Conflating “What is a superpower you would give to your best friend?” for a brainteaser like “How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane?” explains article’s disappointing lack of quality.
Is there empirical data that clearly demonstrates the correlation between “Super Power” related interview questions favoring candidates of one gender? I very much want to see the industry go through a correction in regards to the gender split, but I doubt this quasi scientific article is helping the effort.
Also, is there a specific reason that DropBox was singled out regarding this relatively common interviewing tactic?
I think Dropbox was singled out because it has so few women on its engineering team. That’s probably not exactly fair though, since an engineering team of 143 is still relatively small so it’s bound to be skewed. I once worked at a startup around the same size and I can only remember one woman on the engineering team (although there were a few technically-trained women on support).
But more importantly, is this interviewing tactic relatively common? I’ve interviewed at several large tech companies and a few startups, and I was never asked any questions like the ones mentioned in this article.
Why is a small team “bound to be skewed”?
Probability. Flip a coin a few times. The percentage of times heads comes up after 10 tosses will probably be much farther away from 50% than after 1000 tosses. There is a lot more variation when the sample size is small.
Also, I’m not sure where they got the “18% of the hiring pool are women” number from. I guess they were going by the percentage of female CS grads. But consider that not everyone who graduates with a CS degree wants to be a software engineer.
I have been asked similar questions once or twice. The prevalence of those types of questions in your standard interview may be over stated though.
Why can’t they just ask normal technical interview questions? How “creative” do you need your engineering team to be? Maybe if you are hiring a product manager you’d want to know that the candidate is creative and can think outside the box. For a software engineer, I don’t see how it’s important. You just want to know that they can code and problem-solve effectively.
Solving problems effectively requires creativity.
I have to think that answering these sorts of questions in a manner that pleases the interviewer is only weakly correlated with problem solving ability in the large. It is likely strongly correlated with shared culture.
Google’s evidence supports your contention.
OK, I’ll grant that. I guess what I’m saying is that the kind of creativity that helps you solve engineering problems is different from the kind that helps you BS answers to questions about superheroes and income inequality. If you’re hiring for an engineering position, isn’t it better to test the former instead of the latter? I consider myself pretty creative when it comes to coming up with project ideas and solutions to technical problems, but I would certainly feel uncomfortable if someone asked me one of the questions mentioned in the article.
I think that by most measures Dropbox has been extremely successful as a company. So it’s not as though they need to change to survive.
One thing I have been wondering about recently: If women are undervalued in technology (as articles like this often claim), then why aren’t there tech companies employing Moneyball style hiring practices to hire up all of this top talent on the cheap?