Weird and Unique Job Interview Questions
Lynne Sarikas, director of the MBA Career Center at the Northeastern University business school, believes that more and more businesses are asking unusual job interview questions as part of their candidate job interview process.
Microsoft's job interview questions are legendary (examples include: How many golf balls does it take to fill a 747? Why is a manhole cover round?). But, Microsoft, at least in their developer interviews, appears to have moved away from puzzle questions and is asking candidates to solve whiteboard code problems during interviews instead.
However, other employers are using unusual questions in their candidate selection process for new reasons. The job search advice industry is so prolific that any candidate who researches knows he should prepare brief responses in advance to frequent standard questions. These include job interview questions such as: "what are your strengths and weaknesses" and "what makes you the most qualified candidate for this job."
Interviewers use unusual job interview questions 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 job interview questions provide the candidate with the opportunity, according to Sarikas, "to demonstrate quick thinking, poise, creativity, and even a sense of humor."
She 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 is able to observe how the candidate responds and composes his or her thoughts. 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, in all of these cases that you know what you are looking for with each weird and unique job interview question that you ask. Part of your hopes can target any insightful responses and another part can target facets such as how quickly the candidate recovers from a surprise question.
Example Tough/Unusual Job Interview Questions
Sarikas suggests using a couple 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, whom would you be?
- If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom 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
Simply, 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. (Additional suggested behavioral job interview questions follow.)
- 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 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 he/she 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 thoughtful information about the candidates you interview. Use both for effective candidate selection.