The world of interview questions is changing and for most of us, it’s about time.
The standard ‘tell us your strengths/weaknesses’ type questions are (thankfully) in the past, and we are now firmly beyond the cutesy, Silicon Valley-style ‘what’s your favorite zoo animal’ asks. These days, interviews are all about getting to know your best candidates quirks with minimal cheekiness or sleaze.
But choosing unique interview questions that dig deep without making candidates feel uneasy, is no cake walk.
So we’ve gone to the experts to find out how to keep it real with interview questions and find the top talent you’re searching for, every time.
Check it out!
The 5 most unique interview questions to find talent that shines✨
Unique interview question #1— What feedback would you give yourself as a manager in your last/current role?
“Look for consistency and emerging themes in the candidate's responses.”—Hitu Sood PhD, Founder of HITU HR Solutions
As a seasoned HR and recruitment pro with 2+ decades of interview experience, Hitu Sood PhD definitely knows her stuff when it comes to the most interesting interview questions.
For her, getting to truly know your candidate is all about taking it slow: she starts by scheduling a few shorter interview rounds (so she can check for consistency), and moving slowly from behavioral to more informal questions.
“Look for consistency and emerging themes in the candidate's responses. I like to interview people a few times, especially for permanent full-time management roles. If what they share during each interview matches with what they have said previously you know that they are authentic. Also, it helps to get to know them better. I am not for long interviews but a few short ones under an hour, probably 45 minutes at most, asking behavioral questions and slowly moving to more informal conversational questions as you get to know the candidate better.”
When it comes to her top questions, Hitu turns the table on candidates and asks them to give their own opinions of themselves as an employee.
“My favorite unique interview questions are ‘What is your ideal team and work environment?’ and ‘What feedback would you give yourself as a manager in your last/current role?’” says Hitu.
Key takeaway: Consistency = Authenticity. Screen for consistency by scheduling a few short 30-45 minute interviews.
Unique interview question #2— What’s your plan for learning and getting acclimated during your first month on the job?
“The best deep dive thing you can do is give candidates a real problem to solve.”—Dr. John Sullivan, Professor, Corporate Speaker and Advisor
With 10 books, 12+ white papers, 12K articles, and some 300+ corporate events under his belt, there’s a reason Dr. John Sullivan is known as the ‘Michael Jordan of Hiring’.
When it comes to his top unique interview questions, John is all about practicality over quirkiness.
“Be careful of unique questions because they might have no predictive value. Instead ‘What is your plan for learning and getting acclimated during your first month on the job?’ is a great question to ask, because if the candidate doesn’t have a learning plan, as a manager you will have to do all the work.”
And that’s not all. For John, one of the most important interview steps is to ask candidates to solve a real-life challenge.
“I give candidates a recent problem from the job (that has already been solved). And I ask them to walk me through their solution steps. The best deep dive thing you can do is give them a real problem to solve.”
Key takeaway: Ask candidates to solve a real-life problem that they would encounter on the job to understand how they would react to a challenge IRL.
Unique interview question #3— Why should we hire you for this position?
“I'm a firm believer in giving people the opportunity to advocate for themselves.” —Micole Garatti, Director of B2B Marketing at Fairygodboss, Author of The Most Inclusive HR Influencer List, and Host of #HRforAll
Micole is all about improving HR and talent acquisition by supporting diverse voices of influence, so when it comes to her fave unique interview questions it’s no surprise she gives the floor to candidates from the get-go.
“I'm a firm believer in giving people the opportunity to advocate for themselves. Asking ‘why should we hire you for this position?’ allows candidates a way to highlight their strengths, relevant experience, and plans for the position,” she says.
Key takeaway: Give candidates the opportunity to really sell themselves by asking questions that offer them enough time and space.
Unique interview question #4— What’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done to get a meeting?
“I like to ask for an example that shows candidates have high standards.” —Romy Newman, Co-founder and President of Fairygodboss
If you’ve been in the HR space for long, you’ll have heard of Romy Newman.
