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Eight Odd Interview Questions (and What They Tell You About Someone)

When candidates are applying for a job, they’re putting a lot of time and energy into projecting their most professional selves in their cover letters and resumes. After candidates are chosen for interviews, the interviewer should already have a pretty good idea about the potential employee’s work qualifications. This is why successful interviewers will ask strange and creative questions during an interview instead of having the typical “Describe your past work experience” conversation.

Oddball questions usually give the interviewer insight into the candidate’s personality, determine whether the candidate can “think on their feet,” and show the interviewer if the interviewee is creative. Interviewers want to see if the candidate can solve a problem out loud and whether they’re flexible.

In order to go beyond the candidate’s resume and see if his or her personality is a good fit for your company, try asking these eight odd interview questions.

What’s your spirit animal?

It seems like everyone is talking about their “spirit animal” these days, however most people don’t expect this question in a professional job interview. This question can give the interviewer insight into the candidate’s personality and whether they have a sense of humor. It can also show what type of work ethic they have based on the type of animal they choose. Pro tip: Stay away from those candidates who say their spirit animal is a sloth.

What will you watch no matter how many times you’ve seen it?

The type of movie the candidate chooses doesn’t necessarily matter as far as work ethic goes, but it’s definitely a good indicator of his or her personality. This question is more of a “get to know you” question and could be a great icebreaker for the beginning of the interview. If they say they don’t know, they could potentially be either nervous or boring (or both).

What did you do when you felt like your company’s leadership was wrong?

For leadership positions in particular, successful companies want to make sure its candidates don’t always follow the herd and can produce creative ideas on their own. Companies also want to know their employees discuss their ideas the right way with upper management. Candidates who successfully answer this question show they’re not afraid to—diplomatically—shake things up from time to time.

Describe a stressful work-related situation and how you handled it.

Most careers are never 100 percent stress-free. No matter how good someone is at his job, stressful situations are bound to occur at some point. What matters is how the situation is handled.

When asked this question, most candidates won’t say they screamed at their coworkers and threw a chair out of the window (which would obviously be a sign they aren’t a good fit for your company – or anyone else’s, for that matter). If they answer it honestly, “Yes, I wanted to throw my chair out the window, but I decided to prioritize my to-do list and take on one task at a time,” it shows they don’t think they’re perfect, but they aren’t lying to you. And this is probably how they will handle stress at your company.

What book should everyone read?

If the candidate can’t answer this question, it may be a warning sign they don’t read, which could be a deal breaker for certain positions. People who enjoy reading and have recommendations about books tend to be more curious, intellectual and creative. The book he or she chooses is also a peek into the candidate’s personality.

Explain a project you were working on when you completely lost track of time.

There is a lot an interviewer can learn about the candidate when they answer this question. The project he or she chooses is typically one they enjoy doing the most because they were able to “get in the zone.” This is when work doesn’t feel like work, and they weren’t looking at the clock, waiting for the workday to be finished. Hopefully, the project they choose is similar to one of their tasks for the position at your company.

Having one of these moments also shows that the candidate doesn’t have a problem with focusing on a project or a task. They’re also able to commit to something fully until the project is complete.

What are your biggest weaknesses?

This question is a doozy. The candidate doesn’t want to tell you about weaknesses—they’re trying to look perfect here! It’s an interview! However, the way a candidate answers this question is indicative of his or her work ethic, their self-confidence, and how quickly they can think on their feet.

If a candidate responds by turning their negative into a positive, some interviewers feel like that’s patronizing because it isn’t really an answer. A good candidate will answer the question honestly, while ensuring the interviewer that their weakness wouldn’t affect any aspect of the job for which they are applying.

If you were on an island and could only bring three things, what would they be and why?

Although this may seem like a just-for-fun question, interviewers ask potential candidates this question to see if they can organize their responses on the spot, are a team player, and think and react quickly to a crisis or problem. Depending on the candidate’s response, it could show they’re able to plan ahead quickly and intelligently. For example, if the candidate chooses a boat as one of the three things so he or she can get off the island.

If the candidate answers humorously, this is a good indicator of them having a fun personality, which could be what the interviewer is looking for as far as a cultural fit with the team.

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