Is apple a fruit or a coconut: Job interview questions become more creative

An outlier interview question decides the difference between the productivity of an average performer and a star

Published: 22nd August 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st August 2021 09:34 AM   |  A+A-

For representational purposes

The pandemic has changed the office. Working from home is the new normal and virtual job interviews have taken precedence over face-to-face meetings. But the HR guys haven’t changed, neither have questions like  “Tell me about yourself. Why do you think you are the best candidate for the role? What is your greatest strength and weakness?” Not Apple. Of the most original and outlier questions asked during interviews at Apple is: “Is coconut a fruit?” according to an employee post. The question ostensibly seems bizarre and random, but there is method behind randomness. It is meant to reveal the candidate’s response skills in the fraction of a moment. Many interviewees often make the mistake of not answering or even ignoring the question. 

But there is a definite agenda behind it. Though an apple is a fruit, the interviewers at the world’s top IT company do not really bother if the candidate knows the right answer that the coconut is a fruit, or better a drupe. Their real purpose is to observe how the candidate reacts to the question, the answer, and how the applicant gets back to the main interview. A question like this would be very disconcerting.

The HR inquisitor, like any other interviewer, looks for the candidate’s ability to stay calm, maintain focus and professionalism when confronted with an unexpected query and how he or she takes the speed breaker. The candidate will be judged by the response—will the interviewee accept an outlier question or will they just shrug it away and attempt to redirect the interviewer to the usual tough questions they have prepared for? Apple then makes a character analysis based on the candidate’s ability to explore new perspectives and his curiosity all the while staying focused. 

-What process do they use to arrive at the answer? 

-What is the degree of comfort while confronting the unexpected?  

-Can they be thrown off easily? 

-How will they work and think within a distracting environment? 

-Is one unexpected interruption enough to distract them completely? 

-How do they react to questions or events they assume are trivial? 

-Most importantly, how quickly will the candidate regain his former train of thought? 

The answers will determine who is an average performer and high performer which is crucial to their  productivity. Such innovative methods show that beneath Apple’s relaxed office environment and human approach to choosing the right candidates is as important as their work experience. Perhaps this is also 
a reason why Apple employees are unwilling to return to work now; 80 employees recently wrote to CEO Tim Cook demanding a flexible approach. They want to have the apple and eat the coconut too.

“We would like to take this opportunity to express the growing concern among our colleagues that flexible teleworking and communication policies have forced some of our colleagues to resign, and many of us feel that we must choose between our families, our well-being or become part of Apple.”     


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