Other than stapling, what are five ways you could use a stapler?

This single is most revealing interview question because of it:

Breaks the ice.

People tend to expect the same prescribed questions during an interview and you can tell when their answers have been rehearsed. When I feel someone going through the motions, not fully engaged, I throw this one at them. Its unexpectedness is jarring, gets a laugh, and loosens everyone up. From then on the mood changes to a real conversation. I want to know someone as they are when they’re not on stage with a rehearsed performance. If the interviewee fails to break out of their nervousness, doesn’t laugh but instead panics, it’s not going to be a good fit. I want people on my team that can break from a stressful situation, get out of their heads, and laugh with each other.

Tests focus.

Once we’ve had a good laugh, I expect to return to the answer. Many people have trouble bouncing back, forgetting the question. Not a great sign. You should be paying attention enough to redirect and get back to the task at hand.

Reveals their problem solving skills.

It’s surprising how few people are able to answer this question during an interview. When I first started using it I figured it’d stump and weed out a few, but around 80% of applicants could only give me 1 or 2 alternative uses, or nothing at all. How disappointing. Solving problems under pressure is one of the most critical skills you must have. I want to see you take the ridiculous proposal, break it into parts, analyze it, and spit out options. You can guarantee the interview isn’t the last time you’ll be thrown something to solve quickly, and the next time it’s going to be harder. I haven’t hired anyone that couldn’t give me 4 or 5 uses.

Tests creativity.

The alternative uses you could give for a stapler are potentially endless. Let’s say you’re one of the few that bounces back from the laugh and gives a handful of options. The actual response at this point matters. Most of the remaining applicants will give 4 or 5 versions of the same thing: a paperweight, a door stop, a flower press, a hammer, etc. They’re all technically different, but very similar in use. A creative problem solver is going to give a wide range of options. On the job, this is what we expect from our best team members, too – throwing out the unexpected, constantly generating a variety of feasible ideas. I want to see that you’re focused but limitless. A staple gun, a club, a projectile, a musical instrument, replacement parts, sewing apparatus, exercise weight, match starter…

What started as a test joke turned out to be the most valuable question I’ve asked during interviews. It gives you personality, attention, flexibility, agility, creativity, and more. The stapler test reveals the important things you need to know that a resume isn’t telling yo

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