Two Key Questions to Ask to a PhD Candidate for a Leadership Role

Two Key Questions to Ask to a PhD Candidate for a Leadership Role


These are not business questions, but soft questions that should make any PhD candidate relaxed, even intrigued, and open to talk freely. There is no wrong answer, these are open questions, but some answers could hint that the candidate is still in his/her PhD bubble, feeling superior, not flexible, and unable to see the big picture behind the apparently innocent question. These questions were asked discretely, none of the responders knew about my PhD mathematical background. 

Author of this article
I’ve posted them on Quora and other platforms attracting PhD scientists. Below is a summary of what I experienced.
Are all numbers created equal? Are prime numbers superior to other numbers?
While this looks like an innocent question (mostly a philosophical question that appeals to math PhD’s), answers that are a red flag — and I have seen many of them — include:  

Numbers are not equal: 2 is different from 3. Pi is different from SQRT(2). 
The number 3 is superior to 2, and 2.00001 is superior to 2.00000. Again, same problem here, and you don’t want to hire a PhD candidate providing this kind of answer. The candidate understands “superior” in his own framework, but can not relate to what the interviewer (usually not a mathematician) has in mind.

This mindset is typical of someone not flexible to think out of the box, and can be an indicator of tunnel vision.
Are the digits of Pi random?
A typical answer that would make me reluctant to hire the candidate, is:

The digits of Pi come from a deterministic algorithm. They are absolutely not random. You can then ask: Which numbers do you think have digits distributed as it was random? Or how do you simulate randomness? In one case, a math PhD went as far as to say that you can not have any kind of distribution on an infinite set of digits. You have to wonder why the layman understands this concept, but some PhD statisticians do not. Again, it is a tunnel vision issue. 

For related articles from the same author, click here or visit www.VincentGranville.com. Follow me on on LinkedIn.
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Link: Two Key Questions to Ask to a PhD Candidate for a Leadership Role