4 Creative Interview Questions to Ask Prospective Job Candidates

Nobody ever said finding the right candidate to fill your job opening would be easy. The hiring process is a delicate balance between resume screening, asking questions and listening; between the present reality and future possibilities. When you’re considering prospective candidates for an opening at your company, interviews provide the best cumulative, real-life impression — but only if you ask the right questions. You may have a copy of a candidate’s resume and cover letter sitting in your inbox, but a face-to-face interview brings their experiences, qualifications, and personality to life.

An interview is more than an hour and a list of questions. As much as you’re vetting the person sitting across from you, they’re also forming opinions about your company. In order to hire talented and forward-thinking personnel to fill openings, you’ll need to pepper in creative interview questions that test interviewees’ critical thinking skills. Here are four creative interview questions to ask prospective hires.

“If we’re sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great year it’s been for you in this role, what did we achieve together?”

This question comes from Randy Garutti, the Shake Shack CEO. The benefits of asking this question are multi-faceted. It allows you to see how familiar the candidate is with the role, and examines their ability to strategically chart the future. After all, you’re not just hiring a new team member to work on current day-to-day tasks. The impact of your hiring decision will continue to influence the company’s direction for months or even years, so it’s important to gauge any candidate’s sense of the role across time.

“What skills or talents that seem totally unrelated to your career do you enjoy pursuing on the side?”

Many interviewers focus so heavily on questions relating to employment history and on-the-job experiences that they neglect to sound out what candidates do outside of work. Jenny Blake, a former Google career coach, believes that asking about people’s interests outside of work grants key insight into their passions. There are always transferable skills between various hobbies, volunteer jobs, and careers, and asking this question will provide a fuller sense of each candidate besides what they have already mentioned on their resume.

“What criteria do you use to judge your own performance?” 

Are you interviewing someone who holds themselves accountable for mistakes? Do they intrinsically care about doing a good job, or does their motivation come from external sources like a manager’s praise or disappointment? The only way to truly find out is to ask this question. It does put the candidate on the spot, but more importantly, it gives you a peek into how they measure their own performance and personal development potential. You want a self-directed employee who takes their duties seriously, so look out for red flag answers to this question that betray a lack of personal accountability.

“What is an area that you’re actively working to improve in, and how are you doing so?”

This is a twist on the classic “name a strength and a weakness” question that so many interviews include. It’s phrased more positively, so candidates are more likely to answer honestly. There’s a reason why many potential hires repeat similar answers when you ask them to provide a weakness: they’re scared that naming a genuine weakness would be a deal-breaker! By phrasing it as a self-improvement project, you can gain real insight into their strengths and weaknesses, and gauge their level of self-awareness and effectiveness at tackling improvement projects.

Once you find the right candidate, it’s up to you and your company to do all you can to make their time with you successful for both parties. From offering competitive benefits to protecting employees with professional liability insurance and facilitating regular training sessions, any progressive company will understand the link between hiring and retaining the right employees and positive growth for the future. Facilitating an insightful interview is the first step to promote long-term development and vision within your teams.

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