62 Interview Questions People Said Were Their Favorites

war bonds.govA contest for people to submit their favorite interview questions yielded the interesting, the odd, the useful, the insightful, and the obscene. They included such questions as: “What is your favorite palindrome?” and “Why did America stop selling War Bonds?”

And some I can’t publish without washing my own mouth out with soap.

The contest, put on by VoiceGlance, ran in a 10-week period in May, June, and July. Most of the answers came in via LinkedIn groups, and were sent in by HR managers, recruiters, and some job seekers in the U.S., India, China, Nepal, Malta, the UK, and Canada.

Here are the questions turned in, and at the end of this post, some of the questions the judge — me — selected as winners.

(I generally tried to pick questions that were related to actual success on the job. Suffice it say, I didn’t pick any questions about your favorite barnyard animal, and I didn’t pick the one about “what does family mean to you?”)

The Questions Submitted

Give an example of a situation where you had a conflict with a coworker, and how did you handle it?

How would you define servant leadership?

In 50 words or fewer, describe what skills and knowledge you can bring to our team.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you have and why?

Humans do make mistakes. Please share with us a time where you have made a mistake which had a significant impact to the company/your team, what mistake was that, and what remedy action you took.

Describe for me some safe work practices you’ve learned from previous employers and how you rate your overall safety record.

How do you motivate others?

In a team environment, what role do you usually take on?

How do you handle criticism?

What is your philosophy towards your work?

If you had to compare how you take decisions, to which animal do you think you would be most similar and why?

If you have a say in the decision taken by management and (say) if you are quite against theirs, will you stick on with your decision?

How would your best friend describe you?

What best a company can do for their employees so its  turnover ratio can be maintained?

What three things do you need to be successful in this job? What are deal killers for you?

If I were to talk to one of your previous supervisors, what might they recommend as an area of improvement for you?

What are your long-term motivations in a company or a position?

Tell me about a time you did the right thing at work and no one saw you do it.

Ideal for salespeople — present them with a brick and say “you have three minutes to sell me this brick.”

What do you do when your client says “no” but doesn’t really mean “no”; he only means “tell me more and break down the issues.”

What do you worry about, and why?

How do you define success and how do you measure up to your own definition?

What was a situation you handled poorly in the past and how would you handle it in the future?

What do colleagues say is your best quality?

If you were left in the woods with only the items in this room, what would you build?

Give me an example of when you failed at something. How did you react and how did you overcome failure?

What is your favorite palindrome?

Why did our government stop selling War Bonds? It seemed like a great idea for many reasons.

Which of the two animals would you say you are most like — a sheep or a wolf — and why?

What does family mean to you?

If you were an animated character, who would you be and why?

What are the titles of the last three books you have read? Tell me how you related to one of the characters.

Tell us about yourself, your company, job profile, etc.

Why do you want to change your job and work with our company?

What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

Tell us something about our company; how it is better than your present working company?

Who has inspired you in your life and why?

What qualities should a team leader have?

What changes would you make if you are selected and you come on board?

How do you feel about reporting to a boss younger than you or if she is a lady boss?

How do you define success and how do you measure it?

Can you work in critical situations with work pressure?

First ask, “If I went to your last boss and ask them to tell me about you, what would they say?” Then follow it with “Now, if I went to your best friend and asked them to tell me about you — personally, not professionally — what would they say?”

Would you rather be liked or respected?

If your boss asked you to jump, would you ask how high? Or, would you ask, why do you want me to jump?

Tell me something you have never told anyone else.

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Tell me about the biggest mistake you ever made at work and what did you do about it?

If you could be any animal on a carousel, what would you be, and why?

Typically you are asked to tell about an accomplishment you are most proud of during your career. I would like you to talk about an error/mistake you made and how you went about resolving it.

Tell me something you have done that goes against all social conventions, yet you did it anyway because it was the right thing to do!

How do you evaluate success?

If you were I, would you hire a person like you, and why?

What were some of the first impressions you got from walking into and waiting for a few minutes in our (organization/newsroom/business)?

