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Non-Traditional Interview Questions: Who Asks These?!

The hiring process is often a sales pitch on both ends of the table. The interviewee is promoting his or her individual worth, but interviewees are also analyzing the company, how they fit with their culture, and what the role can do for their career. 

Some employers have moved to make the interview experience more “out-of-the-box” by asking unique and sometimes just plain odd questions.  

We asked our employees for some of the curveballs they've been thrown in past interviews and they reported getting hit with questions like:

    • What is the sum of all of the numbers from 1-100?
    • How many golf balls could you fit into the Empire State building?
    • If you could be any animal what would you be?
    • What character would you be from the TV show The Office?
    • When you walk into the building you will have the choice to take the elevator or stairs, which will you take?
    • ​How many fish are in the Atlantic Ocean?

Yes...these non-traditional interview questions are all things our employees have really been asked in the past! 

So Why Would You Want to Know Any of This?

So what’s the point of these kinds of non-traditional interview questions? Although we can only speculate as to what the interviewers in these cases were thinking, these wacky questions could be used in a few ways. They may show how a potential employee reacts to an unexpected situation, how easily they get flustered or how can recover from a surprise — all common experiences in the workplace. Can the interviewee think on their toes or demonstrate critical thinking skills in their answer?

Sometimes the company might use these questions to say more about their company culture than the interviewee’s personality. Offbeat conversations might be part of a casual environment in the workplace or an emphasis on creativity. Just make sure the non-traditional interview questions you ask leave the interviewee with the image of your company you want them to walk away with!

What You Need to Know Before You Ask Anything

If you decide to try some unique questions, be sure your interviewer has been properly trained on where to draw the line. Open questions can start great conversations and be informative to participants on both sides of the table.  

As with all interview questions, remember to avoid questions relating to race, national origin, age, sex, disability or genetic information that do not directly affect the individual’s ability to work. Questions about lifestyle such as parents, spouse, children, housing and religion are also off limits. These questions could lead to allegations of discrimination by disgruntled applicants.

Even questions that don't directly ask for this protected information but somehow allude to themshould be avoided. [These are more common than you think. For examples, check out our recent blog on 5 Illegal Interview Questions You're Probably Asking.]

If an interviewee volunteers information about race, age, marital status, etc., during the interview, avoid recording this information as part of the application or interview notes.  Make sure to train your interviewers on the appropriate “oddball” questions to ask applicants and how to respond if protected information is voluntarily shared in the line of questioning.

​Have you been asked a "creative" or non-traditional interview question?  Have you grilled applicants with one of your own? Comment below and let us know!

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