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Most interviewers really do want candidates to succeed in the job interview.  But, sometimes job interviews get a little stale and you need to spice them up, or you’re seeing too many candidates coming in with coached responses and you want to break the ice and get them to open up a little more in the interview.

It may be time add a new question or two to the lineup and mix things up.  Sure, you can go the old Microsoft or Google route and ask a seemingly unrelated brainteaser like “Why is a manhole cover round?” or ” How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?”  to test how they react and assess their analytical or critical thinking skills.

But, there are some fairly common questions that can give you similar results without causing your every day candidate to have a wave of panic or fear rush over them.

Here’s a few curveball interview questions you can throw at them to weigh their reaction and learn a little more about their personality to assess their fit for your organization.

It’s likely most candidates may have never pondered these questions about themselves, so don’t be surprised if they stop short for a second and still need a moment to respond.

The Change-ups

These questions add a spin on some old favorites that can give you a fresh response from job seekers.

What makes you unique? (Does the candidate know what value they bring to the table? This is a nice take on the Why Should we Hire You Interview Question?  The candidate may respond with something out of left field, but a smart candidate will remember to tie their unique traits to the job at hand.)

Who are you? (This is a fun play on the Tell me About Yourself Interview Question, but by the nature of the way it’s phrased you may get a more interesting response, but, in reality, you might also have some candidate’s fall short on their answer.)

Do you have regrets? (A pre-cursor or in lieu of asking a candidate how they respond to failures or making mistakes, see what kind of response you get when you ask about their regrets.  This is another question to watch for subtleties in the response and can give you a good judge of character if the applicant answers with honesty.)

The Knuckleballs

These questions are fun, but you have no control over how the candidate may respond so be prepared for anything or nothing.  You may learn a lot about a candidate, but others may be unprepared to step up to the plate and take a swing at answering.

In the news story about your life, what would the headline say?

What’s your superpower? (A twist on the old “If you could have any super power…” and a play on the what’s your strength question, this question forces the candidate to assume they already have a super power.)

Do you have a nickname?

What do you think of garden gnomes?

The Curveballs

They may be a little out of the ordinary, but like the knuckleballs, these interview questions can give you great insight into the job seeker if they’re willing to respond candidly.

What’s the most important part of your day? (This question may tell you how the candidate plans or prioritizes, whether they are a pessimist or optimist, what’s important to them in life, or whether they enjoy their work or are just looking for a pay check.)

Does life fascinate you? (This is a favorite asked at Ernst & Young)

What do you like to read?

The Sliders

These questions may drive home a little more about the integrity and persona of the candidate.  Make sure you dig past a yes or no response to see what they really think of themselves and why.  While these are just a few, you could really substitute any word after “Are you _________? that interests you.

Are you honest? (This question isn’t so much about the response as the large majority of candidates will respond “yes.”  It’s more about watching a candidate’s body language and reading subtle cues like how long it takes them to answer.)

Are you creative?

Are you happy?

The Forkballs

Don’t be afraid to get a little dirt under your nails and ask some tougher questions, you may be surprised by the responses you get.

What makes you angry?

How do you operate under stress?  (This is a good question to start leading back into your regular questions that directly pertain to the job at hand.)

What do you hate about working?

Sure some candidates will swing and miss at these questions, some will bunt, and some will hit a home run, but that’s part of the point of asking them.  You’re trying to see not only what their responses are but how they react when posed with something unexpected.

Be careful not to flood your interview with a bevy of these types of questions.  Use them sparingly and with intent.  Pick ones that make sense for the types of candidates you are interviewing and that mix well with the question sets you currently use.

It also helps to address the candidate after they’ve fielded some of your curveballs with some encouragement and acknowledgement that you know some of the questions may have come out of left field for them.  This can help put them at ease and help build some trust in the interview.

It’s okay to have a little fun in the interview if it helps you get closer to identifying the right candidate to join your team.  Don’t be afraid to through a curveball in the mix every now and then.  For candidates it may be about winning or losing the job interview, but for the interviewer it’s how the candidates play the game.

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