Winning the cat-and-mouse game of job interview questions

Winning the cat-and-mouse game of job interview questions

Keith Orr

Posted By: Keith Orr

In many industries, the job interview process has become a game of cat and mouse. Books and websites are filled with tips for applicants on how to best answer common questions. Type the phrase “answers to job interview questions” into a search engine and you’ll instantly receive millions of results.

That means job candidates (the mouse in this analogy) can easily “escape” common questions such as “Tell me about yourself,” “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and “Why should we hire you?” Although these are perfectly reasonable inquiries, many applicants see them coming a mile away and have rehearsed answers at the ready.

To improve the odds that you’ll “catch” the optimal candidate (you’re the cat, after all), employers may want to devise a few questions that applicants may not be anticipating.

Unexpected Questions

A couple caveats up front: 1) Asking inappropriate questions in a job interview can land an employer in legal hot water, so vet your creative queries with a qualified employment attorney, and 2) Getting a little too creative and asking preposterous questions can give interviewees a misleading or bad impression of your organization.

That said, here are some examples to consider:

  • Let’s say that, five minutes after this interview ends, you learn you’ve won $25 million in the lottery. What would you do? Purpose: To learn about the applicant’s interest in the position, as well as his or her values and passions outside of work.
  • Do you believe in life on other planets? Purpose: To get a feel for whether the candidate believes that things not known may still be possible.
  • If you could be a fictional character from your favorite book or movie, whom would you be? Purpose: To gain insight into what drives the applicant intellectually, as well as to learn about his or her outside interests and imagination.
  • You can have dinner with any well-known historical figure. Whom would you choose and why? Purpose: To get a sense of a candidate’s priorities and how an applicant views him- or herself in the wider context of history.

Asking creative questions such as these — or others you come up with yourself — can push job candidates out of their comfort zones and get them to speak extemporaneously. In turn, you’ll get a better impression of their real personalities and potential.

Mix it up

Of course, you shouldn’t completely forego some of the standard questions that applicants will likely be prepared for. If nothing else, you’ll learn what the candidate thinks you want to hear, and you can determine how much preparation he or she put into the interview.

By mixing up questions, from the expected to the creative, you’ll gather more information and put yourself in a better position to hire successfully.

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