Rumor has it that Google was the one to popularize the trend of asking job applicants quirky interview questions in the recruitment process, inspiring many other companies to hop on the bandwagon. However, Google’s head of people operations Laszlo Bock later wrote a book called “Work Rules” in which he mentions that questions of this kind are actually “a waste of everyone’s time.” While some will probably agree with that, others (including ourselves) choose to sprinkle in a few creative and unpredictable questions during hiring interviews because, well, they’re more fun!
You might be thinking, what’s the point of oddball questions anyway?
The short answer to that is this: a candidate’s responses to these questions can reflect their personality, creativity, problem-solving skills, how well they think on their feet, and whether or not they would fit the company culture. For the most part though, there’s no right or wrong answer; it’s more about how they answer that makes them stand out, rather than what their answer is. Besides, fun questions are a great way to break the ice and tone down any nervousness that may come up naturally during the interviewing process.
Let’s dive right in! Here are 8 of our favorite out-of-the-box interview questions to ask, and what they can reveal:
1. Do you consider yourself lucky?
The favorite question of Jeff Bezos—yes, the man behind Amazon—and one of the wealthiest people on the planet! While it may seem like a bit of an awkward question at first, it’s an interesting way to get a feel for the candidate’s general attitude and outlook on life. Their answers can reflect a range of qualities; whether they give off a sense of optimism and gratitude, or agency and accountability, all answers are welcome.
2. If you could be any animal, which one would you be and why?
This is a great one for assessing both a candidate’s level of self-awareness and what they aspire to be like. For centuries, humans have been looking at animals as a source of inspiration – whether for fashion, architecture or engineering, animals play a huge role in the way that we relate to the world around us.
On a more personal level, especially when we were kids, we have the tendency to observe the natural world with awe and wonder. We want to be as strong as a lion, as fast as a cheetah, as free as an eagle, and so on.
For this reason, asking this question gives the candidates a chance to use the animal to represent their character traits. Pay more attention to why candidates choose certain animals, and you’ll get a sense of their personalities.
An example of a good answer to this would be as follows: “If I could be an animal, I would choose to be a lion, because not only are they symbols of strength and courage, but they also have big hearts. All other big cats live solitary lives, but lions are social animals that live in groups and thrive through teamwork. Not only that, but lions are also the smartest of all big cats!”
3. Teach me something I don’t know
Another famous interview question popularized by someone highly influential, one of the creators of Google’s search engine: Sergey Brin. This prompt is one way to shine some light on a candidate’s communication, quick thinking, and presentation, whatever they choose to teach you.
This is also a way to see what candidates can bring to the table beyond the required set of skills or educational background, which isn’t always mandatory, but a nice bonus point.
4. If you were given $10 million to help solve a world problem, what problem would you choose and how would you contribute to the solution?
Getting a glimpse of what candidates care about will be helpful in assessing their core values as well as their creativity and problem solving skills. It’s a great way to dig a little deeper on what matters to them outside of work and gauge whether their personal values align with those of the company. Plus, this question can go a long way in humanizing candidates by uncovering positive traits like compassion, altruism, and empathy.
5. If you could be any country, which one would you be and why?
Much like the question about animals, this one is another way to get a sense of the candidate’s personality. Again, their why is what will be interesting here, whether they choose a country for its landscapes, cultural traditions, food, or laws, there’s no incorrect answer – just breaking the ice and getting to know each other better.
6. Which do you think needs more time: learning how to swim, or learning how to walk, and why?
This is one way to highlight a candidate’s critical thinking skills. What’s so useful about questions like this is that each candidate will have their own unique ways of thinking and responding – and that uniqueness itself will help you see each candidate’s individuality, as opposed to hearing rehearsed answers that probably won’t be as original or authentic.
7. How do you define a great meal, and can you describe the last one you had that fits this definition?
Many of us likely wouldn’t want to pass up an opportunity to talk about our favorite dish. This is another engaging way to get a candidate to uncover their communication and presentation skills, all while getting to know their likes and dislikes.
8. What is the difference between compassion and empathy?
Emotional intelligence in the workplace is one of the most critical leadership skills, and assessing a candidate’s emotional compass is key to understanding whether they’re the right fit for your team. It’s been said that EQ is even more important than IQ – because your IQ might get you the job, but EQ can get you fired.
That’s all for now!
While all of these questions and prompts don’t really serve as ultimate decision-making points, they can definitely make the process more engaging, while giving you a bit of insight into who you’re talking to, enabling you to see the “person” rather than just the “applicant.”
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