Should you ask wacky interview questions?
The subject of asking unusual or wacky questions in interviews has garnered mixed views among recruiters – many of you regarding them as a waste of time and a sure-fire way of disrupting the focus of a potentially successful hire.
But surely there is a need to mix it up a bit and deviate from the manufactured questions that you feel programmed to ask? After all, there are only so many answers you can hear for the same regurgitated questions.
So, how can off-the-wall questions improve the interview experience without terrifying the candidate? Here are a few ways they can…
1. Gauging the candidate’s personality
The odd ‘zany’ question can get the candidate thinking about an answer outside their comfort zone and help you develop a real sense of their personality – rather than their rehearsed interview persona.
A sales associate from Pacific Sunwear asked ‘If you were an animal, what would you be and why?’ – though not linked to the job itself it is a good way of lightening the mood and getting the candidate to think about which of their skills would be transferable in a different environment – albeit the unlikely animal kingdom on this occasion.
2. Breaking the ice
The whole interview process can be quite overwhelming for candidates and stressful for recruiters, so asking an unusual question early on can help create a less daunting atmosphere for everyone.
‘Do you know any jokes?’ can help add a more humane feeling to the interview and help the candidate feel more comfortable.
3. Making the candidate think creatively
‘Curveball’ questions that require the candidate to use their problem solving skills in a creative way can provide you with the insightful responses that you’re looking for. It can also be a good barometer of whether the candidate is a good ‘cultural fit’ for the company in question.
An example that has grown in popularity with recruiters is: If you had to be shipwrecked on a deserted island, but all your human needs — such as food and water — were taken care of, what two items would you want to have with you?
Lynne Sarikas, director of the MBA Career Center at the Northeastern University business school, believes that this type of question displays the candidate’s ability “to demonstrate quick thinking, poise, creativity, and even a sense of humour.” – http://humanresources.about.com/od/interviewing/a/interview_odd.htm
4. Gaining an insight into your candidate as an employee
Throwing in an unusual question based on their previous work experience can be a good way of gauging how they are as an employee.
How would your current boss or a team member describe you? What would he/she say are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? – This question should evoke what the candidate believes to be their best qualities within the working environment.
What is the main con of asking wacky questions?
There is a risk that your wacky questions may backfire and disrupt the focus of your candidate unnecessarily, so avoid questions that do not bear any relevance to the job specification or any puzzles that are likely to confuse your candidate.
A few examples of wacky interview questions to avoid:
- What was your best MacGyver moment? – Schlumberger junior field engineer.
- How many tennis balls are in this room and why? – Yahoo customer service rep.
- Are your parents disappointed with your career aspirations? – Fisher Investments client service associate.
- How many hair salons are there in Japan? – Boston Consulting associate.
- Say you are dead — what do you think your eulogy would say about you? – Nationwide product manager.
The main rules when asking unorthodox questions is that it should be relative to the role and have a purpose in deciding the successful candidate for the job.
A unique interview question can help evoke a true depiction of the candidate’s personality and put them at ease, but the bizarre, borderline insane questions above are beneficial to nobody. So, be wacky! – But put a filter on it.