Do you recall Barbara Walters asking the “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” question in interviews in the 80s? Since then, the Tech industry has been the lead in offbeat, creative interview questions, but they have their place in the interview process for any employer.
The job interview is the employer’s opportunity to get to know the candidate better through answers to questions and reactions to challenges and inquiries, as well as gestures and body language. Candidates may be nervous and fidgety, or relaxed and confident, and the interviewer gets to see and evaluate the candidate’s demeanor. How a candidate reacts to standard interview questions and scenarios may be very different than how he or she reacts to unusual or creative interview questions, and can reveal how well they handle unexpected situations and how creative they are.
Why Use Creative Questions
Creative interview questions are often used to gauge culture fit, says OI Partners managing partner Susan Ruhl. Creative questions about how to do something are designed to see how candidates work and think about work and reveal not only knowledge but also problem solving skills and thought processes. Look for candidates who use good logic and creativity to answer puzzle questions and who stay unflustered and in control during interviews.
Asking nontraditional questions in interviews gives hiring managers the chance to see candidate traits that might not come up otherwise. How many behavioral interview questions show if a candidate is good at math or willing to admit math is not a strong suit as questions with math problems in them? How can you best understand a candidate’s work ethic and motivation without asking an offbeat question like “If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money?”
Glassdoor’s Top 10
Each year, the career community Glassdoor asks job candidates about the oddest and most creative interview questions they’ve been asked so job seekers and hiring managers alike can see what kind of questions are being used. 2015’s top 10 questions included “Who would win a fight between Spider Man and Batman?” asked by Stanford University, “What did you have for breakfast?” asked by Banana Republic, and “What’s Your Favorite Disney Princess?” by Redbox.
Jeanne Sahadi of CNNMoney advises job seekers to carefully answer creative interview questions rather than guess or reply with “I don’t know” because employers want to see how you react. They want to see you in action to better understand how you’d fit with their culture, what your work ethic is, and how you think and solve problems.
Top Oddball Tech Job Interview Questions
CIO.com managing editor Rich Hein says that candidates can’t really prepare for oddball interview questions, but should be ready for them. Twitter asked software engineer candidates “Why is the earth round?” and Zappos asked financial analyst candidates “How many gas stations are there in America?” It’s not as much about giving the right answer as it is about being able to answer and show how you arrived at your answer. Dropbox asked its rotation program candidates “If you woke up and had 2000 unread emails and could only answer 300 of them, how would you choose which ones to answer?”
Last Year’s Questions
Last year’s creative interview questions include gems like Xerox’s “Why is a tennis ball fuzzy?” and AirBnb’s “How lucky are you and why?”
Here’s a list of actual creative interview questions you may want to use in interviews:
- “If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors?” —Apple, Specialist interview.
- “If you could sing one song on American Idol, what would it be?” —Red Frog Events, Event Coordinator interview.
- “Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer?” —Dell, Account Manager interview.
- “If you were on an island and could only bring three things, what would you bring?” —Yahoo, Search Quality Analyst interview.
- “If you were a box of cereal, what would you be and why?” —Bed Bath & Beyond, Sales Associate interview.
- “Do you believe in Bigfoot?” —Norwegian Cruise Line, Casino Marketing Coordinator interview.
- “What is your least favorite thing about humanity?” —ZocDoc, Operations Associate interview.
- “How many square feet of pizza are eaten in the U.S. each year?” —Goldman Sachs, Programmer Analyst interview.
- “Can you instruct someone how to make an origami ‘cootie catcher’ with just words?” —LivingSocial, Consumer Advocate interview.
- “If you were 80 years old, what would you tell your children?” —McKinsey & Company, Associate interview.
Standard interviewing questions and Behavioral Interviewing certainly should be your mainstay, but don’t be afraid to experiment with unique, creative interview questions. Candidates are multi-dimensional, and attacking an interview from different angles and perspectives can help paint a more complete picture of a candidate.
Andrew Greenberg’s roots in recruiting date back to 1996. He has experience both on the agency-side and corporate-side of the staffing business, with a focus in the financial services space at companies like Bloomberg and UBS. He also has core experience with information technology staffing, and has worked for major software companies such as SAP Business Objects and IBM/Informix Software. To get in touch with Andrew, you can reach him by email or by phone at (800) 797-6160.