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Weird interview questions: How to give your candidates goosebumps

Dani Clayton is a young American teacher who moved to London to make a fresh start. Having seen a job ad for an au pair position in a country house, she walks into an intense interview, but ultimately gets the job that will haunt her for the rest of her life. That’s a scene from the new Netflix series, The Haunting of Bly Manor, which will definitely satiate your need for goosebumps.

Zina Panagopoulou
Zina Panagopoulou

Zina applies her BA in Philosophy, Pedagogy and Psychology to her interest in DEI in the workplace and candidate experience.

But have you yourself ever considered those weird interview questions that actually give candidates the chills? And more importantly, why does it matter?

The answer: it’s because your candidate’s experience in the recruitment process is important. Candidate experience is one of the most important factors that not only determine each candidate’s final decision, but also reflect your company culture. It’s important to always remember that, as a recruiter or hiring manager, you are the conveyer of that culture and you want to reflect it the best way possible.

To help you deliver your mission, we gathered weird interview questions that make your ideal candidates feel uncomfortable and – thankfully for you – some alternatives so as not to scare away those candidates – unless you actually want to trick or treat instead of filling that much-needed job position.

Weird interview questions list:

  1. Why should I hire you?
  2. Why should I not hire you?
  3. You have 10 minutes to impress me.
  4. Prove to me that you’re smart.
  5. What was your relationship like with your previous employer?

1. Why should I hire you?

Apart from being a very stressful question by itself, it also signals a mentality of dominance of the interviewer over the candidate. Even though recruiters and hiring managers have the skills and knowledge to identify skills, there is something that’s sometimes missing:

Candidates are potential colleagues willing to offer their services over compensation and therefore should be treated as equals, not as convicts being forced to testify for their skills.

Alternative: If you are determined to ask this question, consider rephrasing it as: “What could you offer to our company?”. This way, you’re giving the interviewee the opportunity to elaborate on their skills and ideas, and give them the chance to showcase their value to your company.

2. Why should I not hire you?

At first glance, the intent of this question is actually brilliant. Understandably, candidates want to present themselves as flawless and perfect, but the reality is that nobody’s perfect and that’s OK. However, you should carefully consider the words you choose when looking to identify those imperfections. At the end of the day, you want the candidate to feel comfortable. Right?

Alternative: Think about it for a second. Imagine yourself in the shoes of the candidate, waiting anxiously for the next question which ultimately is about calling attention to your flaws. Would you rather get a blunt question like the above, or something more like this: ‘What is something about you that you’d like to change/improve and how would you do that?”

Bet you prefer the second phrasing. But why?

Well, one could say that the first one reasserts that dominance we talked about earlier and gives indirectly the interviewer a reason to skip to the next candidate – at least that’s what you instinctively think as a candidate. So why don’t you polish this question a little bit before using it?

3. You have 10 minutes to impress me.

Now that’s one of the most-cited weird interview questions generating a lot of buzz on Quora. Some candidates reported that they walked away from the interview considering this question a red flag about the company culture, while others saw this as their opportunity to shine.

In any case, making even one of your candidates feel like a jester could lead to a negative review and harm your employer brand.

Alternative: So, what’s the alternative? Instead of asking questions that are difficult to evaluate, try creating a structured interview process. Focus on the specific role – skills needed – and a set of questions that identify whether a candidate is a perfect fit for the role. You can also grab ideas from our interview questions templates here.

Pro tip: Did you know that structured interviews reduce hiring biases?

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4. Prove to me that you’re smart.

“Smartness is situational”, wrote a Quora user in the discussion about this question. Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences has gained more and more ground over the past few years, especially in education. In short – smartness happens in many different forms. So what can you expect as an answer to this question? And most importantly, how will you evaluate the response?

Alternative: Instead of being driven by how much the answer impressed you (or not), you can add to your list a set of situational and emotional intelligence (EQ) interview questions. This way, you can tighten the focus of candidates’ responses and better compare their answers .

And if you want to evaluate logical-mathematical or linguistic intelligence, you can add an assessment to your hiring process.

5. What was your relationship like with your previous manager?

Remember those times when you were playing ‘truth or dare’ with your friends in college and awkward questions came up when you chose ‘truth’? Well, asking these kinds of questions creates the same feeling in candidates, but with one major difference; if the relationship was not that pleasant, they will never tell.

Alternative: Maybe what you’re actually looking for here is how the interviewee handles difficult situations or which style of management they thrive under. In any case, what you can do is present a scenario which requires interpersonal and collaboration skills to resolve and ask outright about the style of management. Bringing up questions about other companies doesn’t just make candidates feel uncomfortable, it can also be illegal. So, be mindful of that.

Avoiding ghosts

Nobody wants bad reviews haunting your company’s page. By building a structured interview process and taking into consideration the candidate experience, you will avoid unnecessary grudges and bring more ideal talent to your doorstep. And if you’re not sure what weird interview questions give candidates goosebumps, well, why don’t you simply ask them right after the interview with a candidate experience survey?


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