8 Obscure Interview Questions You Need to Ask


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Monday, June 25, 2018

Big companies have been throwing the interview rulebook out the window for many years. What questions do they ask candidates and why?

Article 3 Minutes
8 Obscure Interview Questions You Need to be Askin

It's become a habit for a lot of the world's biggest companies to ask unusual questions when interviewing candidates. From Google to Virgin and even Facebook, it seems that 'why should we give you the job?' just doesn't cut it anymore.

But is there something you can learn from these off-the-wall questions, or is it just a way of pushing the boundaries?

"How many Big Macs does McDonald's sell each year in the US?"

Facebook asked candidates looking to be a data scientist at the firm this exact question. Obviously, they don't really care about the success of McDonald's but are interested in how people will try to work this out. Asking candidates questions that will demonstrate problem-solving or another skill that is an integral part of the advertised role can be a great way to see how they work.

"How lucky are you and why?"

Follow AirBnB's example and ask this. It allows interviewers to understand what candidates really value about their own lives and that of those around them. If you're looking for someone in a communications or management role this could be an essential quality.

"If I was talking to your best friend, what is one thing they would say you need to work on?"

A rebirth of the 'what's your biggest weakness' that prompts candidates to also understand how they are perceived by others. Apple used this question when trying to find their next Red Zone Specialist.

"What would the name of your debut album be?"

Kooky retailer Urban Outfitters posed this to candidates. Although it may sound like an irrelevant question, it is actually a good way of getting to know how people view themselves and what is most important to them. Do they try to imitate a tried-and-tested hit record or do they go for something unique and personal to them?

"Design a spice rack for the blind."

People applying for a Hardware Engineer role at Intel were faced with this unexpected question. Of course, it's testing their design skills but it's also asking them to demonstrate how they're able to think on the spot.

"What do you do if you are approached by an employee who is complaining about a colleague who has horrible body odor?"

Candidates were asked this as part of Mastercard's search for their next Operations Leader. Balancing the different elements of people relations is at the heart of being successful in this position. Asking questions that are based on tricky, real-life situations can get great results when interviewing.

"If you could be remembered for one sentence, what would it be?"

Google asked Associate Account Strategist candidates this. Even with an hour or two to spare, you'd probably struggle to come up with an answer you're happy with. But the search engine giant is more concerned about what qualities candidates regard highly and how they want to be perceived by their colleagues.

"If you’re the CEO, what are the first three things you check about the business when you wake up?"

Take a leaf out of Dropbox's book and ask this question. It's an effective way of understanding what's most important to the candidate when it comes to keeping multiple parts of a business ticking over.

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