There’s a trend in the hiring processes at industry-leading companies right now: Gearing the hiring process toward a candidate-centric pipeline rather than a job-centric one in order to attract and retain top talent. Simply put, industry-leading companies are seeking candidates who fit their organization’s culture and goals in addition to the specifics of a job requisition.

Candidate-centric hiring requires an organization to develop an employer brand, complete with a defined company culture. Developing an attractive company culture not only fosters passion for the organization amongst its employees, but also attracts top-quality prospective employees. Finding top talent who fits your organization’s culture can be difficult, but there exists a rather quirky approach that many hiring managers have found to be effective: asking questions that have absolutely nothing to do with the job.

This sounds counterproductive and backwards, but there is a science to it. Any candidate can prepare themselves for an interview by practicing the answers to typical questions: What are your strengths and weaknesses? What is an example of a time that you made a mistake? How do you handle stress?

A well-prepared candidate knows that the answer isn’t necessarily the truth or a lie, but something geared towards the position that highlights their skills in a positive manner. However, if you are to ask your potential candidate, “What song describes your work ethic?” you could catch them off guard and potentially find out something more interesting and useful about them.

Although seemingly pointless, asking questions like this can prove equally as effective — if not more effective — in learning about the candidate than through traditional inquiries.

The value in asking a candidate off-the-wall questions

By asking questions that may seem irrelevant, you are looking for more than an answer —  you’re seeking a process. Questions that veer from the norm can engage the candidate in critical thinking and problem solving, both of which are integral to nearly any position. As an employer, you will be able to see the process that the candidate uses to approach the issue — a far more valuable asset than simply practicing the “right” answer to an interview question.

This tactic uncovers which candidates can creatively think on their feet to resolve tough issues. If the interviewee answers “I don’t know,” it probably means they had prepared to tell you what they inferred you’d want to hear in order to get hired. The candidate who develops something interesting and attempts to solve the problem —  even if they can’t —  is still more valuable because they strived to use intuition and imagination rather than give up. Of course, for these types of questions to be of use, there must be a reason and a method behind why you ask it.

What are some of the questions you should be asking?

Glassdoor posted an article with a list of 76 oddball questions to ask during an interview. Here’s a few and why they might be useful:

An apple costs 20 cents, an orange costs 40 cents, and a grapefruit costs 60 cents; how much is a pear?

What isn’t important is if the candidate prefers citrus fruits over pome fruits, but instead, their reasoning  behind the value placed on each fruit and how it relates to the cost they came up with for the pear. The sort of “equation” they develop is what shines, not the actual answer they reach. It can illuminate the candidate’s analytical side and illustrate how they develop reasoning.

If both a taxi and a limo were priced the exact same, which one would you choose?

A question like this will give insight into what the candidate values — are they someone who appreciates luxury? Or are they pragmatic and looking for the simple function of getting from point A to point B?

This may not matter much for the job they are applying for, but it can tell you how the candidate might fit in with your company’s culture. Does your company value someone who appreciates simply getting things done? Or, are you looking for someone with a taste for the finer things? Company culture has become equally as important to employees as it has to employers, and finding someone who fits in with yours is crucial.

How would you sell me eggnog in Florida in the summer?

A question like this definitely elicits a creative response and is especially relevant if you’re looking to hire someone for a sales position. The situation seems nearly impossible, but if the interviewee convinces you to buy eggnog in Florida during the summer, it’s an encouraging sign that they can sell to your clients. Beyond sales, someone who can confidently attempt to make a sale like this has a great deal of confidence and could be a boon to your company.

These quirky questions reveal a more creative rather than technical side of candidates, and they can shake up the boring routine of the traditional interview. In addition to learning something unexpected about your prospective employees, oddball inquiries can make the interview more engaging and fun, perhaps inspiring enthusiasm to join your team.

To explore Aberdeen’s quantitative HCM research, download the full report: Hiring Tomorrow’s Workforce Today: The Talent Pipeline.

Jessica Burns head shotJessica Burns is a blogger and communications professional.


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