Builders: The podcast where we discuss the ups and downs of building great tech products Stream here

Unusual questions to ask at a job interview

There is nothing that job candidates despise more than answering the same old questions during every job interview. “How do you see yourself in five years?” and “Why do you want this job?” don’t cut the cake anymore.

More often than not, the honest answers would be “No idea” and “Because I need money”, but if someone answers you like that, you’d consider them to be arrogant or uninspired.

In the software industry, jobs require not only skills but to also be a good culture fit and share the values with the company. Since there’s high employee turnover in IT, you need to find candidates that you could see being a part of your company for a long time.

So, in the hiring process, it is smart to use unique interview questions that will help you as a recruiter to learn more about the character, problem-solving skills, personal interests and skills outside of work, and general human decency in your candidate.

We asked some of our HR team members to tell us their favorite unusual questions they ask at screening interviews, and here’s what we compiled.

1. What caught your eye in the job description that made you apply for this job?

A hiring manager’s first step in hiring is weeding out the not-so-serious applicants is to see if they actually made an effort to read through the job description and if they invested anything in the interview process.

By asking them what was it in the job description that they found relatable or rang attractive to them to make them apply, you will see if their reasons for applying are something you look for in the long term and if they even read the whole thing in the first place.

2. Do you relate to the mission and vision of our company?

The answer to this question will really make all the difference in separating the people who look for work, from those who look for a long-term mission and passion. People who apply because they are genuinely interested and inspired by a company’s mission, vision and values, are more likely to stay longer.

3. What are you most proud of outside of work?

The answer to this question shows what your candidate values most in life: whether they work for providing and giving their family a better life, improving the environment and community where they live, or simply cherish their social circle, by seeing what they’re most proud of, you can learn more about their personal values and struggles in life.

4. What was the biggest risk you took, and what did you learn from it?

Everyone appreciates a risk-taker at work. Of course, not if they are reckless. But by learning what they found to be risky, overcame and learned their lesson, you can see if you have a team player and problem solver in your hiring pipeline, or someone who will be timid and dependent at work.

5. How do you evaluate your own success?

This is an important question that will help you discover more about your candidate’s personal view on their own career, and what they deem to be a sign of success.

For example, a person whose most important criteria is material wealth, might not be a team player or someone who genuinely cares about the values of the company as long as they’re getting paid.

If they say, for example, that they seem successful because they see the company they worked for grow in the past period, that speaks a lot about their willingness to grow with the company.

6. Do you have friends from your previous or current workplaces?

Quite obviously, if the answer to this question is “No”, you might be dealing with a problematic person that doesn’t easily agree with their coworkers and easily gets into arguments.

7. Are you comfortable with delivering bad news to your team or clients?

In daily work, it’s not all roses. Having a responsible and down-to-earth attitude, even when things go sour, is a virtue in an employee that can make an amazing difference, especially if you’re hiring them for a higher rank position like a team lead or a manager.

8. What is the most important advice you could give yourself at the start of your career?

This answer will really pinpoint what they deem to be a valuable lesson they learned throughout their career. It will help you see what they think is most important now, and how open they are to reflect on their career past and speak openly about their misgivings.

9. What do you want your typical day here to look like?

Your new hire will spend roughly eight hours a day with your other employees, whether in an office or remotely. They should have a similar vague idea of how their day will be organized. This is of course something you as an employer will set for them, but if they feel strongly about some things, it might be a great factor where you see they wouldn’t fit.

10. Do you enjoy working in your current profession?

Oftentimes, people in IT take a job so they can support themselves in pursuing another profession. Ask if they are happy with what they do. This will help you learn if you can see them still working with your company for years to come.

11. What is the first thing you would do if you ended up on a deserted island?

It probably sounds very cliche, but it is a good question to ask and learn if the candidate is a good problem solver.

12. Why should we hire you?

Test their ability to sell themselves. Check if they know what makes them different from the other candidates and if they believe in what they’re saying about themselves. The balance between self-assurance and modesty is what you’ll be looking for.

13. Are you afraid of mistakes?

Although it is okay to be afraid of mistakes, a person who isn’t able to handle them well and learn from them won’t make a great employee.

14. Tell me about a job or a company that was a bad fit for your personality and why was this the case?

By asking this question, you can learn what was the dealbreaker in previous employment for them, what they as employees value most, and how they worked to fit in better. At the same time, you’ll see if they like to talk badly about previous employers, and how they might communicate with other candidates about you as an employer in the future.

15. Is there anything you want to ask me?

In my personal experience, when looking for a writer to join my team, I feel elated when candidates ask me about the job, the company, the culture and what their workday would look like. Instead of me asking all the questions, I give them five minutes to address their own questions instead and see what they want to know. You might learn that they are very interested in the position.

Find your next developer within days, not months

We can help you deliver your product faster with an experienced remote developer. All from €31.90/hour. Only pay if you’re happy with your first week.

In a short 25-minute call, we would like to:

  • Understand your development needs
  • Explain our process to match you with qualified, vetted developers from our network
  • Share next steps to finding the right match, often within less than a week

Not sure where to start?

Let’s have a chat

First developer starts within days. No aggressive sales pitch.