Posted on July 15, 2015

“Tell Me About Your Best Friend” and Other Uncommon Interview Questions

The way we work has changed, how we work has changed, where we work has changed, but the way we interview has not changed much. Try one of these unconventional interview questions with your next candidate to get beyond the superficial answers that permeate most interviews. See what you can learn from the candidate’s thought process behind their answer; it’s not necessarily just about the answer itself.

Question 1: “What does your best friend do for a living?”

This is a great question for learning more about how a candidate views the people in their lives, and how invested they are in learning the details about them. Whether a candidate’s best friend is a rocket scientist or a rock guitarist, asking them this question will provide some insight.

Question 2: “Where did you learn your strong work ethic? What about that person’s accomplishments made you want to emulate that behavior?”

Nearly every candidate will tell you they have a strong work ethic. You can learn more about a candidate’s true motivations by asking them to explain the rationale behind that work ethic. Answers to this question can not only tell you more about how a person will perform on the job, but it will reveal how well they observe and pay attention to others, as well.

Question 3: “Can you tell me about a time when a person in your department was dragging down the team? How did you communicate your concerns to your manager?”

This is a complicated question. Most candidates can tell you about their experiences with weak-performing team members, but not all of them ever told a manager about it. If they didn’t speak up then, they may not speak up about problems in the future.

Question 4: “What is the hardest part of managing you?”

We’ve all heard the question, “What’s your biggest weakness?” This is a related question but asked in a different way. Asking a candidate to speak to how they prefer to be managed not only gets to the root of some of their development opportunities, but it gets them to offer suggestions for working around their troublesome areas.

Question 5: “Tell me about yourself.”

This last one is more of a statement than a question, and it throws many candidates off guard. Sure, some may have prepared an answer to this question, but if you can get someone to answer this one spontaneously, it can reveal a lot. Get candidates talking and they may tell you about a past experience they wouldn’t otherwise have mentioned, or one of their personal biases, or give you clues about their work style and behavior patterns. They may also be less on guard and more likely to toot their own horn about past experiences.

There are no perfect interview questions, nor perfect candidates. Regardless of the questions you ask in your next interview, you should be prepared to read between the lines and listen to what candidates are really saying. So tell us…if you were an animal, what animal would you be?

Adapted from Tom Gimbel and the LaSalle Network via Talent Management magazine.

_Learn more about hiring best practices in an article from last year that still hasn’t gone out of style, “6 Tips for Hiring Managers.”