6 Out-Of-The-Box Interview Questions to Keep Candidates On Their Toes

Published: November 6, 2014 Author: Clearpoint Tags: Manager's Corner

As a hiring manager or recruiter, job interviews are your standard tool for weeding through applicants to find the perfect person for the job. However, the problem with standard tools is that everyone knows how they work--including job applicants.

Today's job seekers have vast amounts of information at their fingertips, including tons of advice on preparing for interviews by researching and pre-answering the questions you're most likely to ask. How can you avoid hearing nothing but canned responses from your most prepared interviewees?

One great way to accomplish this is the use of unorthodox, non-standard interview questions. Tossing a few out-of-the-box questions into your standard interview format will help you ensure that the candidates are paying attention, and give you a way to measure their ability to think on their feet.

Here are several non-standard interview questions you can consider including in your next round of interviews to help you choose the perfect candidate.

How do you typically spend your weekends?

This question is unexpected because it's not related to the position being filled--but in a way, it is. If you have a casual or laid-back workplace, this is a good interview question to use to get a feel for your applicants' interests, hobbies, and even their typical modes of operation.

By asking about weekend activities, you can learn whether a candidate is staying busy and productive when no one is looking, whether the candidate is structured or more of a free spirit, and whether they engage in activities that relate to their profession--even when they aren't getting paid for it.

Tell me a joke.

While this is technically not a question, it can be a good way to test a candidate's ability to think fast. Here, the actual humor of the joke shouldn't matter as much as the quickness of the response, and the tone of the delivery. If it's witty and made to sound funny, this demonstrates solid communication skills.

What was your biggest failure, and who was responsible for it?

This question is a twist on a standard interview question. Most employers include some version of asking candidates about their perceptions of their own flaws or weaknesses, but this question can let you know whether the interviewee is willing to accept responsibility for his or her actions. The best responses will expand on "who was responsible" and explain what the candidate did to correct the situation, learn from it, and grow through the experience.

If you could choose any one book to be stuck on an island with for the rest of your life½how did you end up on the island?

This "trick" question tests candidates to see how they react in situations that are distracting and require fast thought. While asking the first part of the question, the candidate will have a particular book already in mind. But when the actual question is completed, they'll have to disregard the answer that was formed and change their thought process to respond.

If a candidate answers with a book title, it may indicate poor listening skills.

Ask me a question that isn't about work.

Another that isn't really a question, this statement prompts candidates to think of something interesting or useful to explore with the opportunity to get information from you. The response can help you evaluate how the candidate goes about obtaining information, and what kind of effort they're willing to expend in order to get a good answer.

What traffic sign would you be, and why?

With this question, you can gain insight into how candidates see themselves by providing a safe and widely known set of imageries. This question can also show you how creative a candidate is, demonstrates whether they can think on their feet, and helps to reveal innovative tendencies and an ability to explain concepts in familiar, easy-to-understand terms.

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