Are you asking unique interview questions?
Or are you asking everyday, run-of-the-mill ones?
Think about it this way: Those general questions everyone asks will likely get you equally general answers. Unique job interview questions tend to reveal unique answers, giving you insights into whether an interviewee is a good cultural fit, what kind of problem-solving skills they may have, and whether they have the right soft skills for a particular role.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common interview questions people ask when searching for professionals, the creative interview questions you should be asking candidates, and so much more.
Common Interview Questions
Here are some of the typical non-technical interview questions most employers ask:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are your greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses?
- Where do you see yourself in half a decade?
- Why did you apply for this position?
- Why are you leaving your current employer?
- Do you have any questions for me?
While these are common questions, they're also very general and may not lead to the most insightful answers. Many candidates have heard these same questions dozens of times already, and their answers might not tell you much besides what they’ve already rehearsed or have been trained how to answer.
However, you don’t just want to throw them out completely. Instead, try to frame them more uniquely if possible.
We go over how to do just that in the sections below!
33 Unique Interview Questions To Ask Your Candidates
Ordinary questions are good for gleaning basic information, but you need uncommon questions if you want to go beyond the basics. Just remember that brain teasers — like Google and other tech companies used to be known for — probably won't provide you with the useful information you need to make sound hiring decisions.
Instead, ask questions that reflect your idiosyncratic workplace culture and let you know what it might be like to have the person working for you.
Uncommon interview questions can also test a candidate's ability to think quickly and independently. Creative thinking, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and alignment with your core values and company culture are other factors you can learn more about if you’re asking the right questions.
A few caveats:
- Never ask questions that make your interviewee feel uncomfortable.
- Don't ask questions that are inappropriate, discriminatory, or refer to a candidate's protected class information (gender, race, age, ethnicity, etc.).
- Try to have fun with candidates because humor can relieve jittery nerves.
Sometimes, new jobs require team members to be quick on their feet or creative on the fly. Curveball questions are excellent at revealing these attributes in applicants.
Use these queries to challenge a candidate and assess their creativity and ability to think outside of the box:
1. If you could be an animal (or kitchen utensil, tool, vehicle, etc.), what would you be, and why?
Since the answers to this question are virtually limitless, this one is a great way to assess imaginativeness and how a person thinks.
2. How many windows are in Manhattan?
Will the person you’re interviewing attempt to puzzle out a logical answer, or will they come up with something creative? That’s one thing that this question can show you. It also demonstrates how quick people are at thinking on their feet.
3. How would you sell ice cream in Alaska?
This is another great question to evaluate ingenuity. It places people in the difficult position of making a sale to people who may not necessarily need or want a particular product — at least, not until they hear the sales pitch.
4. If you had $1,000 (or any amount) and needed to double it in 24 hours, how would you do it?
A day isn’t much time to double any amount of money, which makes this an excellent question for gauging creativity and how well people can think on their feet.
Icebreaker questions help candidates relax at the beginning of an interview. They also give prospects a chance to warm up their communication skills, give them a good understanding of your company's values and culture, and serve up a fun first impression.
Here are a few to try:
5. If you could choose one superpower, what would it be?
This is a classic icebreaker and a great way to loosen up the conversation. It also gives you some interesting insights into what characteristics the candidate thinks are valuable. (“Fly? No thanks, I’d rather be invisible because…”)
6. What TV or movie character would you most like to have lunch with?
This is another good question to get the conversation flowing. It naturally leads to a lot of fun follow-ups, like why you’ve chosen a particular character, and what you might want to talk about during this hypothetical luncheon.
7. Which one do you love more — cats or dogs?
This icebreaker helps you get to know someone a little more personally since it will invariably lead to chit-chat about pets.
8. If you were stuck on a deserted island and had all the food, water, and shelter you needed, what three personal items would you bring?
Some icebreakers also give you insights into creativity — and this is one of them. The answers could be anything, and they’ll almost certainly be interesting.
9. Which literary character did you always dream of being?
There are all kinds of possible answers to this question. It’s a good way to break the ice by starting a brief conversation about favorite books and literary genres.
