Studies have shown that structured interviewing is more than twice as reliable a predictor of future employee performance than unstructured interviewing. That is why most HR managers/recruiters today use structured interviews as the key assessment tool in recruiting. The problem with this systematic style of interviewing is that the interview questions, while originally taxing, have been continuously recycled and over used in the last 20 years. Many of the questions are dated and well-known, making it easier for candidates to research on-line and prepare ideal responses for each question, hide potential weaknesses and over emphasise their strengths.
Employers need to improve their game and need to design and introduce new questions to challenge candidates and catch them off off-guard, allowing the interviewer to discover the real personality and strengths of the candidate.
Below, I have listed some of the weirdest, unusual interview questions that are actually in use today in many international organisations and outlined how you might use them to assess candidates.
1. What circumstance brings you here today?
This is one of the best opening questions ever. If you are not using it, please do. This open ended question surprises many candidates. If they do not respond quickly, just sit quietly and wait for their response. Some candidates reveal problems with their current employer, potential insubordination, and both positive or negative character traits.
2. ‘Name 5 uses of a stapler without staples’.
Yes seriously, this question is used by a leading IT firm in India to assess logic and imagination as well as practical skills. This also assesses candidate’s professionalism and seriousness in the workplace as a stapler is primarily a tool we use at work.
3. Would Mahatma Gandhi Make a Good Software Engineer?
This intriguing question was asked by Deloitte when hiring for Analysts. It allows you to see if the candidate values communication and negotiation skills (something that Gandhi was known for) as part of the software development process. These are of course skills which are likely to be vital in a consulting organization like Deloitte.
4. Room, desk, car, which would you clean first?
This question was put to candidates at Pinkberry (a US frozen yogurt chain) who were interviewing for the position of shift leader. It can show how well or how badly a candidate prioritises, and what processes they adopt when setting priorities.
5. How many different ways can you get water from a lake at the foot of a mountain, up to the top of the mountain?
This question was asked of Project Engineering intern candidates at Disney. This can be used to assess creative thought, creative energy and creative problem solving, as well as ‘out of the box thinking’.
6. What are the first three things you would do on your first day at work here?
This question will show if the candidate is organised and weather they prioritise tasks, or include one item on getting to know the staff and daily activities.
7. If you could be any superhero, who would it be?
Customer Service Representative Interviewees at AT&T faced this question. This is a great way to see what a person’s ambitions, goals and aspirations are, as they will usually choose a superhero that will help them achieve something they cannot achieve now. It will also reveal insight into their perceived weaknesses as they may compensate for this personal limitation in their choice of superhero.
8. What would you do if you just inherited a pizzeria from your uncle?
This question was asked at Volkswagen, for a Business Analyst position. This question will reveal how well the candidate understands business as well as different markets that they have no experience of. It will also assess their commercial decision making, e.g., how do they decide whether to sell, manage, or close the business. What is their decision making process?
9. What is 37 times 37?
This interview question was asked of a trader at Jane Street Capital. This is a great question as it shows how well a candidate’s mathematical abilities stand up under pressure.
10. How would you cure world hunger?
This question was asked at Amazon during software developer interviews. This can simply assess whether the candidates have a social conscience and how creative they are in their thinking. If you are an organization with a strong social agenda or if the position requires big-thinking, then this question would be very useful for you.
Most of these questions above (or others you may come across) don’t have a “right” or “wrong” answer. But how the job-seeker responds will offer insights about their character and self-image. Does the candidate answer with an imaginative flair? With self-confidence? or do they stumble through and appear deflated by the process?