Best Interview Questions You Won't Get Trite Answers To

By Alyssa Laffitte on December 31, 2020

Now that job interview season is coming up, you can start thinking about questions you want to ask candidates who apply for the job. These candidates are likely applying to jobs at multiple places, meaning they have probably heard many of the same interview questions. (For example, “What is your greatest strength? What is your greatest weakness?”)

Of course, these questions provide important information that will help recruiters evaluate whether or not the candidate would be a good fit for the job. There is a reason these questions are still used to evaluate candidates! Still, these questions will only tell you so much. These candidates are people, not just a name on an application. If you would like to learn more about your job candidates, you need to ask unique questions during the interview. This way, you will provide the candidate with a more pleasant interview experience, and you will get to know them better, which will help you decide if the candidate is right for the job.

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First, let’s talk about questions you will want to avoid when interviewing candidates for your job opening. Definitely, any questions that could be considered discriminatory toward a candidate’s race, ethnicity, gender, or age. Avoid any questions that might make the candidate uncomfortable. Similarly, avoid asking anything unprofessional. Remember that this is a job interview. The purpose of this meeting is to assess whether or not the candidate is right for the job. Be sure to stick to that purpose! Lastly, do not ask anything totally unexpected. If you want to ask more unique/fun interview questions, be sure there is a clear divide between the more typical interview questions and the fun ones. This way, the candidate isn’t caught off guard by the unique questions. One way you can do this is to start the interview with the unique questions as icebreakers to get to know the candidate better before you dive into the deeper questions.

Instead of these types of questions, try to ask questions that will lighten the mood in the room. The candidate is likely nervous about this interview, and knowing that these questions are simply icebreakers or for fun will put them at ease. Then, they will feel more prepared to handle the tougher, more typical interview questions at the end.

Encourage the candidate to tell a story

Typical job interviews can be dry and boring. If you want to try something different to break the ice when you interview a candidate, try encouraging the candidate to tell a story. When you ask the candidate to tell a story about his/her own life, it will put them at ease because they won’t feel like they’re being quizzed. They won’t feel nervous about giving a “wrong” or “right” answer. Instead, they will be engaged in telling a fun story. On the flip side, listening to a story will be more interesting for you, too, rather than simply listening to the candidate rattle off answers to typical interview questions. Asking for a story is a great way to start off a job interview since it will keep both you and the candidate engaged in the conversation.

“Tell me about an interesting experience you’ve had recently.”

This question is a more specific version of the very bland, general, “Tell me about yourself” question.  When you ask about an interesting experience, it gives you more information about who the candidate is as a person.

“Tell me about a time when you felt like a hero at work.”

This question allows the candidate to highlight their strengths. While listening to this story, try to determine what this strength is. Then, ask yourself if your company needs someone with that particular ability or skill. Is this skill important for the job they are applying for? Where would you put that person to work? Is there a team in your company that could use someone with that particular skill set? Is there a current employee that could use some help with developing this skill? If so, the candidate might be a good fit for the job!

“Tell me about a time when you and your manager disagreed on something.”

Sometimes, you will disagree with your manager. This question will show you how things might play out if you decide to hire the candidate and there is a disagreement. Did the candidate disrespect the manager or do something behind his/her back? Or did the candidate attempt to come to a solution to the disagreement? Whatever the candidate did in the past, it’s likely they will do the same in the future. It’s also a good opportunity for the candidate to demonstrate their conflict resolution skills. A candidate’s response to this question will be a helpful indicator of how they will deal with disagreements or conflicts once they are hired.

“Tell me about a time when you failed.”

We will all inevitably encounter a failure at work. How a candidate responded to failure in the past is a good indicator of how they might respond to a failure they encounter while working for you. You will want to hire a person who can bounce back and move on from a failure. As we discussed before, it’s important that the candidate is resilient.

“Tell me about a time with you did the right thing at work and no one saw you do it.”