10. If you could visit any country on the planet, where would you go and why?
This question is a bit more rooted in reality than some of the other icebreakers on this list, but does start a conversation about more attainable aspirations or places they’ve already visited.
11. What’s your go-to karaoke song?
Are they more of a “Freebird” or an “I Want It That Way” person? It doesn’t matter. But it is a fun window into musical tastes, which helps build personal connections and empathy.
12. Do you think zombies should be slow or fast? Why?
The old “zombies versus zoombies” debate. The answers here will give you some interesting insights into the interviewee’s critical thinking skills — even if they’re being applied to something entirely fictional.
13. Describe this job to an extraterrestrial who just landed in Central Park.
This might seem like a bit of a silly question, but it’s also a fun way to invite the interviewee to relax and encourage them to be creative.
Company Culture Questions
In a perfect world, all new hires will be a great cultural fit. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. That’s why you should create a set of unique questions that reflect your workplace culture on the outset.
Use the following to help inspire you:
14. Tell me about a time you set a challenging goal for yourself and how you accomplished it.
These answers will reveal how much effort interviewees will expend on challenges. Have each interviewee walk you through what they did to take their goal from a nebulous idea to a concrete reality. In a company with a good culture, people tend to tackle challenges with positivity — and this question is a good way to discover how candidates might act when challenges arise in your company.
15. Describe the work environment that will help you to contribute most effectively.
This answer should paint a picture of the candidate’s ideal workplace. This response will help you assess whether the candidate will flourish in your company or wither in an incompatible culture.
16. What kind of oversight would your ideal boss or project manager provide?
The response will reveal how self-directed your future employee is. If your company’s culture depends on autonomy, you can use this question to weed out the types of people who need an excessively hands-on management style.
17. What project is your most significant career accomplishment?
You want team members whose actions add value to your company — and whose career goals align with your culture and your company’s own goals. If the applicant talks about an impressive achievement you’d like to see within your own company, then this is likely someone you want to bring on board.
18. What are the three most important attributes you’ll bring to our company?
Make sure the values your applicant mentions are congruent with those of your own workplace. If they’re wildly divergent, this person may not be a good cultural fit.
19. Talk to me about a period in your life when you had to conquer a significant limitation that stood in the way of you accomplishing a goal.
By asking this, you’ll get insight into how good an applicant is at transcending tough challenges. The question might also help tease out their problem-solving style, which can be a useful tidbit that helps you assess for a cultural fit.
20. What excites you most about this job?
This one will help you discover if prospective employees are passionate about the job they’re applying for. Lackluster responses can indicate poor cultural fits.
21. How would your co-workers describe you?
This question will help you assess how candidates will work with their colleagues. Assess answers according to your company’s culture. For instance, if teamwork is a huge part of your culture, and the prospect answers that they’d be described as a loner, then that candidate may not be the best hiring decision for your company.
22. How would your current boss rate the quality of your work?
To keep your company’s culture positive, you need to hire positive people. This question can tell you whether candidates react positively or negatively to feedback. With that, if the applicant uses this time to rant about a previous supervisor, this could be a red flag.
23. How will your skills contribute to the accomplishment of our company's mission?
These days, applicants are expected to conduct preliminary research on the company they want to work for. This question will show how much initiative the candidate took to investigate company culture, required skills, and other key aspects of the job.
24. How are you going to continue to develop your professional skills and knowledge?
You want to hire interviewees who passionately believe in the power of continuous improvement and professional development — and your company culture should promote these things. Ask this question to learn about a candidate’s career goals and where they may need to improve or expand their skills.
Creative Thinking Questions
The next set of questions you should ask are those that help you assess a candidate’s creative thinking skills. These types of questions are designed to elicit unique answers so that recruiters can find the right talent for jobs that require a high degree of creativity.
Here are some examples to try in your next interviews:
25. Pitch my business to me as if you were me, and I was an investor interested in buying the company.
The candidate’s response will show you how skilled they are in the art of persuasion. Not only does this speak to creativity, but it will also reveal the depth of understanding about what your company does — and the candidate’s ability to sell your product or service.
