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10 unusual interview questions to ask (and what they tell you)

Published: Wednesday 7th October 2020

Applicant reacts to unusual interview questions

We all know the normal interview questions: ‘Tell us about yourself.’ ‘How do you handle conflict?’ ‘What’s your biggest flaw?’

These interview questions are useful to use during interviews. But applicants know them too well. Most will have prepared answers that sound good but tell you little about who they are. And the purpose of an interview is to get a real good look at your candidate.

Want to shake up your interview process?

Here are 10 unusual interview questions and what they’ll tell you about the candidate.

If your working style had to be an animal, which would you pick?

This is another way of asking, ‘Describe yourself in three words’, but allows the candidate to display some creativity. Asking them to come up with an animal may spark some ideas, highlighting aspects of their character they wouldn’t normally choose to broadcast.

You have a dinner party planned. You can only invite famous people. Who do you invite?

This is a good way to figure out if the candidate is a good fit culturally for your organization. The figures they choose will tell you what issues they find compelling and what ideas they believe represent their personality. For instance, if someone says that they want a group of novelists at their dinner party, they may not be the best fit with an office full of football enthusiasts.

Name five unique ways you can use a brick (other than building).

A great way to test a candidate’s creativity and spontaneity is to ask them to make the mundane extraordinary. (After all, what could be more mundane than a brick?) Unique and intriguing answers that you wouldn’t expect may be the sign of a highly creative mind.

How many pennies could fit in this room?

This is a great way to test a candidate’s numerical and abstract thinking abilities. Ideally, the candidate will walk you through their answer and how they got to their result. It may also give you an idea of how they approach problems. Do they take the questions literally (ie the mass of the room / the height depth and width of a penny) or metaphorically (why are we putting pennies in this room in the first place)?

Let’s say you’re interviewing me for a job. What do you want to know about me?

This question is a great way to test a candidate’s candor. It will also give you the opportunity to find out what they will value in their next job and their next manager.

What’s the riskiest thing you’ve ever done professionally?

This question is a good way to test your candidate’s judgement, not just in what they did, but also in what they choose to reveal and conceal. It will also give you a sense of what the person will be like to work with, and how likely they are to stick to well-worn tracks.

We’re playing a game. Do you agree to play? Good. You move first.

If you want to know how a candidate thinks on their feet and can handle out-of-left-field questions, this is a great one to use. The question is, at base, a bit unfair and vexing, and how they react will give you a good idea of how they may handle difficult situations.

You’re put on a team with someone you don’t like. What’s more, they don’t like you, and you believe they are indirectly sabotaging your work. What do you do about it?

Everyone will have worked with someone they don’t like. How people deal with those situations can tell you how they approach conflict and relationship management.

What’s something you haven’t told us that we’ll probably find out in a few months?

Tough interview questions

This question will give you an opportunity to get things out of the way, but will also give you a sense of how honest your candidate can be, particularly about their potential flaws.

Tell me about a mistake you made and what you did about it.

Everyone makes mistakes. Not everyone can admit to it. This question will tell you how your candidate might handle difficult situations, whether they’re willing to admit to mistakes, and how they react to those situations.

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