This question will show you how the candidate acts when no one is watching. The person you hire must have integrity and be trustworthy. In other words, they act the same whether someone is watching them or not. You should be able to trust your employees to do what they said they would do. Additionally, the answer to this particular question will tell you how the candidate acts when he/she does not expect a reward. (If no one saw them doing the right thing, you know that a reward was not their motivation for doing the right thing.) Their answer will tell you how they react when they don’t expect a reward in return for doing the right thing.

Get to know the candidate better

The answers to these questions will give you a more holistic view of the candidate as a person, not just about their educational or work history. Getting to know a candidate better will help you decide whether or not they will fit in with your company’s culture, or if they have the skills to handle the job. Here are some questions to ask the candidate to get to know them better.

“Do you come to work just to work, or do you like to socialize along the way?”

This is a good question to gauge whether or not the candidate would be a good fit for your company. Is your company one where people are more focused on work, or is it one where people are encouraged to socialize and treat each other like friends rather than just co-workers? Whichever one your company is, it makes sense that the person you hire has a personality that matches it. For example, if your company encourages co-workers to be friends, you will want to hire someone who is friendly, and you will want to make sure your current team is composed of friendly people.

“What is your philosophy towards your work?”

This question has a similar function as the previous one. You want to make sure the candidate’s philosophy toward work matches your company’s. It would be a good idea for you to refresh your memory on your company’s vision and mission statement to see if your values align with the candidate’s. Again, this is another great way to ensure that the person you hire will be a good fit for your company.

“Why did you decide to work in this industry?”

This question is more about getting to know the candidate personally. When you know what motivated them to pursue a career in your particular industry, you will be able to relate to them and see them as a whole person, not just a name on an application. It’s also a good way for you to find common ground with the candidate. You might even discover that you decided to work in the industry for a similar reason!

“In a team environment, what role do you usually take on?”

This question is another good one to help you decide if the candidate will be a good fit for your company’s current team. You should want to know how the candidate has dealt with working in a team environment in the past. Part of that is learning what roles the candidate is comfortable with taking, and if your company needs someone to fill that role. For example, if the candidate usually takes on the role of project manager, they would be a good fit if that’s what you are looking for. It’s also a good idea to consider how this role fits with the job the candidate applied for. You want someone who is comfortable with the roles they will need to fill for the job. Again, this question will help you decide if the candidate would fit in well with your current team.

Have the candidate engage their creative side

Of course, creativity is a valuable skill in the modern workplace. To learn more about how the candidate thinks creatively, you can ask some questions to engage their creative side. If you like the ideas they come up with, it could be a sign that they are a good match for your team! You can ask some of the following questions to have the candidate engage their creative side during the job interview.

“If you were in charge of this company, what would your five-year plan be?”

This question will tell you about how the candidate sees the future of the company and the industry as a whole. You want a candidate who has ideas that are creative and bold, but also practical and realistic. Plus, you want someone who knows the general direction the industry is moving in. The plan your candidate proposes should take the direction of the company, and the industry. The way the candidate answers this question can shed some light on both of those things.

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“If money was no object, what would you do to improve the industry?”

The answer to this question will tell you about what the candidate thinks are the “problems” in the industry. Additionally, it will also shed some light on the candidate’s problem-solving skills. It’s important for the candidate to know how to solve problems, so it’s good for you to know what strategies they can come up with for solving problems in the industry. You never know if they come up with a unique solution!

“How would you pitch this company to a friend?”

Asking someone to pitch an idea to you is a good way to make sure they understand the idea. You can use this question to see if the candidate understands the industry and your company specifically. Although this question might catch them off guard, it’s also a way to see how they approach selling the idea of your company. After all, you want team members who can tell others how awesome your company is. If you decide to hire the candidate, this is likely the spiel they will give their friends and family members when they ask about their new job. This question will give you some insight into how the candidate thinks about your company.

Clearly, asking more fun, unique questions is a great approach to take when interviewing candidates for a job opening. These questions are more exciting than the typical job interview questions that your candidate has likely answered many times already. Plus, these questions will provide you with information the typical questions won’t. They will allow you to get to know the candidate as a person, and not just as an employee, which, in turn, will help you decide whether this person would be a good fit for your company.

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