Interviews are an excellent way to get to know your candidates, but it’s not always a piece of cake to distinguish between candidates that will do well at your company and those that will exceed your expectations. Sometimes it’s even challenging to identify the candidates that just won’t be a good fit.
Every company has made a hire that for one reason or another just didn’t work out. Some individuals seem perfect on paper but once they’re hired, their performance slips, their attitude changes, or they’re just down right toxic to your company’s work environment.
These kinds of employees affect your overall business performance and your bottom line. A Harvard Business School study found that hiring a toxic employee costs your company twice as much as hiring top talent.
While it may seem difficult to separate ideal candidates from those that know how to interview well, we’ve put together a list of ten creative questions to ask in an interview in order to weed out individuals that aren’t right for your company.
Creative Questions to Ask in an Interview
1. What excites you about working for our company?
Why this question matters: This will give you an idea of how thorough your interviewee researched your company, and you can hear them say for themselves why they’d fit in well. Whether they’re interested in your company culture, excited by the challenging goals, or something else noteworthy about your company, you’ll be able to tell who has given some thought to where they submitted their application rather than sending their resume to every hiring company. Those that can pick out something distinctive about your company are often the ones that will stick around, too.
Red flags to look for: Those that can’t nail down something specific about your company likely haven’t done their research or have submitted their application blindly to dozens of companies.
2. What are some characteristics about your favorite boss?
Why this question matters: You’ll be able to understand what type of management style they work best with, and you can get a sense for how your relationship with them will be. This also encourages them to think about their boss in a positive light, and if that seems impossible, they’re not the best fit for your company.
Red flags to look for: An inability to name positive characteristics or someone that mentions the opposite of your management style. For example, if they say they enjoy that their manager gives them complete autonomy to make decisions, and your company relies more on
3. What’s something you love about your current or previous role?
Why this question matters: Even if they are in a role that’s totally wrong for them, your candidate should be able to name a few things they enjoy about their current or previous position. Pay attention to what drives their excitement, too — someone that only talks about the social aspects of their job may not be the best fit for a position that requires a lot of “heads down” time.
Red flags to look for: A candidate who is unable to name positives or is more focused on company perks rather than their own work-related tasks.
4. What’s a critical piece of feedback you’ve received and how did you respond to it?
Why this question matters: Handling feedback well is necessary for every role because everyone has areas where they can improve. Candidates should be able to talk about a specific instance and how they reacted as well as how they’ve adjusted since.
Red flags to look for: Someone that can’t think of a time they’ve received feedback, or someone who discounts the legitimacy of the feedback. This type of candidate will likely be difficult to manage.
5. Tell me about the career accomplishment that you’re most proud of.
Why this question matters: It’s a great opportunity to hear from your candidate about what milestones excite them in their role. This question will give you insight into what motivates them and how they approach challenges. It should shine a light on if they work better as a team or on their own as well.
Red flags to look for: A candidate who uses their response as an opportunity to brag about their individual achievements without mentioning the company impact. This candidate is only only looking out for themselves.
6. Tell me about a time when you were asked to perform a task outside of your job description.
Why this question matters: It’s likely that there will be times when your employees have to step outside of their traditional day-to-day responsibilities and perform tasks that weren’t included in their job description. The ability of an employee to be flexible for not only you, but your clients as well, is incredibly important. The best candidates will highlight how their willingness to perform the extra tasks helped them grow in areas they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.
Red flags to look for: Someone that was disgruntled by having to go above and beyond for their company or client. This shows inflexibility and that they’re not a team player.
7. Tell me about your specific experience that you think is most relevant and will make you successful in this role.
Why this question matters: The candidate will be able to tell you exactly what makes them a good fit for the role, even if they don’t have every single qualification. If they can detail how their past experience is relevant and helpful to the role, then their lack of years in the position shouldn’t matter.
Red flags to look for: Someone that uses a lot of buzzwords to describe themselves rather than identifying specific examples of how their experience matches up.
8. Tell me what skills you’re looking to develop further in your next role.
Why this question matters: This question offers a glimpse into what your candidate hopes to accomplish and should demonstrate their willingness to grow in their role and with your company. All candidates should have a desire to learn more and constantly strive to improve, so this question can make sure they’re setting their sites on progressing their skills.
Red flags to look for: Candidates that name skills that are required for the current position or candidates that can’t think of areas they can improve on.
9. Tell me what makes you most interested in this role and what makes you most concerned.
Why this question matters: A candidate that can be honest with you about their passions around the role as well as where they may need a little more help is the ideal person for the job. A balance of confidence and transparency is necessary when answering this question, so make sure both parts of the question are addressed. Additionally, how a candidate talks about their challenges is a good indicator of how they will deal with conflict or difficult conversations in the workplace.
Red flags to look for: Someone who only has an answer for half of the question, or someone who lists far too many concerns. Everyone will need a little guidance at first, but they should be qualified enough to feel confident that they can handle most of the responsibilities without assistance.
10. What questions do you have for me?
Why this question matters: okay okay, this isn’t a creative question, but the answers given can be really insightful and show who is really passionate about your company and who just wants to know how much PTO they’ll receive. Each candidate should come prepared with a few questions to ask about your company, the team, and the role they’re applying for, and if there are several rounds of interviews with different employees, the questions should be tailored to what that individual will have knowledge about. For example, if a candidate meets with an HR representative, their hiring manager, and the CEO, questions about their day-to-day responsibilities shouldn’t be geared toward the head of the company.
Red flags to look for: Someone who hasn’t prepared any questions or is mainly concerned with vacation or benefits.
A bad hire can cost your company much more than you’d expect, so make sure you’re thorough in your vetting process, including the interview questions you and your team ask. For more tips on interviewing, check out our blog on phone interview questions to ask.