As Co-founder and President of women-focused online career community site, Fairygodboss, Romy leads the way with her mission to improve the workplace for women everywhere. And with experience working at The Wall Street Journal, Google and Estee Lauder, it’s no surprise Romy knows her stuff when it comes to unique interview questions.
That’s why for Romy, the most interesting interview questions are all about gauging candidate quality.
“Since I'm normally interviewing sales people, I like to ask what the most creative thing they've ever done to get a meeting is. I also like to ask for an example to show that they have high standards,” says Romy.
Key takeaway: Gauge candidate quality by asking for work examples that show off their high-quality standards.
Unique interview question #5— Homer Simpson, an alien and a boat need to cross a river…
Gianluca Binelli is a hiring expert with a difference.
As founder of Booster Box Digital and ex-Google Marketing Manager, Gianluca knows you can’t judge a person's tenacity solely by looking at their academic achievements.
The team at Booster Box have a simple but unique approach to hiring, and regularly experiment with questions to find candidate insights in fun new ways. What it comes down to is judging how a candidate answers a question rather than what they say.
“One of the best interviews in my life was back during my days at Google. I asked a classic bunch of questions and then one question about Homer Simpson, an alien, and a boat that needs to cross the river. I remember the candidate was so into the answer. I remember him leaving the meeting room and still trying to solve the problem and find the solution—and that's when I knew I had the right person,” says Gianluca.
For Gianluca, the key was in the dedication.
“I wasn't really looking for the right answer. I was looking for the right level of persistence.”
Key takeaway: Ask questions that help you figure out how the candidate solves a problem, rather than focusing on what they say.
Bonus Tip— Keep it real 💯
Glenn Martin is a people-first interviewer who always chooses salt-of-the-earth tactics over cryptic interview questions.
As an HR pro with 10+ years of experience under his belt, Glenn knows that—although unique interview questions definitely have their place—the best route to get to know a candidate is to keep it real and avoid unexpected questions.
“I have to be honest and say, I'm not a fan of overly weird interview questions in an interview,” says Glenn, “I’ve been in enough interviews and witnessed how a great rapport between interviewer and interviewee can be completely derailed when a question that is out of context to the rest of the interview has been introduced by the interviewer.”
Glenn knows from experience that the best interview questions to ask make candidates feel super comfortable—and that’s when they give more away.
“If you want to really understand the person you are interviewing, your role as an interviewer is to make them feel as comfortable as possible, as quickly as possible. When you’re interviewing the real person, you’ll then see their true colors.”
Key takeaway: To help your candidates feel comfortable and reveal deeper insights, avoid getting too weird with your questions. Simply let the conversation flow.
Glenn’s top tip to really get to know a candidate
“My top tip for any interviewer is to set-up the interview as a safe place that is confidential, non-judgmental and engaging. Start with a friendly introduction, outlining the context of the interview and what you would like to get out of the interview and then ask the interviewee what they want from the interview. When an interviewee realizes that the interview is a mutual exchange of information, they relax and you can generally increase the engagement and richness of the entire interview.”
5 crucial interview resources to help you dig deeper in your next hiring round
- Remote interviewing is all the rage post-2020 and these interview questions can help you rock the best phone interviews you’ve ever had.
- Are you an employer who actually gives a damn? (Of course you are!) Check out our all-in-one interview guide and discover the best interview process. Ever.
- Structured interviews help avoid bias and create a fair hiring process—but that doesn’t mean they have to be rigid, as this guide to human-first hiring explains.
- Wondering what the best questions are for management roles? Wonder no longer, here are the top 21 asks to find a stellar manager.
- For anyone looking for an insight into the best interview questions for any role, ever—here’s our full interview questions resource center.
Keep-it-real vs. super unique interview questions: The magic is in the balance
There’s a reason interview techniques have evolved to include more quirky questions—they work. But that doesn’t mean traditional asks are off the table.
The technique for a truly insightful interview is to find a balance between no-frills traditional questions and unique interview q’s that give you deeper insight into who that candidate really is.
And remember, hiring tools like screening questionnaires can help you start off by asking the traditional questions before you’ve even met and save you a ton of time so that you can focus your in-person interviews on your must-ask deep-dive questions.