Non-Traditional Interview Questions That Can Help You Find the Best Candidates

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There are a few traditional, bread-and-butter interview questions that are as boring as they are indispensable, and if you’re looking for ways to liven up a stuffy standardized interview process, you’ll need to keep these vital questions off the cutting floor. For example, you’ll need to ask the applicant to describe her professional background, and it’s a good idea to ask why she’s decided to apply for a job with your company. But once the first few minutes of the interview are over, feel free to move on with a set of unexpected questions that can help you learn more about your candidate’s personality and flexibility.

Surprise Candidates and Keep Them on Their Feet

Try a few behavioral questions first. Describe the most challenging or unpleasant aspect of the job in question and ask the candidate how she’s likely to handle this challenge on a daily basis. This question works on two levels: It warns the candidate about an unpopular part of the job she may not be anticipating, and it allows you to gauge her aptitude for this kind of work. If she lights up and expresses enthusiasm for the task, that’s a plus. If she recoils or pauses awkwardly for several seconds, she may not represent an ideal match. 

Ask the candidate about a specific time in the past in which she worked with a team that failed to meet its deadlines or goals. Ask her what caused the shortfall, how it was resolved, and what she learned. If she can’t describe a situation like this, factor her age and experience into your response.

Present the candidate with a common puzzle she may encounter on this job. Present your hypothetical case in the simplest possible way. How would she be likely to navigate this budget shortfall/ personality conflict/ difficult deadline?

Ask the candidate what led her into this field in the first place. This may or may not provide insight into her chances of success here, but it will give you with an opportunity to hear the candidate tell a personal story. Listen for the details she includes and the specific areas of interest she reveals.

Non-Traditional Questions: Warnings

You may choose to liven up your interviews and make them a fun experience for both the candidates and your interviewers. But make sure that “non-traditional” doesn’t mean contentious. Never bait, challenge, insult, or belittle candidates with the questions you choose. Don’t ask them to describe their weaknesses (this is outdated and unwise) and don’t ask them what kind of cartoon character they would choose to be or what breakfast cereal they would want on a desert island. These unprofessional blunders can damage your reputation and alienate talented applicants.

Be unconventional, but also respectful, tactful, and polite. Candidates won’t be impressed by your ability to unsettle or fluster them. But they will be impressed by a workplace that seems innovative, off-beat and interesting. For more interview tips and non-traditional practice questions, reach out to the Little Rock staffing experts at CSS.

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