Whether you’re an upcoming graduate who is beginning to fill out endless job applications or an experienced employee looking to make a professional change, you’ll soon discover that the interview stage of the hiring process is no longer what it used to be. Employers aren’t inviting you into their offices to simply sit down and assess your technical skills, but also your personality and the degree of your passion for the job position, company and industry you’re interviewing for. There is more to discover in these interviews and candidates are finding themselves subject to new, unique questions that often make or break their candidacy.
We asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invitation-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs, the following question to find out what they’re looking for when they put applicants to the test, and how even the safest and most confident answers are sometimes the worst things to say:
“What is one unique interview question that you ask every potential new employee?”
Here’s what the YEC community had to say:
1. TV Queens and Bookworms?
“When you ask, “Tell me about your favorite show/book,” see if they are passionate about what they are talking about. When I hire people onto my Sweet T Team, I am looking for high energy and passionate teammates. If they can’t express how much they love they favorite show/book, they’ll never be passionate about our brand.” ~ Nancy T. Nguyen, Sweet T
2. Verify Your Value System
“If you want to be sure you’re hiring someone who will be a good fit for a specific position, it’s wise to ask about the candidate’s top three values. Answers like “perseverance” and “ambition” likely mean he or she is a good fit for a sales oriented role, while answers like “peacefulness” and “creativity” may indicate well suitedness to an entirely different area.” ~ Amanda Aitken, The Girl’s Guide to Web Design
3. How Shall I Praise Thee?
“I ask, “How would you like me to tell you you’re doing a great job?” Knowing what motivates people – cash, awards, recognition – helps me keep them happy when they’re performing well.” ~ Sam Davidson, Cool People Care, Inc.
4. Dream Occupations
“If you could be doing anything, what would it be?” As a startup, we want to make sure we’re bringing people on board who are passionate and excited about their work. Knowing what a potential employee loves to do, above all else, is critically important in aligning their passions and skills with the core needs of the business, to create a harmonious and prosperous relationship.” ~ Matt Cheuvront, Proof Branding
5. As If You Were Already Hired
“What is a “blind spot” in our business and how would you implement improvement?” This one question will give you everything you need to know. Have they done their homework about your business or are you just another interview to them? Are they results oriented and do they understand how to comprehensively improve a product or service? What value will they bring in exchange for their pay?” ~ Josh Shipp, JSP, Inc.
6. Count Parking Lots, Please
“Never had the chance to ask it, but I’ve heard this is a great question, “How many cars are in the United States?” Do they blurt out a random number with no thought? Do they mumble and stumble and say nothing? Do they use some logic and try to figure it out? It’s not about knowing the number, it’s about their process for finding an answer.” ~ Therese Kuster, TargetClick Marketing Solutions
7. Are You Looking Up?
“I ask candidates interviewing for positions with Thinking Caps to tell me about a role model and why they look up to that person. Not only does the question require the candidate to respond with a thoughtful answer, but it also gives me an opportunity to hear about the candidate’s values and goals.” ~ Alexandra Mayzler, Thinking Caps Tutoring
8. Turn the Tables
“I start every interview with the same question, “What would you like to ask me?” I learn more about the person from their first question then I do from the rest of the interview. If they ask about pay or vacation time, I already know what they are looking for. If they start to ask about things they saw on one of my Websites, then I know I have someone who is serious about the job.” ~ Roger Bryan, RCBryan & Associates
9. Superman? Batman?
“What Superhero would you be?” Sounds cheesy but it’s amazing to see the answers people come up with and then to see those that literally freeze. It’s a simple question and it’s mostly about how creative they can be and how quick they can be answer. In business, you can’t teach personality and this question gives you a quick glimpse into theirs.” ~ Ashley Bodi, Business Beware
10. Who Do You Really Want to Work With?
“Every time we bring a potential new employee through the door we ask them a series of questions pertinent to the position. The one question we always end with is, “If you could work on a project for any company in the world, who would it be and why?” This shows us where their interests really are and it’s really all about identifying people’s passions.” ~ Bobby Emamian, Prolific Interactive
11. Which Drink Would You Be?
“We use this question to see how quickly someone can think on their feet and how creative they are. We’ve had answers that run the gamut from ice water to Jack Daniels, to Guiness to orange juice. Each answer reveals something about the person who is answering and because we like to have a great time in the office, seeing how someone reacts to this question shows how well they will fit in.” ~ Nathan Lustig, Entrustet
12. Let’s Go to the Theater!
“What was the last movie you saw?” It’s crucial to make sure all employees have a life outside of the office and are capable of talking about things other than business.” ~ Josh Weiss, Bluegala
13. Literary Tightrope
“This is our make or break question, “What do you read on a weekly basis?” If a potential employee can’t list at least one resource that he or she reads to keep up on what’s happening in the world, how can we expect them to keep up with changes in our industry?” ~ Allie Siarto, Loudpixel
14. Why Are Manhole Covers Round?
“Most people will not know the answer, but I am just curious to see if they are going to tell me the truth or make something up. If they don’t know, they can always tell me they can get me the answer; if they make something up, they’re out. How could I trust them with me or my customers?” ~ Justin Nowak, Mobile Business Advisors
15. Show Me the Money!
“Justify to me why paying the salary that you’re requesting is a good investment for me.” ~ John Hall, Digital Talent Agents
16. What Do You Think You Are Best in the World At?
“When building a team, you have to learn what is most important to your potential employees and if they are a fit within your company. At our company, we want to be the best in the world at certain things and leave a legacy through the work that we do. This question sets the standards for employees upfront and, as an employer, you begin to understand what your candidates values, strengths and aspirations are.” ~ Matt Wilson, Under30CEO.com
17. The Stickiest Question
“Here’s a roll of duct tape. What are ten things you can do with it?” It doesn’t have to be duct tape; it can be any item sitting anywhere in the room. The reason we ask this question is to measure an interviewee’s creativity (and limitations). If they can come up with ten things to do with an item, we know they’re a good fit. Why? Because creativity is seeing what others don’t.” ~ Brett Farmiloe, Blind Society
18. Time to Prioritize
“If I ask you to put together a list of clients from our database and you see the database is corrupted with incomplete and duplicate entries, what would you do? Put together the list I asked for first or fix the database first?” Their answer tells me many things about their personality – shortsightedness, attitude towards work, detail orientation, and time management.” ~ Devesh Dwivedi, Breaking The 9 To 5 Jail
Interview Concept Photo via Shutterstock