Legend Says Thomas Edison Tested Interviewees By Watching Them Eat Soup – How True Is It?

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockJan 12 2022, 17:25 UTC
Thomas Edison, pictured without soup.

Thomas Edison, pictured without soup. Image credit: Everett collection/

A lot of wacky interview techniques have been invented over the years. Microsoft occasionally asks interviewees the area of a triangle that can't possibly exist. Google used to ask questions ranging from "how much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?" to "explain the significance of 'dead beef.'"

However, one of the weirdest ones we've stumbled across has to be Thomas Edison's alleged way of weeding out candidates: making them eat soup in front of him.


In what was arguably his worst invention, the soup test involved allegedly involved offering potential research assistants a bowl of soup. As nice as being offered a big bowl of soup at an interview sounds, it was essentially a trap. Edison, according to various publications over the years, was looking to see how the candidates approached the soup – specifically whether they salted and peppered the soup before they had even tried it.

According to the legend, he would reject anyone who added seasoning to their soup before they had even tasted it, on the grounds that they made assumptions before they had collected the data (in this case: how delicious is this lovely big bowl of soup).

As fun as it sounds, it is almost certainly not true. The story, dating back as early as 1973 according to Snopes, has been attributed to IBM; Ford; J.C. Penney for some reason; and General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander of the Southwest Pacific theater during World War II. In reality, it's more likely that Edison weeded out the job applicants during a completely soupless interview, with nary a crouton in sight.

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