The interview process is the hiring manager’s opportunity to get to know a top candidate’s personality, values, and communication skills on a deeper level than on paper or in telephone interviews. In “Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer,” Jim Roddy emphasizes the importance of using unique interview questions to assess skills and personality, and cautions interviewers and hiring managers to not let themselves be blinded by singular stellar aspects of a candidate’s abilities.

Take some time before scheduling your first interview to consider what types of unique interview questions to ask to get the kind of information you need. Formulate questions that candidates haven’t experienced in traditional interview formats before so you get revealing answers about skills, experience and character.

Assess Culture Fit

A good fit with the candidate’s skills, abilities, interests, and experience for the position is important for a good hire, but culture fit is just as important. Unique interview questions that assess culture fit are tailored around important aspects of your company culture. For example, if your organization is a non-profit serving the physically challenged and their families, prepare questions about a candidate’s experience with and knowledge of those with disabilities and their work experience serving the physically challenged.

Try unique interview questions like these to reveal other aspects of culture fit:

If you could be doing anything, what would you do?

Use this question to assess passions and interests for culture fit.

What are your top three values?

This question helps you figure out if the candidate’s values match those for the position, department, or team.

Have the candidate read the company’s mission and value statements and discuss how they fit with their personal values.

This reveals how closely a candidate’s personal values align with the company’s values.

If hired, what would you do accomplish in your first week on the job?

This question will reveal a candidate’s expectations and organizational skills.

Assess Personality

In the interview environment, candidates do everything in their power to present themselves in the best possible light. But hiring managers need to get some insight into candidate personalities to make decisions about hiring fit. Unique interview questions designed to reveal candidates’ personalities let you assess their true personality traits beyond the best game
faces they bring to the interview.

Tell me about your favorite book or movie.

What was the last movie you saw?

How do you like to be told you’re doing a good job?

Tell me about a role model and why you look up to that person.

What superhero would you be, and why?

Assess Business Acumen and Continuous Learning

In a global economy where businesses must be flexible and adaptable to be competitive, hiring managers look for candidates with not only the technical skills and experience to do the job, but business acumen and a commitment to continuous learning. Top candidates are invested in their careers, their industries, and their employers, and should come to job interviews prepared with knowledge of the companies they want to work for. Interviewers can determine candidates’ levels of and interest in business and continuous learning issues with questions like these:

Have you noticed any blind spots in our business and how would you improve or eliminate them?

Assess candidate knowledge of your business and industry and business acumen with questions like this.

What do you read on a regular basis?

Assess how the candidate stays informed and entertained by reading.

What was the last class, seminar, course, or workshop you attended, and why did you take it?

This reveals where candidates are in their level of commitment to keeping skills and knowledge up to date.

Browse eBooks

What is your favorite newspaper or magazine and why?

This question reveals a lot about candidate interests and motivations.

If you bought this company tomorrow, what is the first thing you would do with it?

This question will reveal how much the candidate knows about your business and industry and business operations.

Turn Questions Around

Candidates who have prepared for the interview process are expecting to answer traditional interview questions about their skills, experience, and qualifications. Get a fresh perspective on important interview questions by turning them around and asking them from a new angle to get candidates off guard and get closer to true personalities and motivations.

Start the interview with “What would you like to ask me?”

Instead of asking “Where do you see yourself in five years?” ask “Where don’t you want to be in five years?”

Instead of saying “Tell me about yourself,” turn it around and ask what the candidates don’t yet know about themselves.

Reveal Leadership Qualities (or lack of)

Leadership is one of the top employment attributes employers want in candidates. While a lot of leadership skills are obvious from activities such as internships, job titles, and civic activities, unique interview questions get into a candidate’s leadership strengths and weaknesses.

Development Dimensions International reports that there are specific criteria to accurately predict leadership success. These skills and attributes include:

  • Desire and willingness to lead – leaders actively seek out leadership opportunities
  • Conceptual thinking – leaders manage the big picture to think ahead and create options
  • Results orientation – leaders have a passion for getting the best results
  • Adaptability – leaders are skilled at managing competing demands and keep a good attitude toward change, challenges, new people, and new situations
  • Receptivity to feedback – leaders know the value of feedback and input and seek and welcome it

Use unique interview questions centered around leadership such as these:

What is your definition of leadership?

Who is a great leader that has inspired you?

What do you consider the most important trait of a leader?

How would you deal with an employee who misses performance goals?

What type of leader do you like to work for?

What do you think are the most important leadership values and ethics to have? How would you put them in practice?

Discuss failed leadership, and a time when you failed as a leader.

Tell me about how you support employee development and learning.

How would you describe your leadership style?

How have you used leadership to get a team to complete a goal or project?

How do you handle and resolve conflict situations?

The biggest lesson in all of this is to be creative with your questions. Unique interview questions can and should follow the principles of Behavioral Interviewing. Avoid questions that can be answered with a “yes/no”, and design your unique interview questions to elicit stories from your candidates; stories that can be woven together to provide a complete profile of your candidate.

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