nontraditional interview questions

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Companies know how important it is to hire candidates that will fit in with their corporate culture. But with limited time during interviews, how can you determine a candidate’s true personality and really assess how they will fit in? Go beyond the standard biographical or skill-set questions and ask a few nontraditional interview questions that will show you what a candidate is really made of.

Sample Nontraditional Interview Questions

  • “What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?” This nontraditional interview question is a good way to identify if a candidate works hard and plays hard.  A more adventurous candidate is often a calculated risk taker on the job. They are very proactive at work and enjoy getting the most out of life, whether at home or in the office.
  • “What are the first three things you do at work each morning?” How a person answers this question can tell you a lot about how they work.  Since each workday needs to be planned, with tasks prioritized, what a candidate does first in the morning is important.  A good candidate will respond by mentioning a calendar or status sheet, or talk about getting the highest priorities done first.
  • “What kinds of people bother you?” This nontraditional interview question not only reveals a candidates pet peeves, it’s an indication of how they’ll fit in with different personalities on your team.  If the candidate says they’re not bothered by anyone, that’s a red flag.  Everyone is bothered by a certain communication style or personality trait.  However, if the applicant mentions multiple personality styles that bother them, they likely won’t be a good fit. Listen very carefully to how a candidate answers this question.
  • “When you walk into a room do you prefer to be noticed or fly under the radar?” This question tells you whether they are an introvert or extrovert and whether they recognize the pros and cos of each of those personality types. 
  • “What slogan would you put on your self-defining t-shirt?”  This could reveal someone’s personal mantra as well as how well they think on their feet and their sense of humor.
  • “What are three goals you have for the future?” Maybe the answer will be work related, or maybe the candidate will tell you about a trip they want to cross off their bucket list. Either way, this question will give you a better understanding as to what really matters to the person you are interviewing.

The point of these nontraditional interview questions is not to trip a candidate up. There should be no right or wrong answers, just a way to gain insight into the candidate’s sense of humor and give the candidate a taste of your company culture. These questions are a great place to start, but try coming up with a few of your own!

If you’d like more help with your interview process, the Executive Recruiters at Smith Hanley Associates specializes in identifying and recruiting the ideal candidates. Contact Jacque Paige at jpaige@smithhanley.com to see how we can deliver the right people for your open positions.


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