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9 Creative Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Two interviewees sitting on a couch with a female interviewer across from them in a chair

Creative interview questions seem like a fun and unexpected way to shake up the age-old hiring process. In a competitive market, you might be looking for methods to differentiate candidates from one another and allow the top contenders to rise above the rest. Do unique interview questions actually help you identify great candidates, or are they just a distraction from the important process of narrowing down the best choice for the job? Here, we’ll share some of the weirdest, wackiest interview tactics we’ve heard of and explore the pros and cons of using creative interview questions to ask candidates. 

Creative Interview Questions, Explained

“If you were a pie, what flavor would you be and why?”

“How would you run our company if you were from Mars?”

“Would you rather have a dozen dog-sized dinosaurs or one dinosaur-sized dog?”

We’ve all heard of off-the-wall interview questions like these in water cooler conversations and job-seeker battle stories. They make for fun happy hour talk, to be sure, and they can break the ice in the normally-nerve-wracking environment of an interview. 

In theory, unique interview questions are meant to force candidates outside the bounds of the typical, formulaic interview structure and into uncharted territory to see how they respond and test their creative muster. In recent years, creative interview trends have stretched beyond just the questions asked. 

There is a rise in the number of companies incorporating a physical fitness element into their interview process. The CEO of Barstool Sports told the New York Times she has a practice of texting candidates at odd hours on nights and weekends to see how fast they reply as a litmus test for their responsiveness. 

With coveted positions at big-name companies in high demand, some employers see unique interview questions and other unconventional tactics as a way to peg down superior candidates and weed out those who don’t measure up. However, there’s a lot of disagreement among hiring experts over whether such methods are truly worthwhile. 

Pros of Asking Creative Interview Questions

Avoid stale, stuffy interviews

Your interview process contributes to your overall candidate experience, and something must be said about making the process memorable and enjoyable rather than monotonous and boring. Having a positive candidate experience contributes to a stronger overall employer brand, which can help you attract top talent. Creative interview questions can be used as a way to show candidates your lighter side, which may be important to you if that’s a big part of your company culture. 

Gauge creative thinking

Creative interview questions can work well if you can tie them to a specific job function rather than just being wacky for wackiness’ sake. For example, “Client X really wants to make a splash with the next project we’re working on. They’ve asked us to develop the most creative ideas we can think of for the campaign. What’s one idea you’d pitch?”

Asking a candidate to think outside the box in the context of the role they’re applying for can help you gauge the level of creativity they might bring to the position. 

Assess poise under pressure

Some positions require a person who can stay cool no matter what’s thrown at them. If you’re hiring for such a role, unique interview questions can help you learn whether candidates can think on their feet even under pressure. 

Do they maneuver through the question, even if it’s tricky, or are they totally thrown off? Depending on the position, this kind of poise under pressure might be a characteristic that’s important to identify.

Get a taste of their personality

Most candidates come into an interview scenario with their guard up. They’re in the hot seat, making it difficult to get a feel for their personality. And yet, personality—not just skill—is an important factor in deciding whether an applicant will mesh well with your organization’s culture. 

Sprinkling creative interview questions in with more technical ones can help break the ice and allow a candidate to let a bit of their personality shine through. 

Cons of Asking Creative Interview Questions

Creates unnecessary pressure

Even the most conventional interviews can be nerve-wracking for candidates doing their best to make a good impression and convey their selling points. Unusual interview questions seemingly out of the blue can throw candidates for a loop, causing otherwise strong contenders to falter. 

Aside from creating unnecessary pressure, candidates may feel an unfair question caused them to perform poorly, contributing to a negative candidate experience. With the prevalence of sites like Glassdoor, it’s too easy for the word to get around about such experiences, which can hurt your chances of attracting the best candidates. 

Irrelevant to the job

The biggest gripe hiring experts have with creative questions is that they’re not grounded in skills, experience, or any other proven predictor of job performance, so many see them as frivolous. While unique questions keep things from boring, your ultimate goal is to find the best candidate, not entertain them. Asking questions too far off in left field can distract from your purpose. 

Could set you up for legal trouble

To mitigate legal risk in the hiring process, companies are often counseled to avoid asking for information not directly tied to a candidate’s job ability. Asking whether an applicant has children, for example, or talking about religion, could be grounds for a future discrimination lawsuit. So, too, could asking unique interview questions. 

