Snowflake Test: Should You Use This to Screen Candidates?

Organizations today depend on human capital, perhaps more than ever before. This makes talent acquisition and retention a key factor for success.

Yet, few entrepreneurs or business owners get their hiring process right, especially when starting up. Sadly, in the absence of properly validated screening tools, business leaders glam onto things that may be detrimental to the selection process.

Look at the snowflake test as an example.

A top executive came up with the test to eliminate a specific type of job applicant. Although this executive got a lot of attention and messages of support from business leaders, the snowflake test also hit a nerve.

If you’re going to introduce the snowflake test as part of your screening process, you may want to reconsider this move.

You won’t be as cool as Tesla or Apple when you hire people. As a matter of fact, you could potentially ruin the reputation of your business when you give this as a pop quiz to applicants.

What is the Snowflake Test?

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Let’s first take a look at what this test is. A snowflake test is a screening tool designed by Kyle Reyes, the CEO of Silent Partner Marketing. The goal of this CEO-inspired candidate screening test is to help interviews recognize overconfident and self-righteous people who believe that they are one of a kind and better than everybody else.

The snowflake test will also identify and weed out “snowflake” applicants.

By definition, a snowflake is an individual who will complain or whine and come to the table with nothing but an inability to back their perspective and an entitled attitude. Applicants taking the snowflake test will need to answer a 30-question short-answer and essay-style test.

Sample Snowflake Test Questions

Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash

If you’re going to apply at a company known for giving snowflake tests to applicants, try not to be shocked at the questions thrown at you.

Here are some questions that you may find in this special exam:

  • What is your typical breakfast?
  • What do you think is more important? Street smarts or book smarts? Explain your answer.
  • When was the last time you cried? Why?
  • What is your opinion on the word “faith”?
  • How do you handle bullies?
  • Do you think we should issue “trigger warnings” before releasing content that people may consider controversial?
  • What do you do when you see someone stepping on the American flag?

Some of these questions and situations seem irrelevant to a job or too personal at first glance. By analyzing the responses to these questions, though, the interviewer can supposedly tell the kind of person sitting in front and determine if the applicant is a good fit for the company.

Is the Snowflake Test an Effective Hiring Tactic?

Using the snowflake test in your business can be tempting, as the questions can throw even the most prepared job applicants off their game. This hiring tactic, however, will do more harm to your organization than good.

Here’s why:

The Test Encourages Job Candidates to Lie

The job candidates that “pass” this test are people who provide responses that the interviewer wants to hear — and not necessarily the truth. Although the publicity around the infamous snowflake test has gotten Reyes’ company a ton of applicants, many of them know the types of responses he’s looking for.

If you know the questions to the snowflake test, you’ll research and provide the “correct answer” that will get you hired, even if the response is far from the truth. This is what you call “gaming the system.”

The Test Builds a Culture of Fear

This test only serves to determine surface value while potentially degrading individuals simultaneously. The job of a leader is to uplift, inspire and motivate a team to succeed. The test seems to have the opposite effect, as it builds a culture of fear.

Giving the snowflake test tells workers that the company is judging them for their opinions and beliefs from day one. If they ever want to present a new idea, they’ll be afraid to speak out due to fear of punishment for being different.

Business Leaders Could Land in Legal Trouble

Several questions on the snowflake test may cross the legal line of discrimination.

One of the questions in the test asks an applicant what faith means to them. Although this does not ask a person’s religion directly, the applicant could misconstrue to imply that query.

This line of questioning may appear innocuous at first glance, but this is likely to give the interviewer info about the job candidate’s country of origin. This, unfortunately, is a question that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) frowns upon.

What are the Alternatives to the Snowflake Test?  

So what’s the legally sensible way to screen job applicants? The answer is to stick to job-related questions instead of throwing questions from the snowflake test.

Here’s an example: if you have a person applying for a customer service representative post, pose a scenario where a customer is obnoxious to the employee. Ask the applicant how they would respond to that irate customer.

If you need help coming up with interview questions, use data-driving hiring platforms, such as Traitify and Caliper. These tools help HR managers identify candidates who fit a particular role based on skills and personality assessments.

The snowflake test has the potential to give professionally developed candidate assessments a bad name. Business leaders who foolishly implement this test in their hiring process will eventually realize that this assessment is a complete waste of time.

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