone to speak to their own experience, “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.”

We use behavioural questions religiously here at The Headhunters. They’re a great way to probe into any areas of doubt you may have about a candidate. We even provide clients with a customized list of suggested questions based on a candidate’s Workstyle and Performance Profile (WPP). Contact us if you’re interested in using the WPP as part of your hiring process.