3. "Why are manholes round?"
UBS, a Swiss multinational investment bank, asks this sneakily insightful question in Operations interviews. At first glance, it seems like another funny, "loosen the candidate up" question -- but, in actuality, it's a good indicator of your candidate's intellect.
An ideal candidate will think the question through and provide a thoughtful answer like this one -- "A round manhole cover can't fall through the round manhole opening. A square cover, on the other hand, could fit diagonally through the opening and fall through. Additionally, a circular cover fits easily, and can be removed easily, without much precision or rotating."
This answer demonstrates your candidate's ability to see the necessity of certain solutions, and ideally apply those same problem-solving skills to her own role.
4. "You’ve been given an elephant. You can’t give it away or sell it. What would you do with the elephant?"
This ConnectWise question helps you get a better sense for your candidate's reasoning skills. Of course, there's no "right" answer to this funny question, but it allows you to get insight into how your candidate thinks, prioritizes, and problem-solves. Additionally, it can loosen the candidate up and allow her to show you a more authentic side.
Your candidate might say, "Since I don't have a place to put an elephant, I'd probably send it on vacation", or "I would feed it, and then ride it to work."
It's important to note, you aren't looking for a specific answer here -- you're determining how your candidate thinks on her feet, and how she handles herself in unexpected situations.
5. "If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be and why?"
You might ask this bizarre Walgreens question to test your candidate's creativity. However, ideally your candidate's answer will give you insight into her strengths related to the role, and what kind of person she is.
Your ideal candidate should say something like this, "I would be an oak tree, because I'm strong and dependable." Of course, it doesn't matter what tree she chooses -- as long as she uses her answer as an opportunity to show you why she's a good fit for the position.
Creative & Interesting Interview Questions
6. "We finish the interview and you step outside the office and find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?"
This is a fantastic question to find out your candidate's true motivation in a role. You don't want to hire someone who only wants the job to make money -- you want a candidate who also finds genuine fulfillment in the role. Since corporations whose employees are engaged perform over 200% better than companies whose employees are not, it's critical you hire a fully engaged performer.
Your ideal candidate will say, "I'd use the $10 million to travel, donate to charity, and provide for my family. However, I'd still want to work for your company. I've always enjoyed working in marketing, and I think this company puts a great emphasis on creativity and storytelling to help brands' spread their message. So while I'd love to get $10 million, it wouldn't change my career goals."
Ultimately, you'll want a candidate who mentions why she's genuinely interested in the role, regardless of her income.
7. "What's the color of money?"
This might sound like a trick question -- or related to monopoly -- but in actuality, it's a good gauge for whether your candidate has a well-rounded view of the economy.
PolyOne asks this question to its financial candidates. While you might be expecting "green" to be the right answer, you'll actually want your candidate to say, "It depends on the country." This type of awareness for the world at large could be critical when evaluating markets and making global financial decisions.
8. "If you had to be shipwrecked on a deserted island, but all your human needs—such as food and water—were taken care of, what two items would you want to have with you?"
This question, asked by companies like Yahoo, encourages the candidate to demonstrate creativity and innovativeness. Additionally, it helps you determine your candidate's priorities. For instance, a candidate who mentions needing "a kindle with unlimited books, and my laptop" shows different values from a candidate who says he wants, "music, and a boat."
While there's no right answer, you'll want a candidate who showcases an ability to prioritize and think logically through tough situations. For instance, maybe your candidate says, "I'd like to bring a wifi-enabled laptop with wind generator to charge the batteries, and a lighter. I can do my work and keep in contact with friends on my laptop, and I can use the lighter to start fires and keep warm at night."
9. "Are you a hunter or a gatherer?"
If you aren't hiring an anthropologist, this might seem like a ridiculous question. But companies like Dell ask this question to gain critical insights into a candidate's strengths and weaknesses.
You want your candidate to focus her answer around qualifications of the specific role. For instance, if you're hiring for a content creator role, you'll want your candidate to say, "I'm a gatherer. I enjoy collecting critical SEO data and insights over time, and tailor my content to reach long-term goals."