Describe for me your most ideal work environment.

Some of the Winners

OK, now here are some of the winning questions. Remember that the judge — me — had to choose the best given any particular week. Some weeks there was a great question, and others I was picking the best of a bad bunch.

Can you tell me about a situation that was difficult and you were able to overcome it?

What’s the worst thing about your current job and what’s the best?

What would you like to change (positively) in our organization, and how would you do that?

Explain how you will add value to our company if hired.

What one skill do you possess that will most impact our bottom line?

What did you love best about your last full-time position?

Why should we hire you?

Communication is important within every organization. Thinking about your style of communication, how will you use it to ensure you are communicating effectively with your team, and what suggestions would you offer your teammates on communicating with you?

  • http://www.EngineeringReferral.com Douglas Friedman

    Thanks Todd. Useful and funny. I’m adding a couple of these to our master list. But I do feel bad for all those salespeople suddenly presented with a brick to sell. Someone should use that question and film the responses with a hidden camera. That would make for some great fodder for YouTube!

    In conclusion I say: “No sir! Away! A papaya war is on.” (favorite palindrome)

    Doug Friedman
    http://www.EngineeringReferral.com
    My LinkedIn Profile

    • toddraphael

      I like that. “A Man, a Plan, a Canal — Panama” is getting old.

      • infoman

        Yeah, like the papaya line. Also a bit tired of “Able was I ere I saw Elba”

        • Ibrahim Alameddine

          Ikr, I was getting sick of “rats live on no evil star”, this papaya business is refreshing.

          • Anonymous314159265358979323

            Si bene te tua laus taxat, sua laute tenebis.

            If your praise rates you well, you’ll maintain its affairs splendidly.

  • John Hoskins

    Hey Todd this is an interesting collection of questions. I have to agree with Mel. If this is the best list – oh boy. No surprise that unforced hiring errors do prevail. As you have suggested, most of the 60 are worthless. The majority are 3 common mistakes we often observe hiring managers make during interviewing skills workshops.

    Mistake one: Avoid hypotheticals. Even some of your top 10 are in that realm. For example. Explain how you will add value to our company if hired? Any candidate worth their salt would make up any number of answers to that one. They probably have rehearsed their answer more times than the manager has asked the question.

    Mistake two: Avoid telegraphs. For example – Can you work in critical situations with work pressure? This immediately signals the applicant – “Hmm – must be important to be able to manage pressure in critical work situations. I got this one.” Questions that tell the candidate what it is you want to hear are of little value. Counsel is leading the witness your honor.

    Mistake three: Avoid Impersonating A Shrink. Often intended to be a mild form of “stump the chump” and put the candidate on the spot, these questions are designed for those who fancy themselves mini-psychiatrists or very clever. What animal you want to be, or cartoon character, or what books you have read don’t offer much insight into what accomplishments they have achieved in the past and how. Making a candidate uncomfortable with tricky brainteaser questions. See http://business.time.com/2012/10/23/no-brainer-brainteaser-job-interview-questions-dont-work/

    If you want a good exercise to help hiring managers and recruiters ask better questions (hence get better information from candidates) try having them reformulate their questions in ways that are not hypothetical and don’t telegraph. Save the what color are you in the rainbow question for the next meeting in Colorado.

    In summary, when peeling the onion to query for evidence that the candidate is the right fit, a simple nod, silence or even a “say more about that” is much better tactic than formulating another long winded question. Or, watch some back episodes of Columbo for a good role model.

  • Jane

    Around 2009 or 2010, I was asked to write up a detailed job description for the position that I was interviewing for. I spent hours on it, at the library. This was after over a year of practically being promised this job by the hiring manager. I did not get the job offer, after waiting over a year. After that, I gave up looking, I was so discouraged. Unemployed since the end of 2008.

  • Erik_G

    Hey Todd, great list :). A few to add to my repertoire :). I came across a couple of gems using this interview app http://interq.io. I like using it before my interviews, it helps get the ball rolling.