I just read an article about how Thomas Edison had a unique way of hiring engineers. He’d give the applicant a lightbulb and ask, “How much water will it hold?”
There were two ways to find the answer. The first choice was to use gauges to measure all the angles of the bulb. Then with the measurements in hand, the engineer would calculate the surface area. This approach could take as long as 20 minutes.
The second choice was to fill the bulb with water and then pour the contents into a measuring cup. Total elapsed time: about one minute.
Engineers who took the first route, and performed their measurements by the book, were thanked politely for their time and sent on their way. If you took the second route, you heard Edison say, “You’re hired.”
This little vignette reminded of a test I used to use when I knew a prospective employee was coming in for an interview.
I would place a box of opened #1 safety pins on the edge of the counter. When the applicant can to the counter, I would reach across to shake their hand and “accidentally” knock the safety pins on to the floor.
Without another word, I’d go down to the floor and begin picking up them up. If the applicant came down with me and helped pick up the pins, there was a good chance I’d hire that person. If they stood idlely by and watched me pick up the pins, there wasn’t much chance they would be the one for the job.
At least, this method allowed me to determine a prospective employee’s attitude which, if I had to choose only one trait, would be the one I’d choose.
Finally, I realized that I needed to determine many other traits, before making the decision to hire; like, honesty, accuracy and speed, to name just a few. It was then that I developed a full-blown screening procedure. Eventually I put it all together as the Golomb Group’s Pre-Employment Screening Kit.