Expect the Unexpected; 10. Interview Questions

Expect the Unexpected; 10. Interview Questions

After working for almost a decade in Executive search, and being used to meeting many people and asking them many different questions, I became curious about the top 10 interview questions which surpass the common ones. The non-standard questions. The questions that can catch candidates by surprise.

Talking to many business leaders and HR directors and asking them about their favourite (unusual) question and why they liked asking specifically these questions, the outcome was diverse. I learned that many leaders and HR Directors are using the same questions over and over again. Most of the asked questions can be categorized as the standard ones. Examples are: ‘what are your strengths, and pitfalls’, ‘What was your biggest accomplishment/failure’, ‘What are you most proud of, ‘What do you know about our company’. Good questions where the answer can tell the interviewer a lot about the person. But also well-known questions where the prepared candidate stays in his comfort zone.

Some of the business leaders and HR directors that I have met over the years, are able to pull candidates out of their comfort zone by asking them unusual questions. This is exactly the reason why these leaders are using this technique; bringing candidates out of their comfort zone, to understand how a candidate reacts when he is in a more stressful and unexpected situation.

After talking to many business leaders and HR directors, the following list with unexpected or unusual questions came up:


1. What is your definition of success?

According to one of the HR directors, the answer will give an indication about persuasion and result driven


2. Why should I not hire you?

A tricky one, does the candidate have a good introspection?


3. What historical figure do you admire and why?

Variation on this question is: If you could choose anyone (alive or deceased) to have lunch with, who would this be?

Again this gives an indication about the candidate’s introspection


4. What does your current employer think you are doing today?

This will give an indication about how the candidate reacts on a difficult or unexpected question and not so much about integrity


5. Do you consider yourself to be a nice person?

The HR director who asked this question explained that the best answer for him is asking back what his definition of nice would be before answering


6. My wife and I are planning to go on a holiday. What can you recommend us?

Is someone starting to tell his experience or starts with questioning first?


7. Describe to me the process and benefits of wearing a seatbelt

Gives an indication how detailed the candidate is and if he can explain (communicate) clearly…


8. If you had turned your cell phone to silent, and it rang really loudly despite it being on silent, what would you tell me?

Choose your battle. Interesting to see if the candidate chooses to defend himself or just apologize for the outcome….


9. If you bought this company tomorrow, what is the first thing you would change and why?

Did the candidate prepare himself and does he has a vision? Perhaps more important, how will he formulate his feedback?


10. What is said in your personal guidebook?

This gives a good view on how the candidate sees himself. Moreover, how critical is he about himself?

Of course there are many more good unexpected questions. The questions listed above are the ones we encountered most. We are curious about the ones you like to use. So if you have any unusual questions you often use, please do not hesitate to share them. L.luc@batenborch.nl


Lebinh Luc

Team Leader at BatenborcH International


Your International Partner in Sales & Marketing Recruitment and Interim Management

Offices in Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Germany, Morocco, Denmark & Scandinavia, Poland, the UK and the Czech Republic.