Ultimately, hunters and gatherers are two very different categories of people. This question can help you quickly discern what types of strengths and weaknesses your candidate is likely to display in the role.
Weird, Unusual, & Random Interview Questions
10. "How much do you charge to wash every window in Seattle?"
While this might seem like an odd question, it's actually an effective one to ask if you're trying to determine how well your candidate can problem-solve. Particularly if you're hiring for a client-facing role, you'll want to see how your candidate handles questions to which she doesn't immediately know the answer.
Ideally, your candidate will say something like this -- "Well, let's say Seattle consists of 10,000 city blocks, with 1,000 windows per block. That's 10 million windows. If I charge $5 per window, I'd make $50 million."
The answer itself doesn't matter. It's more important your candidate can apply logical problem-solving skills, and remain calm, when dealing with challenging or unexpected questions.
11. "Design a spice rack for the blind."
Your candidate's answer to this random question shows a lot about how she makes decisions.
For instance, perhaps your candidate tells you she wants to interview blind people first and do competitive research before making a decision. This tells you she's someone who places value on research and analytics.
Alternatively, maybe your candidate says she'd create braille labels on each of the shelves. This tells you she's someone who trusts her instinct to make fast judgment calls.
Neither answer is wrong -- it simply depends on the type of person you need to fill the role.
12. "How many pennies would fit into this room?"
Ipreo asks this question for Product Analyst interviews. A brain teaser like this one is a good opportunity to see how a candidate can use logic to solve seemingly impossible challenges.
You'll want your candidate to say something like this -- "I'd need to measure how many pennies fit length-wise, width-wise, and height-wise. Then I'd simply multiply those three numbers." This answer demonstrates an ability to use simple math to create formulas for more difficult problems.
However, it's also impressive if your candidate asks you questions in return. Perhaps she'd say, "Well, will this room still have furniture in it, or would we remove it? Also, what's the volume of the room? Once I have that information, I could do the math based on the volume of a penny."
Asking questions like these shows your candidate thinks outside the box, and likes to ask second-level questions, before delivering a solution to a problem.
Unique interview questions
13. "If you had a choice between two superpowers, being invisible or flying, which would you choose?"
On the surface, this sounds like a question you heard at sleepaway camp when you were 12. But Forbes found it to be an indicator of potential leadership ability, with 72% of surveyed leaders choosing the ability to fly over being invisible.
If you think about it, this question is really asking, "Do you prefer to be in the spotlight, or more behind-the-scenes?" Of course, this shouldn't be the only question you ask to determine a candidate's personality and culture fit, but it's nonetheless a good initial indicator of where someone will have the most impact on your team.
14. "What was the last gift you gave someone?"
If your candidate is very stiff and formal, you might consider loosening her up with a question like this one, asked by Gallup during a Data Analyst interview. It should reveal something about your candidate's personal character. Ideally, it will illicit a warm, emotional response, helping you form a deeper bond with your candidate.
For instance, if your candidate says something like, "My brother loves baseball, so a couple weeks ago I bought him tickets to a Red Sox game", you have information to help you create a connection to your candidate, and ideally create an environment in which she feels more comfortable.
15. "How many square feet of pizza are eaten in the U.S. each year?"
This is a tricky question asked by Goldman Sachs during a Programmer Analyst interview. The question aims to test your candidate's logical reasoning skills. While you don't need a candidate to get the "right" answer, you'll want a candidate who remains composed and thoughtful when providing an educated guess.
For instance, your ideal candidate might say, "Well, a pizza is roughly one square foot. If the average American eats one-third a pizza, and eats pizza three times a month, that would mean 12 square foot a year. Then, multiply that number by 200 million Americans, and you get 2.4 billion square feet."
16. "If you could compare yourself with any animal, which would it be and why?"
Similar to the tree question, this question helps you see a candidate's innovativeness, creativity, and quick-thinking skills. Your candidates should use this question as an opportunity to mention their strengths and highlight their good character.
For instance, an ideal answer might be, "I'd be a horse. Horses are very strong and capable of functioning well both independently, and as a part of a team. Additionally, they are often fast-learners."