Job Interviewing Goes to the Extreme

Job Interviewing Goes to the Extreme

by Suki Shah, May 2012

Are you a team player? Do you pride yourself on your creativity and your ability to work well under pressure? Today's hiring managers are not content with simply taking job seekers at their word about these desirable job skills. Instead, when seeking top talent, they want to see it to believe it.

As a result, some of the most successful companies in the U.S. are changing up the traditional interview process by asking seemingly random questions to better determine a candidate's problem-solving skills. For example, a candidate at Google, Inc. was asked, “How many people are using Facebook in San Francisco at 2:30 p.m. on a Friday?” And at Hewlett-Packard Co., another was asked, “If Germans were the tallest people in the world, how would you prove it?”

Other companies have taken a global approach:

  • “How would you cure world hunger?” ( Inc.)
  • “How many different ways can you get water from a lake at the foot of a mountain, up to the top of the mountain?” (Walt Disney Co.)


For candidates, these types of questions take them out of their comfort zone, forcing them to think on their feet. For employers, these same questions provide valuable insights about how the candidates approach difficult situations or, more importantly, whether they can remain positive and proactive in the face of a challenge. It's from these kinds of characteristics—gleaned from a conversation between the interviewer and the candidate rather than a one-dimensional résumé that lists skills and experience—that employers can gain important insights to help them make a hiring decision.

With this increasing trend, more companies are adopting the practice of asking interview questions beyond the standard “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” and even going to the extent of testing more extreme hiring practices. Some creative firms might invite two candidates to dinner to see how they interact in a competitive setting. Other companies might conduct a “hands-on” interview at their corporate headquarters to see if a candidate can dive in to existing projects and fit in quickly to the corporate culture. Companies are looking to find better candidates, hire them and hold onto them as long-term corporate investments.

While employers are doing more to find the best candidates, job seekers are also doing more to get noticed. For some job seekers, this might mean hiring a résumé writer, attending networking events or even accepting internships for little or no pay. But it takes a lot more than a fancy résumé or great connections to get noticed and get that coveted offer—it also takes a lot of hard work and a little creativity.

In one recent example from a startup called Ridejoy, a community-driven marketplace for sharing rides, the company requested from each job applicant, a résumé, cover letter and five ideas about developing its community. Like the other candidates, Margot Leong provided the required information—but went the extra mile and wowed the company founders with a dynamic presentation. It paid off.

In another example, Matthew Epstein, who applied for a job within Google's product marketing team, wanted to stand out from thousands of other applicants. So he created a website and marketing campaign to differentiate himself from Google's other applicants—including producing and starring in a short introductory movie in which he talks about why he wants to work for Google. Although he didn't ultimately get the job, he did receive other job offers as a result of his efforts and the subsequent publicity—one of which he accepted.

Sound like a lot of work? It can be, since some hiring managers are quickly putting the burden of differentiation and discovery onto job seekers. In some cases, it's no longer enough to just post a résumé to a job board and hope for an interview—the current reality is, there are a large number of job seekers who may be just as qualified and even more driven to find a position. It can't hurt for job seekers to start showing potential employers who they really are at the start of the hiring process.

One easy way to do this is to create a multimedia résumé that uses video or audio—as in the Ridejoy or Google examples—to introduce yourself personally to a hiring manager. Video, in particular, can help hiring managers pinpoint a candidate's soft skills—including how that person communicates—rather than going by just a paper résumé. Sure, it can be easy to go overboard with a video, PowerPoint presentation or a slide show, but in the end, it's probably best to save the drama for the movies by keeping your video simple and just be yourself.

About the Author

Suki Shah is the CEO and co-founder of, a leading end-to-end hiring solution for small- and medium-sized businesses that is improving the way employers and job seekers connect in today's digital world. is a free service for employers—including entrepreneurs and small businesses—that serves as a job board, applicant tracking system, candidate prescreening tool and video interviewing platform. Sign up now to find top talent more efficiently than ever before.

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Note: It's always important to consult with an employment attorney before making changes to your recruiting and employment practices.