15 Unique interview questions that will shock your candidate.jpg

15 Unique Interview Questions That Will Shock Your Candidate

Publish Date: 14 Oct 2019

Interviews can be stressful and most people hate them. From my experience being on both sides of the questions, I wanted to share what I’ve found are the best questions to ask, and the best answers to give to show an employer you have what they’re looking for.

These questions are generic and can work in any workplace or job sector. The reason this article is different from all the others out there is because we look at specific pressure points for candidates, to see how they perform under stress from us as an employer, and from the client. We are not trying to be mean or demoralize anyone, however we spend a lot of time and money in recruiting and we can’t afford to hire the wrong person.

It has happened before, a new starter breezes past an interview because they are a ‘smooth talker’ and they couldn’t last 2 weeks because they weren’t ready for the pressures the job imposed on them, forcing them to leave the company, and with that departure the process started again. I am not afraid to say I left a company after 2 months because I was so far behind the learning curve I couldn’t perform daily tasks.

With that, let's jump into the 15 unique interview questions that will shock your candidate and why you need to start asking them.


At what point are you as good as you will ever be? When are we good enough to stop self improving?

This is only to be used at the very beginning or very end of the interview, it will force the person answering to think about themselves and what they need to get better at. Do they still need to learn about their field of expertise or do they feel content in their knowledge.

Mainly, from this question you will be able to weed out the ‘yes people’ and the over confident. The applicant can find it very easy to not give true answers and opt to give what you want to hear. As an employer, I want all of my employees to continue learning, be aware of their knowledge level, and never stop improving, and these applicants know this. So if you get a personal answer that shows their true attitude towards self improvement you know they are being truthful about their knowledge level, and you will be able to gauge where they will be in a year by the mentality they have towards learning.


What stands in the way of you progressing at work?

If you ask this from a friendly place, such as an investigation into what you can do to help, you will get an honest answer.

You can find out what could motivate them to reach the next level, or what support they might need. It is very important to look at a candidates possible progression through the company before hiring them. By learning what they need, it makes it easier to plan for the future, and it might be the deciding factor between two people. If your company can’t support someone to go onto the next level then there is no point in taking them on.


Do you think the end product is more important? Or the way you get it done?

This is more of a filler question, it keeps the applicant thinking constantly. If they have a choice of two options, neither right or wrong, they need to weigh the pros and cons of each answer.

I look at this as more of a morale question. If you had a task to do, and you think the end product is the most important thing, does that mean you would do anything to get it done? Would you sacrifice company values? Would you be mean to colleagues because they aren’t quick enough? Would you break the law? I know these are extreme but it can’t hurt to investigate the answer further.


What would you do if someone in your life right now was sabotaging you?

I would advise not to push to much with this question, it can be soft spots for some people.

Their answer can also show red flags, you don’t want a toxic environment at work where people are trying to one-up each other. If a person tells you how they hit the fan and went overboard when someone was disrespectful to them, maybe they won’t like office competition as much as others. You want people to deal with disagreement and confrontation calmly and safely, you need to keep the office civil when disputes occur.


Do you believe there is an age limit on your goals?

This one can go either way. If you are interviewing an older person for a simple job with not much progression they might think goals change, or as bad as it sounds they might have accepted their dreams are over. But generally people will say there is no age limit on their goals.

The fact people believe they don’t have a clock hanging over their heads is great, this is a way you can boost them into work that helps them complete their professional life.


What are some of your biggest pet peeves?

One of our more basic questions, but it can have an impact on whether you hire someone. If your office has exactly what someone doesn’t like they won’t want to come into work, they won’t feel motivated and they won’t be able to concentrate. Basic but powerful.


What are the 3 things you can’t live without?

To get a feel for someone you need to get to know them, you need to ask meaningful questions. By asking what means most to them you are connecting on a deeper level and you will be able to see if you get along with this person. As an employer you need to build bonds with your staff to gain their trust and confidence.


Why did you leave your last job?

It may seem irrelevant because no one would ever leave your company because it’s just too fun to work for, but it matters. If you know the trigger that lead to someone leaving their last job you can prevent the same trigger happening in your office.

This is how trust is built.


Why did you choose this position to apply for?

You need to get an idea of why the candidate chose your company, or your job description. If you don’t fulfill their expectations they will be disappointed and unmotivated to complete work.

This also gives you perfect ammo if they don’t have a clear cut answer. You will know if they didn’t research the company prior to the interview, and you will find out if they really know what the job entails.


What are you salary expectations?

This can really point out a someones self esteem at work. If you haven’t advertised a salary with the job you are forcing them to either think realistically for the work they will be doing, or you are asking them what they are worth. Most people are level headed about it, but if someone doesn’t know what to expect, they either don’t know how much is expected of them, or they don’t have an idea of what their time is worth.


What’s your teaching philosophy?

In most workplaces colleagues are expected to help each other, teaching can be a part of this. If someone has a teaching philosophy that is ‘find it out yourself’ or ‘I’ll tell you once’ they aren’t being a part of the team and therefore are holding people back which could impact your business.

I’m not looking for Mary Poppins or a Harvard professor, just someone with patience that doesn’t mind helping a colleague when they aren't busy.


What did you enjoy most about your previous position?

Coming back to the applicants old job. If there was nothing they liked about their old position then great move on, but if there was even a little thing try and create it at your office.

People like familiar space, and it might be a big change moving to a new job with new people so the least you can do is make the transition a little bit smoother. It might be something as simple as a type of coffee, or a particular chair they like. It all makes a difference in the eyes of an employee, and impacts how they feel about their new boss.


Can you tell me a dispute you were involved in at work and how you overcame it?

It’s obvious we want a calm office space so why not ask about the times they were involved in office disputes. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle themselves in conflict with others, did they start it? Were they a bystander that helped calm the situation? Or were they the victim?


What does customer service mean to you and how do you stay motivated to provide the best help?

Knowing how your future employee will treat your customers is very important, knowing what will keep them going is better.

If you know what customer service means to someone, you can get a gage on how committed they will be to customers or clients. It takes a calm friendly person to deal with customers all day, it takes a motivated caregiver to deal with the same client everyday.


Do you have any questions for me?

This might sound like another obvious one but interviews just don’t do. Some I’ve spoken to over the years have told me they were scared to answer a tough question, or worried the candidate would run away after hearing the answer.

The main thing you want to do for a new employee is ease them into their new job. Do this by answering their questions to better prepare them for what comes ahead.


Added Bonus

I also love to test candidates with little puzzles. I used to make people put together cardboard boxes, or take a little math quiz. It is important that you inform the person that this is not a test or exam, it’s a little bit of fun to get them out of their comfort zone. The questions are brain teasers designed to test mental dexterity, a person that can think outside the box will be able to confidently answer these questions, it’s up to you as an interviewer to determine if the person passes or fails based on the logic of the answers given.

  • A little girl kicks a ball 10 feet and it returns to her, how is this possible?
  • An electric train is going North at 100mph and the wind is blowing East at 10mph, which way will the smoke blow?
  • How much dirt is there is a 3x3x3 feet hole?
  • Some months have 30 days, and some have 31. How many months have 28 days?
  • If a room had 10 people, and each person has to shake hands with every other person, how many handshakes would happen?

These are just a couple of little brain teasers you can incorporate into your new starter test, but it is important to keep in mind, these questions are meant to throw people off their game. How they keep their composer during the test is the real gage of a strong candidate.

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