HRM Five: Unusual (but still useful) interview questions

How to add some spice to a job interview while still getting some useful information out of it.

Job interviews are an unavoidable part of the hiring process. At best, a recruiter might have a great conversation with a strong candidate, who proves themselves a good fit for the role and organisation they’ve applied for. At worst, it ends up being an awkward waste of time for everyone involved.

As much as technology takes over parts of the recruitment cycle, the actual mechanics of an interview cannot be automated. Sure, you can have a bot screen résumés, but a bot cannot ask searching questions of a candidate.

And in the internet age, where websites like Glassdoor compile common interview questions and others still offer template answers, searching questions are exactly what HR professionals need to best understand potential employees. These should neatly side-step memorised answers to better draw out a candidate’s personality and thus indicate their suitability for the position’s responsibilities, the team they will be posted to, and the company’s overall philosophy.

The next time you find yourself in a job interview, trying to get past standard questions and even more standard answers, why not try the talking points below instead?


About You

  1. Would you rather know a lot about a little, or a little about a lot? (Unknown source)
  2.  What kind of tree would you be? (Reportedly asked by Cisco)

Let’s face it: “tell me about yourself” is a boring and vague way to get someone to talk about themselves. These questions, on the other hand, are specific enough to guide a person into showing more of their personality and life philosophy – both useful metrics in understanding a person’s approach to life and work.



  1. If you woke up and had 2,000 unread emails and could only answer 300 of them, how would you choose which ones to answer? (Dropbox)

This is a very real scenario for many office employees. Even when it is not the case, many jobs involve problem solving and prioritising in varying proportions. There is no right answer to the question above, but how a person answers this can tell you a lot about their work ethic.



  1. You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What colour would you be and why? (Urban Outfitters)
  2. A penguin walks through the door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here? (Clark Construction Group)

If you’re looking for a candidate who will contribute ideas and drive innovation, you effectively want someone who is both creative and imaginative. How better to test those qualities than with silly scenarios?

Even if you, as a recruiter, are uninterested in innovation or interesting ideas, the way they answer such questions – with humour, or thoughtfulness, or ingenuity – can tell you a lot about their personality, and how they might fit within the role and organisation they’ve applied for.



Yamini Chinnuswamy offers five important points on everything you wanted to know about HR practices today, but were too afraid to ask. Check out previous editions of HRM Five here.



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