11 Interview Questions You Wouldn’t Think to Ask–But Should

Everyone wants to make better hiring decisions. Most people focus on how well candidates perform in the interview: In theory, if you ask the right questions, you’ll get answers that will give you insight into what the candidates really bring to the table.

The following companies use questions that aren’t exactly the standard, “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” question, but they swear they work. The explanations below the questions comes from the businesses. Read through them and then tell me what you think and what works in your business–either in the comments or by sending me an email at EvilHRLady@gmail.com.

To read the questions and the explanations of why they ask them click here: 11 Interview Questions You Wouldn’t Think to Ask–But Should

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28 thoughts on “11 Interview Questions You Wouldn’t Think to Ask–But Should

  1. Hi Suzanne,
    These are great questions to ask job candidates!
    I also think that you can judge the quality of candidates by inviting them to ask you questions. Anything they want. If they just come up with the standard questions, then their CV gets put on the “no, thanks” pile. But if they come up with really thoughtful or original questions, then you know that you’ve got an interesting person in front of you. One you might like to work with! – Laura

    1. I had an interview like that once (as a candidate, and it was only one of a few different interviews I had). It was disarming after all the preparation I’d done to ANSWER questions, but it was actually really great. And I must have done well, as I got the job. 🙂

  2. I have to be honest and say that 50% of those questions are ridiculous. How would you change our office? Please.

    Interestingly, I read an article yesterday about those infamous, quirky, Google interview questions. Google admitted it was a waste of time. I think several of these questions fall into that category and don’t provide the insight needed for a quality hire.

    Although, the failure question? That was awesome.

    1. I saw that Google article.

      And to be honest, I would never get hired by any of these firms. First of all, I wouldn’t ask what the guy meant by “order” in a deck of cards. I’d just sort them by suite and then by number and then I’d stack them up.

      And a joke? Here’s mine: Once there was a snake named Nate. He was slithering down the road (as all snakes do) and came upon a giant lever. Next to the lever was a sign: Hit this lever and the world will end.

      Well, Nate was a slow reader, so he was taking his time to read the sign when along came a Purple Volkswagen. It was out of control and the driver could only do one of two things–hit Nate or hit the lever. Which does it do?

      It hits Nate, of course! Because it’s better Nate than Lever!

      See, would you hire me?

      Also, this joke:

      Ask me if I’m a tree.

      1. Here’s a joke.

        Ole is on his deathbed. The pastor has been by to give him the last rites. It’s only a matter of time.

        Then he smells the aroma of his favorite rhubarb bars wafting from the kitchen. He slowly rolls out of bed and falls to the floor. He drags himself inch by inch to the kitchen. Using the very last bit of his strength, he pulls himself up to his knees, then reaches up to the counter to pull a bar off the cooling rack.

        Just as he’s about to take a bite, Lena comes into the kitchen.

        “Ach, Ole!” she says as she snatches the bar from his hands. “Shame on you! Those are for after the funeral!”

        1. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t have the same nuanced humor that the tree version has.

          I can’t hire you. 🙂

  3. Too funny!

    That’s the thing, I think a lot of strong candidates would get knocked out by some of these too clever by half questions. I still have to do a considerable amount of sourcing get quality hires. I wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity for somebody great because I asked them some obtuse question.

    You are a much better joke teller than I. So….are you a tree?

    1. No.

      Ha, ha, ha!!!!! Isn’t that the funniest joke ever?

      See, I’d never get hired.

      1. The best I heard was the guy who, in response to being asked “Why are manhole covers round?” asked back, “Why do firemen wear red suspenders?”

  4. The “Rapid fire questioning” would weed out a lot of Introverts very quickly. We don’t react well to that sort of thing.

    Proof once again that interviewing is a 2-way process. If your interview questions annoy me, I know I don;t want to work with you.

    1. Well, that is a very good point. Although I’m an introvert who does do well with rapid fire stuff. But I’m also an introvert who does public speaking and has to think on my feet.

      Or rather, who did do public speaking before moving to a German speaking country 🙂

    2. Vicki–I thought the same thing when I read that. I’m currently reading Susan Cain’s Quiet and wish those interviewers would as well.

  5. The idea that someone needs to be able to “think on their feet” is all well and good – and is probably true in many types of jobs. But while rapid fire questions may sometimes show that, it doesn’t always. Asking off the wall question doesn’t show anything of the sort. I know plenty of people who “think on their feet” all the time who would be totally stumped by the “what tree would you be”. At least they ask “why”, which at least serves the interest of seeing how a person thinks (and possibly some priorities.)

  6. “I’m not sure you’re a fit for the role…”
    Then why are we both here today?

    “What was your biggest failure and who was responsible for it?”
    Warning – this is a blaming culture! If they ask what were the circumstances of the failure, I would think this is a good question.

    Rapid fire questioning
    We only like people that shoot from the hip

    “You’ve seen the office. What would you change?”
    We only make snap judgments on what we see. We don’t actually, you know, analyze things first to see underlying reasons and patterns

    “What traffic sign would you be and why?”
    Stop. As in this interview.

    “Tell me a joke”
    Q; What’s the difference between boogers and broccoli? A; Ever get a kid to eat broccoli?

    Can you (fill in blank)
    Yes, of course I can!

    “Why do you want to work here?”
    This is the only reasonable question.

    These companies think they are being “smart” by asking off the wall questions. What they are doing is being annoying and disrespectful to those of us that want an honest, open, working relationship.

    1. Engineer girl, you win! And I love your joke mainly because I have 2 children that fit into that category. Sigh.

      FWIW, I agree with you and I think I’ll write about that.

  7. “What was *your* biggest failure and who was responsible for it? ”
    Is this one of those questions like, How long was the 100 years war? when do Russians celebrate the October Revolution? What color is the black box in an airplane?

    These people must have a LOT more free time in their interviews than I do. I mean, I go to all-day interviews with several people who only get 30-60 minutes each, and I spend the whole entire time talking about the job, my previous work, the company, what kind of problems the company is trying to solve, etc. We never get so bored that we have to talk about interior decorating.

    I would wonder if they were offering to redecorate my future office for me. In that case, I want a big walnut desk with matching filing cabinets and a pink upholstered sofa for midafternoon naps. And a fishtank.

    1. I know! I think the NYT article came out the same day this one did.

      To tell the truth, I’ve never been a big fan of these questions. My editor changed my headline to add the “should” part.

  8. I think the real value to the article is taking an in depth look at what the position requires and how your company operates culturally, and then finding creative ways to pick out people who fit those requirements. Will this work for every company? No. Will all candidates be selected? No. And that’s the way it should be.

  9. More important to ask references than ask questions of the applicant – in fact it is best to ask the references for OTHER references on the applicant and then ask questions to them!
    See the way I do this with a virtual reference checking template using inexpensive cloud based software. On my webpage there is an example:
    take a look – give it a try – MeetingSphere has free trials

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