Dr. Brenda Fellows, an organizational psychologist and adjunct professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, spoke to Fast Company on the topic, saying not only are there “no true pros to [these] unusual interview practices, it often leads to legal challenges if you are unable to show specific job requirements whereas the practices demonstrate the job.”

Related: The Best and Worst Interview Questions to Ask in an Interview

The Best Creative Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

What would your colleagues say is the most unique thing about you?

This is a great way to learn about a candidate’s characteristics outside of a run-of-the-mill question like ‘What are your strengths?’ It can help you differentiate between similar candidates whose skills are comparable on paper. You may also learn something unexpected that could be an asset, like if the candidate speaks multiple languages or has overcome an interesting challenge. 

What do you like most about yourself?

Self-reflection is an important capability for job success. This question will help you understand how the candidate views themselves and shed light on the characteristics they value. 

What book has had the biggest influence on your life?

The books a person consumes can shape their outlook on life, so it’s a good idea to find out what those defining works are. While there’s no “right” answer, the book a candidate names can tell you about their interests and priorities, which may or may not align with your ideal candidate. 

Who is your biggest role model?

Again, this is a question that illuminates what a candidate considers important. Look for an answer that demonstrates the candidate shares your values and ideals. 

If you could eliminate one part of your job, what would it be, and why?

No one loves every single thing about their job. What’s important for success is that employees like most of what they do so they can power through those less desirable tasks. Ensure the candidate doesn’t name something crucial to the role, like interacting with customers if it’s a public-facing position or proofreading if they’ll be doing a lot of client communications. 

If you had to go back in time and pick a completely different career path, what would you choose?

This is a fun question that can tell you about a candidate’s interests outside of their profession and maybe even unearth some useful skills or untapped ambitions. 

Where do you find inspiration?

Inspiration powers creativity and helps keep us productive when we lack motivation. A candidate should be able to name a few successful sources that drive innovation–this tells you they’re engaged with and invested in the job. 

Pretend you just received a million dollars. You cannot quit your job. What would you do with the money?

Would the candidate do something pragmatic, like invest the money, or something spontaneous, like take a trip around the world? Would they spend it on a tangible purchase, like a house, or a noble pursuit, like donating it to charity? A candidate’s answer can illuminate more of their personality and help you understand how they make decisions. 

Describe your idea of the perfect day at work.

This question is all about ideals and alignment. In order for a candidate to be satisfied and effective in their job, it helps a lot if you’re on the same page about what a great day looks like.

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Best Practices for Picking and Asking Creative Interview Questions

Be strategic

The most important guideline for asking creative interview questions is that they serve a purpose–you’re not just asking them off the top of your head for fun. The questions should be strategically chosen to reveal more about a candidate’s skills, personality, background, or any other characteristic you’re trying to identify. 

Be consistent

Ask the same question to all candidates. This is true for creative questions as well as standard ones like ‘Why do you want this job?’ If you fail to do this, you lack a solid way to compare answers and risk choosing a candidate for subjective reasons rather than selecting the best candidate for the job.

Be mindful of culture

In addition to learning more about a candidate, creative interview questions are a way to tell the candidate something about the company. Consider whether it’s consistent with your company culture for every question you plan to ask. For example, if you have a highly professional culture and take a no-nonsense approach to your work, it wouldn’t make sense to ask a frivolous question like, ‘What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?’ Instead, a question like ‘Who are your biggest role models?’ or ‘What is your favorite form of professional development?’ would be more appropriate. 

Tailor questions to the job

Your interview questions should be selected in advance and specific to each role. For a creative role, it might be practical to ask more unique questions to get a sense of the person’s creativity in their answers. For a financial role, you would probably want to focus more on questions identifying the person’s experience level and technical capabilities. 

Hire More Effectively With Our Staffing Experts

Any company will agree that hiring the right team members is critical to overall business success. And yet, doing it well takes a major investment of time and resources. The average time to hire across all industries is a whopping three to four weeks—a long timeline when you’ve got an important position to fill. To streamline this process and enhance the quality of your hires, incorporating creative interview questions to ask candidates can be a game-changer.

Hire faster and more accurately by partnering with the staffing professionals at 4 Corner Resources. We specialize in integrating innovative and creative interview questions into the recruitment process, enabling you to uncover the true potential of candidates. Our approach has proven successful across various industries, including customer service, marketing, IT, healthcare, and more, helping top companies make better hires and retain them longer. Schedule your free consultation today to create a staffing solution tailored to your needs and budget, and learn how creative interview questions can transform your hiring strategy

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn