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Horse-Sized Ducks or Duck-Sized Horses? Oddball Personality Questions Are Likable (but Useless) for Organizational Recruitment

Abstract

To stand out, some organizations have started asking unorthodox interview questions to uncover unique qualities of the candidates while signaling the playful culture of their organization (e.g., “Would you rather fight a horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?”). Despite its growing popularity, there is no empirical research on the organizational impact of these unusual questions. In this paper, we introduce Oddball Personality Questions (OPQs) and a theoretical model of its impact on recruitment. We test our theoretical model had in two studies. In study 1 (n = 275), we found that compared to traditional interview questions, people judged OPQs to be less useful, but more likable. The negative effect of decreased usefulness judgments on organizational attraction was offset by the positive effect of increased likability judgments. Participants were not more attracted to organizations that asked OPQs. In study 2 (n = 266), using a multi-wave time-lagged study, we find job seekers with a greater sense of humor reported more favorable reactions toward Oddball Personality Questions and subsequent attraction to the organization. Despite the double-edged nature of OPQs for recruitment, we believe that its limitations outweigh the benefits. Until the validity of OPQs as an assessment tool is established, its use in employment interviews remains dubious and cannot be recommended.

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Notes

  1. Although theories of stereotypes extend beyond judgment heuristics, representativeness heuristics are, nonetheless, linked to stereotype formation in social judgments (Bodenhausen, 1990)

  2. www.prolific.ac

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Acknowledgements

I am grateful for John-Luke McCord, Amber LeBlanc, Sheryl Lobo, and Kevin Sullivan for their assistance in locating the OPQs and creating the survey material. I am also grateful for Susan Zhu and Vanessa Burke for their comments on earlier versions of the draft that made this paper more likable and material. I am also grateful for Susan Zhu and Vanessa Burke for their comments on earlier versions of the draft that made this paper more likable and less useless.

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Appendices

Appendix 1. Full List of Interview Questions

Traditional

  1. 1.

    What are your major weaknesses?

  2. 2.

    What is one of the hardest decisions you’ve ever had to make?

  3. 3.

    Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

  4. 4.

    How would a friend or professor describe you?

  5. 5.

    What do you think are the most important qualities for someone to excel at work?

  6. 6.

    What do you expect from a job?

  7. 7.

    Give an example of a time you dealt with a high-pressure situation.

  8. 8.

    Describe a time you worked as a part of a team and how you helped the team succeed.

  9. 9.

    Tell me about yourself

  10. 10.

    What leadership experiences do you have?

Open-ended

  1. 1.

    Create an outfit that describes yourself.

  2. 2.

    If you could throw any party, what would be the theme?

  3. 3.

    How would you spend $1000?

  4. 4.

    What would the name of your debut album be?

  5. 5.

    What would you do if you found a penguin in the freezer?

  6. 6.

    If you were a brand, what would be your motto?

  7. 7.

    If you could be remembered for one sentence, what would it be?

  8. 8.

    If you could have 3 wishes what would they be?

  9. 9.

    What would you do in the event of a zombie apocalypse?

  10. 10.

    What would you do if it were your last day on earth?

  11. 11.

    What would you like inscribed on your headstone?

  12. 12.

    What do you think of lava lamps?

Preference

  1. 1.

    Would you rather fight 1 horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?

  2. 2.

    What is your dream car and why?

  3. 3.

    Which one of the seven dwarves would you be?

  4. 4.

    What kind of animal would you be and why?

  5. 5.

    What is your favorite store to shop at?

  6. 6.

    Are you a cat lover or dog lover?

  7. 7.

    What are your favorite TV shows?

  8. 8.

    What is your favorite movie?

  9. 9.

    What is your favorite color?

  10. 10.

    If you had a choice between two superpowers being invisible or flying which would you choose?

  11. 11.

    If you could be any tree, which tree would you be?

Biographical

  1. 1.

    What would the inside of your car look like if we were to go look inside of it right now?

  2. 2.

    Have you played the video game Borderlands?

  3. 3.

    What is the most embarrassing thing in your bedroom?

  4. 4.

    What is your most memorable travel experience?

  5. 5.

    What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you?

  6. 6.

    What is your most embarrassing moment?

  7. 7.

    Did you get an allowance? Did you spend it right away or save it? What did you spend it on?

  8. 8.

    What was the last costume you wore?

  9. 9.

    What is the last time you did something for the first time?

Appendix 2

Table 6 Study 2 Procedure

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Zhang, D.C. Horse-Sized Ducks or Duck-Sized Horses? Oddball Personality Questions Are Likable (but Useless) for Organizational Recruitment. J Bus Psychol 37, 215–233 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-021-09740-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-021-09740-9

Keywords

  • Oddball interview questions
  • Applicant reaction
  • Organizational attraction
  • Recruitment
  • Humor
  • Scientist-practice gap