Unconventional job interview questions that actually work
Finding the right candidates to fill open positions is vital to sustaining a business.
But that can be easier said than done — especially in a tight job market.
Candidates should be expected to answer certain standard questions during a job search: Tell me about yourself. Why do you want to join the team? Why should we hire you?
But some leaders are taking a more creative approach to get to know candidates.
Trying to scare them off
Gabriel Fairman doesn’t want job candidates to put on any airs when interviewing for a job at his tech company Bureau Works. So he takes the same approach.
“I try to dissuade people from working for our company. I try to be honest about all our shortcomings and challenges,” said Fairman, who is CEO.
He is candid about the potential of long hours, high pressure situations and the fact that he doesn’t think he’s a great leader.
“By being honest, there is a higher likelihood people will be happy and engaged in the relationship instead of pretending to be things they think the other person wants them to be.”
All candidates who submit a resume to the company are asked to send a one-minute video on why they are a good fit for the company.
“We are looking for how comfortable people are with themselves, how scripted they are versus how spontaneous and how much they lean on the past versus future desires.”
Once a candidate has made it to an interview with Fairman, they don’t have to worry about bringing their resume since he doesn’t look at them.
“The few times I’ve done it, they’ve always misguided me,” he said. “They are all about labels and the past.”
Asking about their childhood
Ryan Duguid competes with some of the biggest names in tech for hiring talent for process automation and management software company Nintex headquartered in Bellevue, Washington.
“We are equidistant from Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft,” said Duguid, chief evangelist for the company. “To hire in that climate, you have to really know what you are doing. It takes a special skill to convince someone to come and work for a small company.”
He asks candidates what they were like as a child, what they did in high school and about their very first job.
“I am always looking for a person that, no matter where you put them at any stage of their life, they were seeking out inefficiencies … and saying there has to be a better, cheaper, faster and more thoughtful way of doing something.”
Nintex has also taken an unconventional approach in its job listings.
The company once ran a job ad in Malaysia that said it was looking for “lazy developers.”
“We wanted to highlight we wanted the right blend of lazy and highly intellectual,” Duguid said. “The laziness means they want the least-effort approach, but the intellect will ensure it’s done the right way.”
Duguid admits the post was met with mixed reactions, but it worked. “It brought in some really good people.”
Getting them to open up about a defining life moment
As the CEO and co-founder of online interior design tool Hutch, Beatrice Fischel-Bock is looking for employees who are willing to be a little open.
She learned her go-to interview question from a mentor: Tell me about a moment in your life that changed or defined you.
“Everyone has that moment where their perspective shifted,” she said.
She said she isn’t looking for people to share anything they aren’t comfortable with, but candidates have shared some personal moments.
“We are all about self-awareness — that is part of my company policy,” she said. “People who are more willing to open up and not keep at super surface level tend to be more my vibe.”
Tapping their inspiration
Heather Hasson wants to ensure that new hires for her medical apparel company FIGS will be able to fit in, but also push the company forward, so she asks where they find their inspiration.
She asks candidates for creative positions about their music preferences — what genre of music they find inspiring followed by a specific song. She then plays the song loudly to observe how the candidate reacts and connects with the song.
“I want them to get completely immersed,” she said. “I want to know who they are and why they enjoy that beat, melody or chord.”
She then asks why they chose that song.
“If they can explain how it made them feel then they can do the same for our community. I want to see if they create a visceral reaction with our community.”