It’s no secret that Apple is known as one of the world’s top employers, which in turn attracts some of the world’s top talent. Being in the fortunate position of receiving a high volume of applicants, the tech giant faces the challenge all hiring managers face, but on a large scale: How to quickly weed through candidates that seem great on paper to discover the best fit for the real world.
Apple has found the solution–and it’s been brilliantly using it under the radar.
To find the best fit for its open positions, Apple deploys three tests during interviews, all unbeknownst to interviewees. Much like the company’s strangely genius interview question, “Is a coconut a fruit?”–which tests a candidate’s ability to roll with distractions and humor others the way one might in a day in the office–its undercover interview tests help uncover which candidates are a great fit for the team’s dynamic and company culture.
While Apple utilizes group interviews to eliminate time-consuming one-on-ones, saving time isn’t its only purpose. There’s another benefit to the group interview structure that Apple’s brilliant recruiting team is secretly scrutinizing: social dynamics. Group interviews or not, it’s a useful indicator that every business should consider when making hiring decisions.
It’s what enables Apple to find not only the most intelligent and qualified candidates, but also the ones best suited to join a particular team (complete with its own social dynamics, unique goals, and path to said goals). Here are the three secret tests.
Test #1: The pre-interview social assessment
Candidates are being tested long before their first video call begins. But what some might not realize is that they’re also being tested as soon as the video call begins–which is generally for a period of around 10 minutes. While it might not sound like a lot, for candidates all vying for the same position it could feel like ages.
To add another layer to the pre-interview jitters, and perhaps to distract candidates from studying up on their interview notes, the interviewer or recruiter often asks icebreaker questions a minute or so before the start of the meeting.
How quick you are to answer seemingly trivial questions, how comfortable you are with answering questions and thinking on your feet, and the degree to which you have respect and decorum towards your fellow interviewees can say a lot about a candidate.
While some might be quick to jump, stepping on toes in the process and giving a humblebrag of an answer, others might be more cognizant of others and gracefully give a more genuine response.
Test #2: The open-forum presentation of questions
During Apple’s group interviews, the recruiter or interviewer asks the group open-ended questions, open-forum style. In other words, a question is asked and candidates are free to answer in any order they please. While this lends to conversational interviews that replicate a brainstorming session, it more importantly tests candidates on their approach to team meetings.
This classroom-style approach to asking questions within an open forum reveals each candidate’s unique style when it comes to team dynamics. Much like in grade school when a teacher asks their class a question, there are some evident personality-types that quickly emerge after a few rounds of questions.
For example, some will jump to answer every question first, whether or not they have a well-thought out answer. Others may seek to elevate themselves by discounting the responses of their peers. And some sit back quietly, out of respect for their peers, giving themselves time to build a thorough response.
Not surprisingly, Apple’s group interviews reveal much the same. And its highly telling of which candidates are the best suited for a particular role and its unique team dynamics. According to an article published in the Harvard Business Review, high-performance teams start with a culture of shared values.
Test #3: The evolution of dynamics throughout the interview
The group interview enables Apple to get to know how candidates interact with not only the interviewers that they are trying to impress but also their fellow candidates whom they are competing against for the job. By the end of a group interview, Apple is able to see whether the social dynamics evolved from the initial pre-interview chit-chat to the interview where candidates have switched gears from friendly banter to competition.
Generally, people try to build connections through shared commonalities, which is something Apple might see at the start of the interview. But once people go into competition mode, there’s a tendency to shift gears from trying to relate to one another and move towards trying to stand out from one another, says the “Psychology Behind Competitiveness.”
What Apple is ultimately doing, that many businesses both large and small tend to overlook, is seeking candidates that are a good fit for the team they would be joining. To find the best candidate for your open role, you don’t need to start hosting group interviews. But you may want to gain a solid understanding of what the team dynamics are. And with that, the type of personality that would be ideal for the progress of the team and its goals, in addition to the required skills and experience necessary to perform the job.