There is a lot of practical advice out there for conducting interviews effectively. Mostly, this is based around the fact that many of the questions that really help you get to know a person are illegal to ask in a job interviews. I recently heard a claim that the best question to ask is: What single project would you consider the most significant accomplishment in your career so far? Meh, it’s ok.I think I have one even better: How do you build a fort?
This has become my favorite question to ask in an interview. You would be amazed at how much you learn about a person when they respond. Often the first response is, “Can you be more specific?” or “What kind of fort?” Nope, you don’t get anything else, you just have to answer the question, “How do you build a fort?”
In a given interview series, I got the following answers:
“Well, I guess you would want to find an open area where you can build a moat. Then you would want to put a plan together, taking local materials into account, to get everyone on the same page. Then you assign tasks and start building it.”
“Out of wood?”
“I am a big fan of turrets. You gotta have turrets and towers on every corner.”
“I guess it depends on what era of history you are fighting in.”
“You start by taking inventory of all the cushions in the house. Sofa cushions are the best. From there, tall chairs and bed sheets pull it together.”
The last one there is the one I hired. Just think about everything those answers tell you about a person’s ability to problem solve, use their imagination, be open, what they see as important, and what kind of culture they come from. Just make sure you stick to the question, no clarification, no context, just “How do you build a fort?”
When finding people for your company, especially if you have a strong internal culture, finding people who “fit” or “get it” are important. Asking what their best project was tells you they are capable, asking “How do you build a fort?” tells you if you will enjoy working with them.