You have three boxes. One contains apples, one oranges and one both. All are labeled, and each label is wrong. Taking only one piece of fruit from only one box, how can you correctly label them all?
How do you weigh an elephant without using a scale?
What would you charge to wash all the windows in Manhattan?
If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you escape?
How would you market ping pong balls if ping pong were obsolete?
Don’t worry, there’s no need to explain why you’ve decided to enter the window washing business or for what highly personal reason you’ve taken up pachyderm measuring. There won’t be a test at the end of this article.
In fact, these are a few examples of famously hard questions asked by interviewers at some of America’s top companies, including Goldman Sachs, IBM and Microsoft, and they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Several years ago Seattle career coach Lewis Lin put together a list of 140 of the most dastardly questions asked over at Google, some of which make “name your greatest weakness” look positively slow-pitch.
And yet, getting one of these stumpers at your next job interview may not necessarily be a deal breaker. Anything but, in fact, since it turns out that those mind bending questions actually make everyone happier… just, not during the interview itself.
A new study out from Glassdoor finds that more difficult job interviews, as reviewed by the candidates themselves, lead directly to greater employee satisfaction down the road. Employees are actually happier once they start working at places that put them through the wringer.
On a scale of one to five, hiring processes produce the best results at a “four,” or almost the hardest they can get.
After that, though, the doozy-slingers just seem to be trying to impress themselves. At a difficulty of five out of five happiness declines, proving that that guy who challenged you to interview yourself probably really was just being smug.
The connection, according to chief economist for Glassdoor Andrew Chamberlain, has to do with how well tailored an interview is at pulling out someone who’s right for a position. Hard questions might be tough medicine, but they can also better predict how someone will do when faced with real challenges.
Think about it like a dating process, he said. “They [the employer and employee] are both testing each other to see whether it would be a good fit," Chamberlain said. "They’re saying, 'Actually show me, right now, that you can do the job we’re hiring for.'”
Even more interestingly, this isn’t a cultural phenomenon. The results held up across six different countries, meaning that even the French prefer a real challenge when it comes to getting the job.