Peter Thiel, the billionaire investor who co-founded PayPal, has revealed his favourite “curveball” job interview question.
He told CNBC asking the applicant to “tell me something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on”, guaranteed top talent.
Thiel said it was a way of finding innovative thinkers with an abundance of ideas, while testing their originality and courage.
“It’s always socially awkward to tell the interviewer something that the interviewer might not agree with,” he said, saying his recommended answer style would be, “Most people believe ‘X’, but the truth is not ‘X’.”
Thiel said it was a hard question to come up with an original answer to and prevented candidates giving “glib” responses because it forced them to argue their point of view.
“When you find it, it’s really valuable,” he said.
In general, however, the billionaire said he wasn’t a fan of job interviews.
“There are people who interview well, and badly, and the interviews are often misleading in one form or another,” he said.
“I’m always unsure about how much one can actually learn from interviews. I think if you have great references and a great resume that’s probably all you need.”
That’s a view shared by Yale professor Jason Dana, whose argues interviewers “typically form strong but unwarranted impressions about interviewees, often revealing more about themselves than the candidates”.
Dana’s research has shown that students predicted future academic performance of their peers more accurately using hard data such as grade point averages and course schedules than when they interviewed them face-to-face.
“In the end, our subjects’ GPA predictions were significantly more accurate for the students they did not meet,” he said. “The interviews had been counter-productive.”