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Wacky interview questions may help employers hire the best workers

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The job prospect has aced all the standard interview questions, but off-the-wall questions may be the best trick employers can use to glean insight into how a hot prospect thinks.

Imagine that a candidate has skillfully answered what his top strengths and some weaknesses are. Now consider asking: "Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?" Or, what would that candidate do if she found a penguin in the freezer? Could she guess how many basketballs would fit inside the interview room?

While traditional interview questions are a great way of opening the interview and making a candidate feel comfortable, unconventional questions can move the interview beyond a rote Q&A session to an authentic conversation that can help a hiring manager learn more about a candidate.

These questions may sound like they are from some wacky game show. But they are real interview questions being asked by today’s employers. These questions aim to dig deeper and get to know the candidates better.

These questions are intended to surface information related to a candidate’s ability to problem solve and understanding their motivations. Unusual job interview questions typically don’t have any right or wrong answers. These questions are an opportunity for candidates to demonstrate that they can think fast on their feet, show poise under stress, think outside the box, and reveal more of their personality.

This can also be a great way to assess culture fit. A question that asks a candidate “if they could be any animal, what would it be and why?” can provide insight into a job seeker’s personality and thought process. Understanding these attributes is key to determining whether or not a candidate would mesh well with company culture.

Unconventional questions don’t have to be completely off the wall. Instead of asking a candidate about their greatest weakness, hiring managers should consider asking things like, “what did you learn about yourself in your previous role?” and “what challenges did you face in this role and how did you overcome them?” Answers to these questions provide the hiring manager with visibility into how a candidate learns from different situations, as well as their ability to problem solve.

Enhancing candidate experience is another good reason to ask unusual interview questions. Repeating the same questions through several rounds of interviews is not only tedious for the candidate, but it does not reflect well on the employer brand. Changing questions up will make the process more engaging and valuable for both the candidate and the hiring manager.

An unconventional approach to interview questions should not be overused nor should these types of questions be asked for the sole purpose of throwing a candidate off guard. Each question should be aimed at gaining a clear understanding of a candidate’s work style, values and motivations to determine if they are a good organizational fit.

While interview questions like "how would you sell hot cocoa in Florida?" or “if you were on an island and could only bring three things, what would you bring?” are certainly unconventional, hiring managers are now using this approach to elicit natural, unrehearsed responses that reveal more about candidates from how they think and how they react under stress, to their personality and what motivates them. Digging deeper and getting to know candidates with unconventional interview questions provides valuable insights that can help hiring managers make the best hires for their organization.

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