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Trick or Treat Interviews?

For most employers now, it’s a buyer’s market. A single job posting could elicit hundreds of resumes and more than a few qualified candidates. In an effort to narrow the field, some companies have resorted to using unusual and tricky interview questions.  These off the wall queries might have little to do with the requirements of the role and will often catch candidates off-guard. They are ostensibly designed to gauge strategic thinking, creativity, political leanings, or how a person reacts under stress.  Here are some real-life examples of wacky, tricky and scary questions job-seekers have encountered:

        Tricky Interview Questions

  • “If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out?”
  • “Why do you think a very small percentage of the population makes less than $150k per year?”
  • “Explain this industry to my eight year old kid.”
  • “Why are manhole covers round?”
  • “What is something you wouldn’t want me to know about you?”
  • “Why do people climb mountains?”
  • “There are three boxes, one contains only apples, one contains only oranges, and one contains both apples and oranges. The boxes have been incorrectly labeled such that no label identifies the actual contents of the box it labels. Opening just one box, and without looking in the box, you take out one piece of fruit. By looking at the fruit, how can you immediately label all of the boxes correctly?”

In theory, asking one or two of these unconventional questions may give you some insight into how a candidate thinks on their feet or responds to unexpected challenges. But apply caution when using gimmicky questions and remember that the interviewees are people who deserve to be treated with respect and compassion. A job interview is already a nerve-wracking situation for almost anyone, so asking twenty trick questions in a row simply adds undue stress to the process. The goal of a job interview is to determine if the candidate possesses the necessary skills and experience to do the job and if they are a good fit with the culture of the organization, not to make them uncomfortable, trick them, or torture your own human lab rat. How you treat candidates during the recruiting process is also a reflection of your corporate culture and how you treat employees. If you dish out too many tricks, you may find no one wants to come to your door anymore.

What are some of the strangest interview questions you’ve heard? Do you think these kinds of questions are effective?

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