1. Who helped you get where you are today?
We’re looking for humility, gratitude and signs the person will give credit to others where credit is due. Anyone who answers, “no one,” especially if they exhibit signs of anything other than justifiable self-reliance, may have a sense of entitlement and will likely rub team members the wrong way. That would be a deal-breaker.
2. What’s something you haven’t told us, but that we’ll likely find out about you in three months?
This question is a crafty way of asking about quirks, unusual qualities, or potentially even character flaws. It’s human nature to put your best face forward during the interview process and try to conceal any less-than-desirable traits. But we’re all human, so our true selves are eventually going to emerge. This question can be very revealing!
3. What’s your work-life spirit animal?
One of the best strategies we’ve found to gauge whether or not a candidate is a good fit is to ask out-of-the-box, pattern-interrupt questions. You know, the kind you won’t find on pre-interview prep checklists. Our primary goal is to screen whether or not the candidate is a cultural fit. Occasionally, we’ve heard responses that render a candidate unhireable. For example, we passed on the candidate who admitted that their work-life spirit animal is probably a sloth!
4. If I saw you with your friends on your best day, what would you be doing and what part would you play in the group?
This question assists in understanding a candidate’s peer group, where they fit in the pecking order, whether they’re introverted or extroverted, and if they’re a team player. Sometimes we’ve discovered fascinating extra-curricular activities a candidate enjoys.
5. You’re hosting a dinner party. It will be you and three guests, who can be alive or dead, real or fictional, but not family or a love interest. Who will you invite, and what will you serve?
This is my all-time favorite because there are a lot of elements in play. First, are they stumbling trying to pick the three–and can they make small talk as they think? Second, who are the three and why were they chosen? Will the candidate select a menu that is scattered or cohesive, and why those dishes specifically? How detailed do they get? Are they more concerned about conversational opportunities, or showing off their cooking skills–or are they ordering out?
6. Tell me about a mistake you made—how did you handle it?
We’re looking for humility, personal accountability and whether they learn from mistakes. The twist is that we also ask this question in reference checks: Tell me about a time when <Candidate> made a mistake and how they handled it. You may be surprised how references describe the candidate. One said: ” ‘Pete’ never makes mistakes–well, at least none he’ll ever admit.” That’s valuable insight about “Pete”!
7. Did you reach your full potential in your previous job?
We ask because the answer reveals whether they may talk badly about their last team, employer and company, whether they are self-reflective and if they analyze and learn from mistakes.
8. Tell me about the last gift you gave a non-family member and why you gave it to them.
This sheds light on thought process, decision-making skills and even emotional intelligence. We also like the question, How would you convince someone to do something they didn’t want to do because they were afraid of doing it? Asking unique, thought-provoking questions opens a window into the candidate’s world and helps us assess who they are and how they function.
9. In what areas do you typically have the least patience at work?
A person’s answer says a lot about their personality, how they deal with change, how they interact and work with others, and what they are and aren’t willing to do. If someone says they have no patience for coworkers asking “dumb” questions, they may not be a great team player.
10. What is one thing at which you’re a true expert?
Some people’s answers are technical or job-specific, while others refer to soft skills such as boosting team morale. I’m looking for elaborate, job-specific, narrow expertise. For a marketing position, answers about digital advertising, graphic design or content creation would be ideal. Then, I refer back to their answers in future interviews, asking for examples of previous work that specifically spotlights their expertise.