The Go-To Interview Questions of Companies Like Warby Parker, Airbnb and More

February 26, 2019

You’ve probably been there before: a candidate’s breezing through an interview and knocking out great answers to all of your questions. But then it hits you...these answers are a little too good. They’re polished and rehearsed. You wish you could draw something out that’s a bit more reflective and spur of the moment.

And you can. It’s only a matter of asking the right question –– one that will give you insight into the candidate’s strengths, soft skills, working style, and overall fit for you company.

If you’re unsure what that magic question is for your company, never fear. To help inspire you, we did some digging to find out what some of the top companies are asking candidates in order to determine if they will be a successful hire.

1. Warby Parker: “What was the last costume you wore?”

One of Warby Parker’s core values is to “inject fun and quirkiness into work, life, and everything we do.” To spot people who can truly embody this value, the trendy eyewear brand asks interviewees what costume they last wore.

Of course, the company also relies on behavioral interviewing and practical assessments. But the costume question can reveal a candidate that doesn’t take themselves too seriously and is willing to be playful—a sign that they’ll thrive in a quirkier culture.

“If we hire the most technically skilled person in the world whose work style doesn’t fit here, they won’t be successful,” says David Gilboa, Warby Parker’s co-founder and co-CEO. “We find that people who are able to make the job environment fun build followership more easily.”

2. Airbnb: “How would you go about doing that?”

Airbnb didn’t become the travel staple it is today without a little help. To identify the creative, inquisitive talent that helped the platform grow, Airbnb’s recruiters have historically relied on one key question. After suggesting an idea or feature that Airbnb might want to implement on its platform, the interviewer asks the candidate: “How would you go about doing that?”

Jonathan Golden, Airbnb’s former Director of Product, says that this question is designed to spot “builders, not maintainers.” Airbnb wants scrappy, driven individuals who will get things done. Domain knowledge is not as important—it’s the can-do mindset that matters most.

“If their response was that they’d ask someone else, then they were looking for answers from others,” Jonathan explains in an article for Medium. “If their response was that they would test, try, and iterate their way to making it happen, that was a clear sign that the candidate was used to taking action.”

3. Facebook: “On your very best day at work, what did you do?”

There’s no denying that Facebook is a talent magnet. To find the best of the best, Miranda Kalinowski, Facebook’s Global Head of Recruiting, says her team asks one question more than any other: "On your very best day at work—the day you come home and think you have the best job in the world—what did you do that day?"

First and foremost, this question reveals what a candidate genuinely loves to do. This helps Facebook find people whose interests align closely with the work they’d be doing every day.

But it also shines a light on the aspects of a job where the candidate finds the most purpose and pride—whether that’s working closely with others, taking the lead on a project, or learning something new.

4. Accenture: “How would you describe your personal brand and how would you bring this to life in this role?”

Global management consultancy firm Accenture wants its candidates to show a strong sense of self-awareness. That’s why Anne Constantinou, Recruitment Director for Accenture Australia and New Zealand, says her go-to question is designed to provide a moment of self-reflection.

Anne asks: “How would you describe your personal brand and how would you bring this to life in this role?”

This is more effective than simply asking: “What are your greatest strengths?” That question is so well-known that candidates tend to have a rote answer prepared and ready to go.

Yet candidates are less likely to expect this alternative, so it may prompt them to answer with something more revealing. And since a person’s personal brand reflects what they want to be known for, this question can show what they genuinely perceive to be their greatest strengths—not to mention what they care about most.

“Understanding an individual’s strengths and priorities helps us appreciate if there is an alignment to team goals whilst also ensuring we have the ability to satisfy their aspirations,” Anne explains. “This allows us to achieve optimal team performance and employee satisfaction.”

5. Zappos: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you?”

Similar to Warby Parker, the online retailer Zappos aims to “create fun and a little weirdness.” To see whether a candidate might be up for that, CEO Tony Hsieh looks to his favorite interview question: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you?”

While Tony says the actual number is less important than the way the candidate answers the question, a zero means they probably won’t enjoy a more off-kilter culture. A 10, meanwhile, might be a little too weird.

6. Slack: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Stewart Butterfield, co-founder and chief executive of the collaboration platform Slack, used to ask every candidate three questions about math, geography, and history—like what century the French Revolution took place. His mission was to find people who were curious about the world.

While he’s dropped those unusual questions, he’s adopted another that accomplishes a similar goal: spotting candidates who possess the curiosity needed to constantly evolve and grow. Today, he asks, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“Good answers are usually about areas in which they want to grow, things they want to learn, things that they feel like they haven’t had a chance to accomplish yet but want to accomplish,” explains Stewart. “A very short answer to that question would be automatically bad.”

7. Tupperware: “How did the candidate treat you?”

Rick Goings, Tupperware’s former CEO and current Chairman of the Board of Directors, didn’t ask his go-to question to the candidate at all. Instead, he asked everyone who met the candidate when they came in to interview.

“I talk[ed] to the driver who brought them in from the airport, my assistant, and the receptionist who welcomed them. I ask[ed] how they were treated,” says Goings. “There you learn how this person acts.”

This question helped Goings get a sense of the candidate’s people skills outside of the more formal interview setting, including how they interact with others on a daily basis. He believed that good leaders need these “non-cognitive skills” to effectively manage and inspire their teams.

While these questions might work well for some companies, they’re not one-size-fits-all. Ultimately, the best interview questions are tailored closely to the specific values of your company and culture, and to the needs of the role.

Consider what traits and skills your company prioritizes, craft your questions around these must-haves, and update them regularly to ensure they’re still relevant. By changing up your interviewing strategy and avoiding overused questions, you can hear candidates’ unrehearsed answers—giving you even more insight into their suitability for the job.

*Photo from Warby Parker

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