Why Thomas Edison Required Job Applicants To Eat Soup In Front Of Him
The famous inventor had a unique way of finding the best employees
Few people in American history have the reputation of Thomas Edison, a prolific inventor and entrepreneur, whose work still widely impacts most people around the world to this day. What were the secrets to his incredible success? It turns out one of them was a unique requirement he had for prospective new employees that they eat a bowl of soup in front of him before they’d be considered for a job.
During his lifetime (1847–1931), Edison obtained a jaw-dropping 1,093 patents. Among his innovations were early versions of light bulbs (although he did not invent the light bulb), the phonograph, movie cameras and alkaline storage batteries. However, he couldn’t do it all himself and had a large and talented staff through the years in his research labs. Accordingly, he had to make sure he was getting the right people.
Edison liked to be personally involved in choosing staff. When new positions opened for research jobs at his labs he was there to give the candidates a thorough vetting. He came to find a favorite method for finding the right people was by offering them a bowl of soup and then watching them eat it.
The reason for this soup test was that the famous inventor wanted to see if the applicants added salt and pepper before tasting what was in their bowl, or if they waited until they tasted it before proceeding with the seasoning. Edison immediately rejected the premature seasoners, as he reasoned he didn’t want employees who relied on assumptions. In his opinion, those who were content to abide by preconceived notions had no place in his business because the absence of curiosity and willingness to ask questions were antithetical to innovation.
Make no mistake about it, this was not a situation where a candidate was interviewing in an office and inexplicably had a bowl of soup thrust in front of them. Instead, they were typically invited out for a meal and soup would be ordered for those present, putting the applicant on the spot to unwittingly show their true colors by how they went at the starter. As Edison once said, “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s…