Unconventional Interview Questions for Recruiters

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After examining a number of cover letters and resumes, the next step of the hiring process is an interview between a job candidate and a human resources manager. There are a number of common and conventional interview questions that HR managers will ask in a job interview, and have become so well known to the point that candidates can often prepare for them beforehand. This will result in a situation where interviewees will tell recruiters the answers they think will get them the job, not the answers which actually reflect their true personality and work habits. To combat this possibility, HR managers and recruiters should be prepared to use a series of unconventional interview questions.

Unconventional interview questions are designed to challenge an interviewee and encourage them to think on their feet. This will provide a recruiter with a real insight into the mindset of each job candidate and help them find the ideal person for the available role.

Here are 8 unconventional interview questions for recruiters and HR managers to ask in a job interview:

“Can you describe a time you tried your hardest and still failed to meet a goal?”

Candidates will arrive at recruiter’s office with a resume full of accomplishments ready to be discussed, and therefore changing the subject to address failure can be very beneficial during the interview process. This unconventional interview question serves two purposes. First: it encourages the candidate to admit that not every task they set out to complete was done successfully, painting a more realistic picture of their work history. Second: it gives the interviewer an insight as to how the candidate views failure. While almost always viewed as a negative, failure can actually have unexpected benefits. If the candidate indicates that they used this instance of failure as an opportunity to learn and grow professionally, it shows they have the right mindset for the workplace.

“What do you find frustrating about multitasking?”

The speed of the business world has only increased with advances in technology and communication. In order to keep up with this pace, multitasking has become the new norm in many offices. HR managers are looking for candidates who can keep up, and not get bogged down when many different tasks fall into their lap. An unconventional interview question such as this encourages a candidate to address the inherently negative aspects of multitasking, and highlights the areas where they see room for improvement. If they indicate that they don’t enjoy the necessity of delegation, it shows they might not function at their best in a team setting. Conversely, if they are frustrated by the overall organizational difficulties that can lead to multitasking, it could be a sign that they would best work in a more structured environment.

“What is your most contrarian opinion?”

A good employee is one who is unafraid to speak their mind, especially when their opinion may go against prevailing thought. In order to remain successful and continually expand, a company needs to assemble a team of diverse voices who have a unique set of experiences. This will allow them to have different perspectives on the same issue. These employees must be unafraid to speak up, and this unconventional interview question will motivate an interviewee to take an unpopular stand. Additionally, one survey found that 25% of employees estimated that their failure to speak up in critical scenarios cost their companies in excess of $50,000. Employee expression is not just good for company culture, it’s also good for the bottom line.

“If you had to teach a class, what would be the subject?”

A good employee is one who is willing to share their knowledge with others. This unconventional interview question encourages candidates who may be more introverted and attention-adverse to view themselves in a leadership role. By allowing them to choose the subject they would teach in this hypothetical class, it reveals an area of knowledge where they feel confident. Even if the subject they choose is unrelated to the available job position, it shows they can be motivated to share their knowledge for the betterment of those around them. 

“Have you ever terminated someone’s employment?”

Many people have experienced frustration with a co-worker, but few have ever been in the position to terminate them from their role. If the candidate has found themselves in this position, it would give a recruiter insight to how they were able to handle the unpleasant reality of letting someone go. Ideally, it demonstrates that the interviewee can follow correct workplace procedure and provincial laws that govern employment termination, while facing the tough decisions that can arise in a position of authority.

“Who is the smartest person you personally know?”

A good candidate is one who seeks mentors and opportunities to learn from those around them. Mentors are very important to achieving career success, with 80% of CEOs reporting that they had guidance from more experienced individuals. By seeking others with more knowledge than themselves, the candidate demonstrates their growth mindset and commitment to self-improvement. The added caveat of selecting someone they know personally removes more famous, and generic, pop culture choices such as Steve Jobs or Leonardo Da Vinci, and motivates them to draw on people who have aided them on their current career path.

“Would you rather complete a project late or over-budget?”

A hardworking employee will strive to complete each project successfully, on-time, and on-budget, but there will invariably be hiccups at some point during the process. The advantage of this unconventional interview question is that it encourages the candidate to anticipate a situation where they lose a certain amount of control, and acknowledge that they may be required to make a hard choice regarding company priorities. If they choose to complete a project late, it shows that they respect a business’ financial situation, and will not use more resources than necessary to finish the project. If they choose to complete the project over-budget, it shows that they place a strong emphasis on meeting deadlines. Regardless of their answer, it is a valuable insight into their priorities as a potential project leader.

“What was your least favourite question asked during this interview?”

Employees have to be willing and able to report negative news and results to their superiors. There is no point to assembling a workplace team that will simply nod their heads and approve every idea that comes from the boss. Putting the prospective employee in a situation where they must voice an opinion that is in opposition to the HR recruiter is the main purpose of this unconventional interview question. It also proves that the candidate is engaged as an active participate during the interview process and is not simply going through the motions necessary to get a job.

The role of an HR recruiter and manager is to find the ideal candidate for an available role. Throughout the job interview process, they can get a much stronger insight into the work style and mindset of a candidate by using unconventional interview questions. These can motivate a candidate to form opinions in a limited amount of time, and confront some of the more negative aspects of a job role. A human resources manager will find this technique very beneficial during their search for the right employee to join their company.