21 Jan 2020

How would you test a toaster? … Hire like Apple & Tesla

Gemma Dicker

How do the big shots like Tesla, Google, Amazon and Apple, hire a constant stream of talent that maintains their position as untouchable dominators in their respective market spaces?

Aside from the great lengths their HR teams have gone to, to out-perk the competition and attract droves of candidates, the answer may not be as difficult as you think.

It involves a combo of killer questions, analysis, psychometrics, high-tech vetting techniques and secret competitions(!!).

Let’s not forget the brightest tech stars are being naturally drawn to some of these companies. So in many cases, working out how to filter and spot talent, is as big of a challenge as other lesser known businesses have in attracting them!

Before we get carried away with brand magnetism and it’s impact, take a look at how Google, Amazon et al, have mastered the art of hiring down to a tee.

And, most importantly, what can us mere mortals learn from the talent hiring ‘gurus’?

Not afraid to ask ‘executioner’ questions

Hiring managers at the likes of Amazon and Apple, are not known for holding back when it comes to asking candidates difficult questions in a bid to find the best talent.

A far cry from the mundane and predictable “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses” question, Apple’s most challenging questions have included: “Explain to an 8-year-old what a modem/router is and it’s functions.”

Naturally, only the candidates with sufficient knowledge and experience would proceed to the next round of the interview in Apple’s bid to recruit a Software Engineer.

Other taxing questions reported to have been asked during interviews with Apple, have included; “Are you smart?” and “If you had to float an iPhone in mid-air, how would you do it?”.

Only the quickest-thinking and imaginative of candidates are likely to get full points for those questions, but they’re a great example of off-piste interview questioning allow the interviewer to challenge the candidate and really see how their minds work.

Double? Triple? Octuple? Decuple?

If you want to hire like the big timers, you should forget the conventional approach of an application form, CV send, shortlisted and then attend a face-to-face interview.

Instead, take a leaf out of Apple’s book. According to a UX designer candidate, Apple carried out “3 screening calls, 5 FaceTime interviews, a trip to Cupertino for 5 two-person interviews lasting a whole day and a launch at the newest Café Mac”.

We’ve all got an opinion on how many stages to include as part of an interview process. My best advice would be to:

  • Set the candidates expectation from early on, in terms of the number of stages.
  • Take into account competition – if their process means your beaten to the finish line and aren’t ready to make an offer, you may lose out.
  • Try to keep your entire process tight – if they are multiple stages, try to keep them within the shortest timespan possible.

HOGAN, Myers Briggs and more

Apparently, Tesla favour the HOGAN personality test as part of their process. Other companies go down other routes such as the Myers Briggs, McQuaig and many many more.

Some things are hard to pin down, just by asking face to face questions. Let’s be honest, we can all ‘fall in love’ with a person during an interview, but that doesn’t mean they’re right for the job.

The use of psychometric testing, aptitude tests and more, can really give you an objective and measured view of an individual. You can even harness Ai tools to sift through large scale applications, like Unilever do, as discussed in this blog post we wrote.

Use puzzles and cryptic challenges

The use of perplexing puzzles and cryptic challenges to hire the best staff isn’t confined to biggest organisations of the 21st century.

The code breaking facility Bletchley park famously hired appropriate individuals by publishing puzzles in newspapers during WWII, as dramatized in 2014 movie ‘The Imitation Game’.

The UK’s security site GCHQ ran a similar campaign in 2015, when it launched ‘cryptic graffiti’ in an attempt to recruit the best people.

Not one to be left in the shade, Apple took enigmatic recruiting practices one step further by adopting the unconventional approach of hiding a job advert for a technical engineer on its website.

Only the brightest of technical engineers were supposed to find the ad and then apply for the job, but the campaign backfired when a journalist discovered the post by mistake.

Granted, less prominent, affluent and renowned companies don’t have the similar time, resources and budgets to be sending potential employees on trips to Cupertino or burying cryptic job adverts on their website.

However, I cannot deny, there’s valuable lessons to be learnt from the tech giants’ eccentric recruitment techniques.

One tip would be to include making the most of advanced telecommunications like FaceTime and Skype to interview candidates without being confined to geographical restraints.

But my best tips for now, would be to prepare some less conventional questions to get candidates really thinking on their toes and outside the box, look at some form of online skills test or psychometric test and finally, ensure you know your path to hiring – keep your process slick and consistent.

For more tricks, tips and advice on hiring the best talent, don’t hesitate to get in contact with me. I’m always ready to lend a helping hand!