Interview Questions to help you cut through the BS

We are all guilty of it, especially when caught in the whirlwind of the day-to-day. But how many times do you interview a candidate or prospective employee for an open position and you just “wing it”?  Those days need to end. You can’t go into interviews without prep, or worse, stock questions that even a junior professional will know how to answer appropriately. 

There are many schools of thought when it comes to how to interview someone. We believe there are a few unconventional interview questions that provide you with a deeper understanding of the candidate's character without asking irrelevant questions or questions easy to prepare for/rehearse by performing a simple Google search.

Unconventional interview question #1:

Name three situations where you helped someone else achieve success.

This atypical interview question eliminates any surface-level, rehearsed responses by challenging the candidate to identify instances that benefited someone else, rather than themselves. It highlights leadership potential, while helping you to gauge whether or not the candidate has issues with confidence, teamwork, or self-awareness.  Here’s why:

  1. The interviewee has to quickly come up with not one, but three instances of leadership, which will reveal to you how he/she reacts under pressure.
  2. By asking this question, you gain an understanding of what this candidate defines as “success” and how they approach leadership & promoting others’ success.
  3. In order to answer this question, the interviewee has to step out of the “humble zone” by articulating how he/she lifted another person up.

People who lack confidence may have trouble taking credit where credit is due, and people who lack self-awareness might take all of the credit for an outcome influenced by multiple factors. In an ideal response to this question, the candidate should frame the story in a way that demonstrates an aptitude for influencing others and working collaboratively, without obscuring the other person’s achievement entirely. 

Unconventional interview question #2:

Tell me something that you believe to be true, but that no one else agrees with you on.

This is taken from Peter Thiel’s book, Zero to One. Peter Thiel is one of America’s greatest entrepreneurs and is one of those “big thinkers”, and self-described contrarian.  Now, I’m not advocating you’ll find the next eBay founder through this line of questioning, but you should aim to understand how this person thinks for themselves, versus letting the status quo think for him/her.

Staffing is very entrepreneurial. If you look at almost any staffing company's job descriptions, one of the first traits they list is “entrepreneurial.”  This type of question will trip up even the most seasoned entrepreneurs, but it's definitely worth asking. If you can get even a smidgen of originality out of this question, you’ll know you have a thinker on your hands.  And in the highly-commoditized business of staffing, it takes those “outside the box” thinkers to break through the clutter and win business.   

Unconventional interview question #3:

On a scale of 1 to 10, how lucky are you?

This question is a favorite of Are Traasdahl, The CEO and founder of Tapad. Why talk about luck in an interview? Are explains:

"If they say '10,' things have likely come too easy--they may not be able to read situations very well. If they say a '2,' it's a likely sign of someone who consider themselves a 'misunderstood genius.' When it lands closer to a 7, there's a sense that the candidate has a healthy balance of appreciation for their good fortune and an equal ability to work hard."

At the end of the day, when you interview someone for a given role, you want to determine two things:

  1. Does this person fit the role?
  2. Does this person fit the company?

If you conduct a conventional interview with predictable questions, you can probably ascertain that the candidate meets criteria #1. However, you cannot really check off both criteria until you are able to elicit genuine responses, rather than rehearsed ones. Use the interview to get to the truth of the candidate's personality- not how well they're able to fit "the mold."


Kate Jacoutot

Spire Workforce Solutions, 5575 Peachtree Dunwoody Road Northeast, Building C, Suite 240, Sandy Springs, GA, 30342, United States