How not to hire

Earlier in the year, the Xero Australia managing director revealed his “dark secret” of assessing people on whether they took their coffee mug to the sink to be washed up after an interview. His reasoning…

“We really want to make sure we have people that have a sense of ownership. Culture comes from the ground up.” There was a huge backlash after this article with HR experts and hiring managers questioning how this was a fair test of people’s ownership, it would have been easier to just ask them a question. Interviews are stressful enough for candidates already without the need to worry about random hidden tests or agendas of interviewers. This got us thinking about what other things do people randomly assess candidates on when it comes to job interviews.

A firm handshake

This has little to no value. It does not tell you how confident or shy someone is and should not be used as a way of sifting candidates out of the process. If you have made a decision on a person based on the initial handshake you could spend the rest of the interview trying to prove yourself right with confirmation bias rather than giving them a fair chance.


If someone ever asks you “What time of day were you born?” you as a candidate have the right to terminate the interview. Yet some people try to use this as an indicator of someone’s personality and whether they would be a good fit for the team. The accuracy of this approach at predicting job performance is close to Xero.

Hobbies and interests

It’s great if interviewers try and build a bit of rapport with you and find out what you are passionate about outside of work. If you’re applying for apprenticeships or early career roles and you don’t have a lot of work experience this will very likely come up. However, this should not be the only thing that you are assessed on as it can lead to affinity bias, where the interviewer might just try and hire people who are similar to them, with similar interests.

Which Animal?

“If you were an animal what would you be and why?”. I’m not sure how this can be scored. Is there any right or wrong answer? If an interviewer is assessing you using this question then the extent of their interview preparation probably involved Googling “Fun interview questions”


“How many pennies can you fit in this room?” or “How many golf balls are there in America?”

These type of questions are not good predictors of how well someone can do a particular role. Google was notorious for using these type of questions but both Laszlo Bock, ex SVP of people operations and Jenna Wandres from Google stated that candidates hated brainteasers, they were a complete waste of time and didn’t predict anything, especially not future job performance.

Key Takeaways People need to be objective in approach and use data to ensure they’re making accurate hiring decisions. You can’t eliminate the human element from hiring altogether but by using a structured digital approach to interviews you can make sure that you will give candidates a fair chance. Oh and if you go for an interview with Xero bring your own reusable coffee cup and you’ll be hired on the spot.