Advice Centre

Why You Should Ask Tricky Questions in an Interview


Benchmark Employer Advice, advice-centre

There is no denying that interviews can sometimes be as painful for the interviewer as they can be for the interviewee. Going through the motions of asking all the standard questions can be tedious and often, when interviewing a  number of similarly qualified candidates, one interview can easily blur into another. 

Whilst there is clearly a point to asking the usual interview questions, such as "what are your strengths/weaknesses" and "what was your best achievement in your previous job?" there is also a downside. Because these questions are so predictable, candidates can pre-plan their answers, some even going so far as Googling the best responses, rehearsing them until they are word perfect and repeating them on demand!

So, how do you make sure that you get the most out of a potential employee in the short period of time that you are face to face, and ultimately give each candidate the chance to stand out from the competition? 

Throw in a curveball 

No one likes to be caught off guard, especially in an interview situation, however throwing in a 'curve ball question', is sometimes the best way to get a true impression of a candidate's potential.
A popular interview question that recently did the rounds was: "How do you put a giraffe in the fridge?" The answer is simply "Open the door and put it in", however the question opens up many different options, giving a valuable insight into candidate's thought process. This, along with their response will say a lot more about them as a potential employee that you will ever pick up from them telling you where they see themselves in five years time. 
As per example, the questions don't have to be in too depth, you ca often get good, insightful responses from light hearted 'Would you rather' questions, which challenge candidates to think laterally. 

Method in the madness 

As well as getting an insight into the candidate's personality, this type question will also highlight the following qualities: 
  • How the candidate performs under pressure 
  • How quickly they can think on the spot 
  • How they can buy time whilst thinking of a suitable answer
  • Whether they can remain cool and seemingly unfazed when they have clearly been blindsided. 

Pick your moment

There is a fine line, however, between challenging candidates to think on the spot and scaring them half to death, so make sure you read the situation before going in with a killer question. The key to delivering challenging questions is to wait until the interview is established and the interviewee has had chance to share their relevant work  achievements and discuss the role, as ultimately that is why they are there. 
The point of asking a challenging question is to help add a bit more depth to the candidate's credentials, and give them a chance to stand out from the crowd.

Know the limits

Whilst curve ball questions are a good way of seeing a different side of potential employees you do still need to be careful not to push your questioning too far. The last thing you want to do is upset or offend anyone! These five golden rules will ensure that you keep your questioning relevant to the candidate: 
1. Avoid any contentious or personal issues like the plague 
That include age, race, sexual orientation, gender or disability, plus many controversial newsworthy issues that may cause offense. No one wants a law suit on their hands, or to get a reputation for being inappropriate. Remember you are representing your company and 'interview from hell' stories spread like wild fire. 
2. Does the job description require the candidate to think outside the box? 
If the interview is for a standard role doesn't require strategic thinking or problem solving, there is no need to take the interview to the next level.
3. Tailor your questioning to the candidate's confidence
If the candidate is a nervous wreck you will not get the best out of them by throwing a challenging question at them. If you feel you need to know a bit more about them to describe their dream holiday or something that require them to use their imagination. This will still give you an insight into their personality whilst keeping them within their comfort zone. 
4. Don't waste candidate's time 
Out of courtesy, if you know the candidate isn't right for the job keep the interview short and sweet. There is no point taking the interview to the next level if you aren't going to shortlist them anyway. 
5. Lost the poker face 
If a candidate embraces the question you need to appreciate their effort and engage their response. Now is not the time to sit there stony faced and asses their answer. Be respectful of their efforts and even if they don't get the position, at least they will leave thinking it was a pleasant interview experience