The average HR professional conducts numerous interviews each year, usually based on a standard format which can become overly familiar to both themselves and interviewees.
However, there are opportunities to shake up traditional interviews while offering candidates the chance to show a different side of their personality. For example, asking obscure questions such as ‘how do you fit an elephant into a fridge?’ or ‘why are manhole covers round instead of square?’ may sound strange but they are becoming more common in job interviews as they give HRs the opportunity to shake up their interview processes in the tight war for talent. In fact, a recent survey we carried out with 1000 consumers found that two out of three candidates welcome obscure lines of questioning as part of the job interview process.
So, why should you ask weird questions an interview? While candidates may not expect this line of questioning, as they may initially seem unrelated to a job role, they can reveal a lot about a candidate’s ability and personality, allowing you to differentiate between those who have similar qualifications and experience on paper. Such questions can also provide a light-hearted moment in what can be quite a formal situation, giving you a real chance to see how a candidate might fit into the company culture. Asking such questions could also put you in a good light as it shows candidates that you welcome creativity – so don’t shy away from them!
Our research also shows that candidates would like to be asked weird interview questions so they can demonstrate their ability to think on their feet. They can give candidates a chance to step outside the traditional boundaries of the interview process and really demonstrate their creativity, ability to apply logic and how they work under pressure.
If used correctly, obscure lines of questioning can really help you to build a clear picture of a candidate’s potential, so it’s worth exploring how they might fit into your assessment processes. They can sometimes take candidates by surprise though, so make sure you take the time to think carefully about the questions and what kind of response you are hoping to achieve. Don’t be strange for the sake of it. Think carefully about how this line of questioning can add real value to the interview and provide a candidate with the chance to shine.
Here are some top tips if you are considering using weird interview questions to shake up the interview process at your company:
- Think carefully about the kind of thought process you want to invoke in a candidate. For example, you may want to test a candidate’s ability to respond under pressure, in which case, any number of weird questions could work. However, for more mathematically-minded roles you may want to consider questions that test a candidate’s logical thinking. For example, ‘how many people do you think work in this building?’ or ‘how many light bulbs do you think there are on this floor?’
- Think about what your question says about the business and overall brand values. For example, is your organisation creative, scientific, curious or humorous? It’s worth thinking about this as a weird interview question is likely to be one of the most memorable parts of a candidate’s interview experience. They are likely to share them with their friends and family so make sure that any questions, while entertaining, don’t undermine how you would like to be seen as a business.
- Think about the timing of your curveball question and how it relates to the rest of the interview – try to avoid bringing them in too early on in the interview as they could prove unnerving for even the most qualified candidate.
- It’s important that ‘weird’ interview questions have some relevance to either the role in question or your company culture. Don’t be obscure for the sake of it as this could have the opposite effect of putting off top talent.
- Test the questions you might ask within the business to see what common responses may be. A candidate with the same response shows similar thinking to the business but equally, a candidate with a wildly different answer to existing staff could stand out as an innovative problem solver and therefore make the better hire option.
Join in the debate on weird interview questions on Michael Page’s Facebook page.
Dean Ball joined leading global recruitment consultancy Michael Page International as a trainee in the Newcastle office in 1988. He spent the early stages of his Michael Page career managing accountancy recruitment teams in Manchester and Liverpool. In 1997, he relocated to the United State as regional director to open Michael Page’s first office based in New York and established teams focused on banking, accountancy, and management consultancy. In 2001, Dean returned to the UK to set up a number of new businesses and quickly progressed to managing director two years later. In 2006, be became a UK regional managing director, his current role at Michael Page, and one that sees him lead 10 of 25 Michael Page disciplines.