5 Tips for Out-of-the-Box Interview Questions

by CoVaBizMag

We’re all familiar with the standard interview questions: Why do you feel you’re the best fit for the job? What do you know about our company? What do you consider to be your greatest strengths and weaknesses? These are all relevant questions and will probably incite some informative (if not rehearsed) answers. But what if you want a little further insight into the candidate’s qualifications or personality? We asked five local leaders what unconventional question they ask candidates during an interview and what they hope to learn from the answer. Here’s what they said.


Kelley Carter“If money was no object for you, and you had no restrictions, what would you do?”

With this question, I learn what people’s priorities are. This tells me what they value, what they are passionate/care about, what they focus on and why they do what they do. By asking “if money was no object,” it removes work as a “necessity” for them. I’ve gotten really interesting answers like “buy a new car” or “go to Vegas and spend money” or “buy a bigger home” or a new whatever. I don’t hire those people. I’m looking for a focus and a bigger perspective. I’m looking for the ones that want to invest in their future, in their kid’s future, that want life experiences. That show that they have an awareness of how money and financial growth works past wanting the newest widget or flashy upgrade. In my experience, these people find satisfaction and fulfillment in their work as part of their goal rather than something they are obligated to do. I like the growth mindset, not the short-term perspective.
—Kelley Carter, Chief Marketing Officer, Choice Insurance


Ha Koehler“I always ask a hypothetical question on how they would respond to a sticky situation with an upset client.”

I’m looking for candidates who are problem solvers, those who ask questions to understand the problem so that they can then determine how to move forward. What this question really does is weed out candidates who are not thinkers—those who respond that they would immediately redirect the issue to someone else.
—Ha Koehler, Managing Partner, On Point Communications


Tage Counts“If someone were to make a movie about your professional career, what would the title be, and which actor would play your character in the lead role?”

Knowing the title of the movie says a lot about what a professional sees as their most recognizable trait, especially when trying to fit the description into just a few words. Knowing the lead actor can provide good insight into how a candidate truly views their own personality. Too often, a candidate is trying to match their personality with the needs of the company. It’s always better if a candidate’s true personality already fits well with the needs and culture of the hiring company.
—Tage Counts, Vice President, Membership, Hampton Roads Chamber


Joel Rubin“I was once interviewing someone from Philadelphia, not for a PR job, and I asked her if she knew who Allen Iverson, a Hampton native and star guard on the 76ers, was.”

I was trying to learn if she was aware of her surroundings or just lived in her own world. She couldn’t answer that one. I tried Jimmy Rollins, a popular second baseman on the Phillies. Stumped her on that one too. Ryan Howard, a Phillies’ first baseman? Nope. Of course, everyone else on the hiring committee thought I was nuts, but I gave her a thumbs down, which ultimately was the right call we all later agreed. You don’t have to be a sports fanatic to fit in, but come on. You can’t be oblivious to what’s happening in your community.”
—Joel Rubin, President, Rubin Communications Group


Gary Plaag“Please tell me about a time when you faced an ethical dilemma at work or in your personal life and how you handled it.”

In interviews, once I get past all the pleasantries and the candidate’s objective capabilities, I like to ask a few behavioral questions. Such questions usually tell me a great deal about the candidate’s moral character, values, emotional intelligence, credibility, conflict resolution style and problem-solving skills. I always allow the candidate a few minutes to think about and recall such a situation. I’m confident nearly all humans have faced such a situation at some point in their lives. The experiences they share are usually very informative and I get to know the candidate at a deeper level. If a candidate tells me they can’t think of one or that they’ve never encountered one, then I know this is probably not the right person for my team.
—Gary Plaag, President, Couragio Consulting

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