5 Unusual Interview Questions Successful People Love to Ask

December 4, 2015

The ordinary doesn’t lead to success.

The ordinary leads to stagnation. And predictability. And, ultimately, failure.

Fact is, it's the extraordinary, the unusual that leads to massive success. People who are rabidly creative or oddly obsessed are the ones who really are responsible for great change in this world.

Unfortunately, the worst way to detect those traits is by asking people with unusual talents predictable, ordinary interview questions. Instead, sometimes you have to ask questions that are a bit off base, to see just how extraordinary a candidate really is.

Or so, that’s the thinking of some of the world’s most successful people. In fact, we found that some of the world’s greatest leaders and innovators have a tendency to ask some very unusual questions during the interview process.

Want an example? How about five. Here are five highly unusual interview questions asked by some truly remarkable people:

1. Oprah Winfrey likes to ask, “What is your spiritual practice?”

Huge clarification – Oprah doesn’t want to know about your religion (an HR no-no if there ever was one), but instead about a candidate’s “relationships with themselves.” Primarily, she wants to find out how the interviewee keeps themselves centered and how much they value themselves.

Makes sense, considering Oprah’s own mantra of self-worth and self-confidence. If someone doesn't believe in those traits in their personal life, it certainly will be hard to exude them professionally, working for Oprah.

2. Peter Thiel likes to ask, “Tell me something that’s true, that almost no one agrees with you on.”

Peter Thiel has become a billionaire thanks to some genius investments (i.e. Facebook) and the success of the company he co-founded, PayPal. Part of that success is due to his contrarian nature, which manifests itself in his encouragement for smart students to drop out of college, as an example.

Therefore, it makes sense that he wants the people who work for him to have that same mindset, and the above question tests for it. As he puts it, “It sort of tests for originality of thinking, and to some extent, it tests for your courage in speaking up in a difficult interview context.”

3. Capriotti Sandwich Shop CEO Ashley Morris likes to ask, “What would you do in the event of a zombie apocalypse?”

Morris is the CEO of Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop, a Las Vegas-based restaurant chain that has more than 100 locations. And he asks the question above to see one thing: How well someone reacts under pressure.

"There really is no right answer, so it's interesting to get someone's opinion and understand how they think on their feet," Morris told Business Insider. "The hope is that for us, we're going to find out who this person is on the inside and what's really important to him, what his morals really are, and if he'll fit on the cultural level."

4. Hasbro SVP Karen Davis likes to ask, “What’s your favorite quote?”

As Davis puts it, there is no right answer here, other than any answer at all. Her hope is to find people who are “looking for sources of inspiration.”

My own personal favorite is one by Martin Luther King, Jr., by the way (since I’m sure you’re dying to know). It goes: “Say it until they think it. Say it until they know it. Say it until they believe it. Say it until they love it. Say it until it is.”

So, there you go, your very own source of inspiration.

5. Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes likes to ask, “What’s your superpower… or spirit animal?”

Hootsuite has been a successful social media management company since its inception in 2008, thanks largely to its Holmes. And one thing he looks for when hiring is to see how people describe themselves, by asking the question above.

“During her interview, I asked my current executive assistant what was her favorite animal,”Holmes recently said. “She told me it was a duck, because ducks are calm on the surface and hustling like crazy getting things done under the surface. I think this was an amazing response and a perfect description for the role of an EA. For the record, she’s been working with us for over a year now and is amazing at her job.”

Summing it all up

The solution shouldn’t be to ask these five questions in your next interview. Instead, the bigger point is to really imagine the type of people your organization needs, and then discover the questions that get to the heart of it.

Chances are, they aren’t going to be the predictable questions we’ve all heard a thousand times. Instead, they might be a tad (or a lot) off-beat, which truly unlock if a person has the unusual qualities needed to thrive.

*Image from OWN

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