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Posted by on Feb 18, 2014 in HR Tips, Tools & Resources | 3 comments

The Most Insightful Job Interview Questions Asked by the World’s Top Companies and what their Answers May Reveal

The Most Insightful Job Interview Questions Asked by the World’s Top Companies and what their Answers May Reveal

As a recruiter, you need to ask a bevy of interview questions to ascertain whether a candidate is right for the job. From behavioral questions to analytical questions, and from leadership questions to brain teasers – you sure have a wide choice of what to ask and what to skip. Many recruiters stick to the tried and tested direct line of questioning (such as “where do you see yourself 5 years from now” or “describe your strengths and weaknesses”). But what if you’re looking for some insightful answers instead of canned responses?

Insightful questions are not about tripping up the candidate or asking trick questions. Instead they are about conducting an interview which will (hopefully) draw out the candidate’s personality.

See below some of the questions top companies around the world have asked of their interview candidates to gauge whether you could adapt these for your organization.

1. Do you know our CEO – how is his name pronounced? (asked by Amazon. Psst… Amazon’s CEO is Jeff Bezos)

The answer will reveal whether the candidate did his/her company research before applying, or at least before coming in for the interview. Ask similar questions about your company and its celebrities to ascertain whether a candidate has done their research, which common sense would dictate that they should do. I also like this question because the answer won’t necessarily come up in a simple Google search – the interviewee will need to have watched some videos of the company or heard them mentioned in the news to know the answer – both of which will prove they are serious candidates.

2. If you were a pizza deliveryman how would you benefit from scissors? (asked by Apple)

This is a great question because the answer will reveal how tangentially the candidate thinks. For example, they may answer stoically that they would benefit from scissors the same whether they were a pizza delivery guy or not. Or they may say something creative and inventive like they’d use the scissors to make crafts projects for customers as a gift. Or they may apply simple business logic, saying they’d cut out coupons from underneath the pizza box. Their answer will help you determine whether their personality is in accordance with the job responsibilities you are hiring them for.

3. Teach me something I don’t know in the next 5 minutes (asked by Larry Page at Google)

This question is not a test of knowledge, but rather of the communication ability to get across your ideas – an important skill in organizations with strong ambitious team members. How well an interviewee can communicate his ideas, if he shows passion behind them and whether he is willing to impart his knowledge freely are some of the qualities that could be gauged from such a question.

4. How lucky are you and why?  (asked by Airbnb)

A person’s sense of self awareness, optimism and positivity usually play a huge role in their ability to do a great job. This question seeks to identify whether people can see the best in themselves and their situation and make the most of it – qualities that would be great to have in a motivated team player.

5. Tell the story of the last time you had to apologize to someone (asked by Amazon)

While this is a great question for someone interviewing for a customer service position, its answer may also demonstrate honesty, humbleness, humor and creative story-telling, or lack thereof.

6. What do you think about when you are alone in your car? (asked by Gallup)

This is a great corollary to the most common (and sometimes annoying) question about where do you see yourself in 5 years. Its answer should tell you something about a person’s priorities in life.

7. Explain wi-fi to your grandmother who’s never used computers (asked by Amazon)

Einstein once said that “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. This is a great question to judge whether anyone understands whatever term you need them to simplify and explain. You can substitute “wi-fi” here with whatever technology or product you feel the incumbent should be able to explain using layman terms.

8. Pepsi or Coke? (asked by United Health Group)

Even though this question was asked by a health group and so makes obvious sense for them, it’s still relevant for many recruiters to ask because of its potential for understanding personality types. In asking this question, you want to ascertain where a candidate’s attention and focus lies – on the big picture or in the minutiae.

9. If you could throw a parade of any caliber through the Zappos office, what type of parade would it be? (asked by Zappos)

Zappos is known for its strong dedication to hiring employees who make a great cultural fit. If your task is to uncover whether a candidate would be a great cultural fit, you could modify such a question to ask about any work-related activity that your employees regularly engage in to assess whether the interviewee would contribute to such a culture.

10. How many cows in Canada? (asked by Google) or Why is a tennis ball fuzzy? (asked by Xerox)

Questions like these which seem impossible to accurately reply to at first glance are actually not testing whether the candidate comes up with the most mathematically correct answer. Instead they attempt to gauge an interviewee’s thought process and problem-solving skills. You could similarly ask any seemingly absurd question to gauge how a candidate responds to the method of solving that problem.

It’s important to understand that as a recruiter your job is to find the most relevant questions for your industry and your company. Once you understand what you’re looking for in a candidate, you can then take the creative approach to job interview questions and perhaps pick something on this list and glean some great insights into a candidate’s personality.

What are the most unique or creative questions you’ve asked interviewees in a job interview? What are some interesting responses you got? Share below!

If you liked this post, also check out The Interview IQ: Great Questions for Candidates to Ask


Photo Credit: kurichan

  • Faraz

    Very interesting and insightful indeed. I ask, what is your life’s most significant achievement. There’s no right answer – but it gives me a peak about what the person is – priorities, passion, thought process.

  • How lucky are you and why? If a candidate sees himself as unlucky, I also see him the same way. This is not because of “karma”, but rather because the luckiest people are the one who make their own opportunities.

  • Fierce Kitty

    Interviewed for a position as an English lecturer, I was asked “Are you an analytic or a synthetic reader?”

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