By Daniel Hunter

New research from leading global recruitment consultancy, Michael Page, suggests that two-thirds of candidates welcome obscure lines of questioning as part of the job interview process, giving businesses the opportunity to shake up their interview processes in the tight war for talent.

The research questioned 1,000 people about the way they prepare for interviews and specifically asked how they might respond to a ‘weird’ interview question such as ‘how would you get an elephant into a fridge?’ or ‘which three non-essentials would you pack on a trip to Mars?’.

Two in five people (41%) have been asked a weird interview question like this at some point in their job-seeking history but 54% of respondents said that they wouldn’t expect to be asked this kind of question in the interview.

While candidates may not expect this line of questioning, it seems that the majority of those surveyed (63%) would largely welcome a weird interview question as it would enable them to demonstrate their ability to think on their feet, show that their potential employer welcomes creativity and some simply welcomed interviews that were ‘a bit different’.

Two-thirds (66%) of candidates felt positive about their ability to respond to a weird interview question with 35% stating they would respond with one clear, confident response, while 31% said they would hedge their bets with a number of possible answers.

However, a third (33%) of respondents said they would struggle with a weird interview question with some saying they would simply tell the interviewer ‘I don’t know’, some would try and change the subject and 13% would even be prepared to directly challenge the relevance of the question with the interviewer.

“Weird interview questions can spark interesting reactions from candidates but they are also an extremely useful way for businesses to differentiate between candidates who have similar qualifications and experience on paper," Dean Ball, regional managing director of Michael Page commented.

"They give candidates a chance to step outside the traditional boundaries of the interview process and really demonstrate their creativity, ability to apply logic and how they work under pressure. Such questions can also provide a light-hearted moment in what can be quite a formal situation, giving the employer a real chance to see a candidate’s personality and how they might fit into the company culture, so businesses shouldn’t shy away from them.

“If used correctly, obscure lines of questioning can really help employers to build a clear picture of a candidate’s potential, so it’s worth exploring how they might fit into your assessment processes. They can sometimes take candidates by surprise though so make sure you take time to think carefully about the questions and what kind of response you are hoping to achieve.”

Michael Page has the following advice for businesses that are considering using weird interview questions to shake up their interview process:

1. Think carefully about the kind of thought process you want to invoke in a candidate. For example, you may want to test a candidate’s ability to respond under pressure, in which case, any number of weird questions could work. However, for more mathematically-minded roles you may want to consider questions that test a candidate’s logical thinking. For example, ‘how many people do you think work in this building?’ or ‘how many light bulbs do you think there are on this floor?’

2. Think about what your question says about the business and overall brand values. For example, is your organisation creative, scientific, curious or humorous? It’s worth thinking about this as a weird interview question is likely to be one of the most memorable parts of a candidate’s interview experience. They are likely to share them with their friends and family so make sure that any questions, while entertaining, don’t undermine how you would like to be seen as a business.

3. Think about the timing of your curveball question and how it relates to the rest of the interview — try to avoid bringing them in too early on in the interview as they could prove unnerving for even the most qualified candidate.

4. It’s important that ‘weird’ interview questions have some relevance to either the role in question or your company culture. Don’t be obscure for the sake of it as this could have the opposite effect of putting off top talent.

5. Test the questions you might ask within the business to see what common responses may be. A candidate with the same response shows similar thinking to the business but equally, a candidate with a wildly different answer to existing staff could stand out as an innovative problem solver and therefore make the better hire option.

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