Lynne Sarikas, director of the MBA Career Center at Northeastern University's business school, believes more businesses are asking unusual job interview questions as part of their hiring process.
The Reason Behind Unusual Interview Questions
Interviewers use unusual job interview question to assess how well the candidate responds to an unexpected question or scenario. Most unusual job interview questions do not have right or wrong answers. These questions provide the candidate with the opportunity "to demonstrate quick thinking, poise, creativity, and even a sense of humor," Sarikas says.
"The interviewers are trying to catch a glimpse of the unrehearsed candidate in an unguarded moment. There is no way to prepare for these off-the-wall job interview questions, so the interviewer can observe how the candidate responds and composes (their) thoughts," says Sarikas. "Some interviewers also ask unusual job interview questions to gain insight into the candidate's thought processes—they want to see how the candidate will think about the unusual job interview question."
Make sure, however, that you know what you are looking for with each weird and unique job interview question you ask. With one question you may be looking for any insightful responses, while another question seeks to show how quickly the candidate recovers from the surprise question.
Example Tough/Unusual Job Interview Questions
Sarikas suggests using several of the following job interview questions during an interview to assess your candidate's skills and cultural fit:
- If you could be any character in fiction, who would you be?
- If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see play the lead role as you?
- If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
- If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be?
- If you had to be shipwrecked on a deserted island, but all your human needs—such as food and water—were taken care of, what two items would you want to have with you?
- If you had six months with no obligations or financial constraints, what would you do with the time?
- If you had only six months left to live, what would you do with the time?
- If you could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be and why?
- If you could compare yourself with any animal, which would it be and why?
- If you were a type of food, what type of food would you be?
- If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money?
- If you were a salad, what kind of dressing would you want?
- How do I rate as an interviewer?
- If you were a car, what type would you be?
- Who do you admire most and why?
- In the news story of your life, what would the headline say?
Behavioral Job Interview Questions
Behavioral interview questions ask how the candidate handled similar situations in the past. They don't ask a candidate to look into a crystal ball and predict their future behavior. Sarikas suggests the following questions as general, basic behavioral job interview questions:
- Describe a situation when you took a risk professionally. What was the outcome?
- Tell me about a time others disagreed with your recommended course of action. How did you persuade them to accept your plans and what were the results?
- Describe a situation where you worked effectively as part of a team to accomplish a goal on time and within budget. What was your role? What did you learn?
- Describe a situation in which you worked as part of a team, but your team failed to accomplish the goal on time and within budget. What was your role? What did you learn?
- How would your current boss or a team member describe you? What would they say are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- Describe a complex problem you had to solve and walk me through your thinking as you solved it.
- Tell me about a creative solution you developed for a challenging situation or problem.
- Describe a situation working with a group or team where there was interpersonal conflict. Describe how you approached the conflict. What worked and what didn't? How did you manage the outcome?
- Describe a situation you feel you should have handled differently.
- Describe a situation in which you aspired to reach a goal. What obstacles did you confront along the way? What did you do to overcome them?
- What is the most stressful situation you have handled and what was the outcome?
- Tell me about a time when you had to win someone over to your way of thinking. How did you accomplish this? What was the outcome?
Behavioral job interview questions are your best approach during candidate job interviews. But, the occasional unusual job interview question has the potential to yield surprising and thoughtful information about the candidates you interview. Use both for effective candidate selection.