Good business practices typically dictate that you refrain from getting too personal when conducting a job interview. However, there is a certain value that can be gained by posing somewhat unusual questions that may delve into personal interests and psyches.
Non-traditional interview questions range from the simplistic (“Who do you admire the most?”) to the thought-provoking (“If you took out an ad in the New York Times and had to describe yourself in only three words, what would they be?”) to the truly weird (“If you were a salad, what kind of dressing would you have?”).
The goal behind asking such questions is the same: to ascertain how quickly a would-be employee thinks on their feet. They also allow you to assess how well the candidate performs in stressful situations. Are they easily rattled or flustered? Do they ponder the question and provide a thoughtful, well-thought-out response or do they stammer and fail to ever provide any kind of meaningful answer?
Non-traditional questions reveal attitudes and insights that might not be uncovered by standard, by-the-book interview questions. Because they are impossible to prepare for, the candidate must rely on their wits. If you haven’t posed such questions in the past, now is a good time to start, as high unemployment rates result in a plethora of candidates for most any opportunity.
Here are five of the best non-traditional interview questions to ask:
- What do you do for fun? Perhaps the most open-ended question of all, this one is noteworthy because job-seekers are usually advised not to include any mention of hobbies or personal pursuits on their resumes. However, many hiring managers like to ask it because they feel that having a hobby makes a candidate well-rounded and interesting. What’s more, the hobby itself may be helpful to know. An interviewee that loves to write may be a good candidate for a position that requires lots of document drafting, for example.
- What’s the last book you read? This may seem like a boring question with the potential to serve more as an ice-breaker than a true insight into the candidate’s psyche. However, the answer could be quite revealing indeed. Heavy historical tomes may indicate that the interviewee is incredibly intellectually curious and values the ability to learn about events that created the world we live in today. However, don’t discount the candidate who responded with the latest romance best-seller or trendy self-help title. Reading of any sort keeps the mind sharp.
- Imagine you could trade places with anyone, famous or not famous, living or from history, real or fictional, for one week. Who would it be? Most candidates will respond with someone admirable – Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama, or Gloria Steinem, for example. Such responses are easy to back up. A candidate may wish to take Lincoln’s place to learn about leadership during incredibly challenging times. Another may opt for Obama or Steinem because both individuals are well-known trail-blazers. If a candidate’s response seems strange, perhaps even disturbing – Adolf Hitler or Ted Bundy, for instance – that may be a red flag, unless they have a good explanation, of course.
- What kinds of people bug you? If the candidate responds that no one bugs them, you have a liar on their hands. There isn’t a single person who isn’t bothered by some personality trait or communication style. On the other hand, you probably don’t want to hire someone who seems to be bothered by everyone. The answer to this question can be very telling, so listen carefully to how the interviewee responds – and pay attention to their body language, too.
- If you had six months with no obligations or financial constraints, what would you do with the time? A candidate isn’t likely to respond that they would spend those six months of freedom putting in overtime at your company. However, a truly future-minded individual will realize they are going to have to return to the real world after those magical six months are over. Responses that focus solely on hedonistic pursuits are unrealistic and may indicate that the candidate doesn’t have their feet firmly planted on the ground.