I met a software developer recently, who studied physics as an undergrad. He's now working in an IT organization on financial processing software.
He's part of the interviewing team for his organization. They're trying to hire 6-7 more developers before the end of the year. He told me, “I like to ask a question about physics, to see how smart the candidates are.” I asked him how many candidates he'd rejected due to his question. “Only 2 out of 5.”
Ouch. He rejected 2 potential candidates not because of an answer that's relevant to the job, but to an answer that is irrelevant to the job.
Instead of asking a question that you think will get you information about how smart a candidate is, ask questions that really tell you what you need to know.
- “Tell me about a time you had to learn an application quickly. What did you do?”
- “Tell me about a time you had to bring someone else up to speed on a system. What did you do?”
- “Tell me about a time you got stuck on a problem. What did you do?”
All of these questions are much better than asking a candidate about physics, art history, Spanish, or anything else you took in school. And, they're relevant to the job.
Don't ask about physics. Ask about job-relevant experiences. You won't be falsely rejecting potential candidates. And you won't be opening yourself up to a lawsuit about discrimination. Ask about issues relevant to the job you have open now, not experiences you had in school.