How do you put a giraffe in a fridge?

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How do you put a giraffe into a fridge?

I’ve interviewed well over 100 applicants for a variety of content marketing jobs over the last 10+ years: from content writers starting out in their careers, to graphic designers, coders and managers. But it’s only relatively recently that I started mixing up the questions I ask in these interviews to include ones like the one above.

The thing is, it’s not that hard to prepare for an interview (even though I’ve seen my fair share of people rocking up clueless about the job and the company, or the fact that they are wasting everyone’s time). My point is, anyone can Google typical interview questions and prepare some decent answers.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

“What are your weaknesses?”

“How do you handle criticism?”

Even the giraffe question in my headline comes up in Google, but what the candidate doesn’t know is how the interviewer would like them to respond.

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According to Google, the correct answer is “open the fridge, put the giraffe in and close the door”. The logic behind this is that you don’t want someone to over-complicate the problem (also, hopefully they don’t suggest cutting the giraffe into pieces, which was the first - slightly horrifying - solution to pop into my head when the question was posed to me … What?! don’t judge me, it’s all hypothetical!).

I’ve asked that question at several interviews so far, and to date nobody has been prepared for it. And, better yet, no two reactions have been the same.

But what does a question of this nature tell you about the person you’re interviewing?

This question is unexpected and outside most people’s frames of reference. How people react to it will give you a great insight into how they will tackle unexpected challenges that are outside their comfort zone. Do they become so flustered they’re unable to answer? Then they might have difficulty dealing with unexpected challenges in the role. Is there at least some logic to their answer? If not, how will they solve complex problems on the job? Do they say they’d defer to someone else? They might expect lots of hand holding and an inability to make independent decisions once they’ve joined your team.

There are lots of questions like these, and I’d suggest choosing one that has nothing to do with your industry. For example, my husband works in travel advertising, but in the interview at his current company he was asked how much money Starbucks made in a year. And he had a minute to work it out.

Now, unless you know a few variables such as how many countries Starbucks operates in, how many shops it has in each country, how many drinks it sells and what the profit margin and operating costs are, this is pretty much an impossible task. However, it’s a perfect question for testing a “can do” attitude and logical thinking.

As long as the person doesn’t immediately “that’s impossible to answer”, and at least have an idea of the bits of information they need to get to an answer, that demonstrates good skills.

In my previous blog post in this series I discussed the need for people to be T-shaped. Questions such as these are perfect for actually testing those other “softer” skills that have become clichéd interview answers. It’s easy to say “I’m great at solving problems under pressure”, but it’s a bit harder to put a giraffe into a fridge.  
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