26. Name a professional experience you would never want to go through again.
This question shows you how good the candidate is at learning from mistakes. What’s more, creative people can usually extract value from even the worst situations — and this question will help reveal this.
27. Is it better to have a job done perfectly, albeit late, or merely good but on time?
You don't want someone who can't meet deadlines because they're paralyzed by perfection. Creatives need to understand that true perfection is impossible — and that they need to let go in order to make deadlines.
28. In five minutes, can you explain something to me that you know well?
Anyone who can give an impromptu explanation about a subject they know well is not only creative but possesses a valuable communication skill.
29. Tell me about a time you felt like a miserable failure.
Answers here will tell you if they can take ownership of mistakes and learn something from them. Creative thinkers don’t simply brush away failures. Instead, they recognize where they fell short and how they would do things differently in the future.
Just beware of the candidate who claims to never mess up — and of those candidates who always place the blame somewhere other than themselves.
30. What's something you'd be ecstatic about doing every day for the rest of your professional career?
This question will uncover where candidates are most likely to be creative. It also reveals what makes candidates happy at work, which is an excellent way to gauge whether they’ll stick around for the long term.
31. If I gave you $100,000 to build your own business, what would you do?
The kind of venture the candidate chooses can be quite revelatory, giving you more than a mere glimpse into their interests. These answers will also tell you how much business acumen candidates offer, what their decision-making abilities look like, and their values.
32. What's the most significant decision you made in the past year?
This is another question you can ask to gauge an applicant's creativity and decision-making prowess. Find out if the decision was a snap decision, or if the candidate stewed over it for a while.
33. If you were tasked with re-branding this company for the (BLANK) industry, what would the press release's headline be?
This question is a chance for applicants to show off creative thinking abilities regarding promotions and marketing.
3 Best Practices For Picking & Asking the Right Questions
Track Your Data
Don’t just formulate questions and throw them away when the interview is done.
Instead, meticulously track the answers to each question so that you can track how effective each one is in giving you the information you need to make good hiring decisions.
Be patient because this process will take some time. You’ll need to get to know your new hires throughout the hiring process, then spend some time working with them. After enough time getting to know a new hire, you can go back and assess their interview question responses for accuracy.
You can also track various metrics like employee retention and employee satisfaction. Low scores in either of these areas can indicate less than stellar talent acquisition processes — and asking the wrong questions during the interview could be part of the problem.
Either way, take what you learn from your analysis and continuously refine your interview questions so that they become even more effective at doing the job they need to do.
Match Your Questions to the Candidate
Candidates will research you during the job search — and you should do the same during your search for new hires. Come up with tailor-made questions for each candidate such that they reflect duties from their last job, their interests, their values, and so on.
Great questions will also align with the job offer, too.
For example, you may not need to waste time asking candidates how they’d respond in high-stress situations if the job opening is for a low-stress position. You also wouldn’t want to ask doctors applying for an opening at a hospital how they’d market that hospital to the public.
Instead, find questions that relate to both the job and the candidate to better assess skills, creativity, and other factors.
Interview Them in a Restaurant or Other Non-Office Setting
By interviewing your candidate in a place other than the office, you’ll take some of the pressure off. It’s also a good way to see potential future employees in a different light than a formal office setting — which can help you better connect on a personal level.
Remember: Interviews shouldn’t feel like stressful performance reviews. Instead, they should help you get to know candidates — and help candidates get to know you — so that everyone involved can make the right decision.
Simplify Your Hiring Process With Hunt Club
Creating and refining interview questions (then tailoring them to match the candidates and job descriptions you’re working with) can be difficult. However, if you approach this task the right way, you’ll see a big increase in the quality of your hires.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for ways to make the hiring process easier, look into Hunt Club.
We help make every step of the hiring process easier. That’s because we leverage automated sourcing technology and top referrals from our network of experts to source, qualify, and hire top-tier talent.