25 Unexpected Questions to Help You Interview for Rare Value

Still need convincing to break some rules and shake up your interview questions?

Here’s why you should.

Unicorns and Purple Squirrels

No I haven’t lost my marbles.

Stick with me.

In today’s business world there are a confusing array of success criteria. In terms of perceived and accepted ‘value’, mythical creatures have captured the imagination.

The quest to own a unicorn (business) or to somehow share in the reflected magic does not seem to be disappearing anytime soon.

In employment space, the search continues for the ‘perfect’ candidate – the elusive Purple Squirrel.

B.O.L.O Alert: Be On The Look Out for the Rare and Remarkably Valuable Purple Squirrel.

You would be hard pressed to capture a Purple Squirrel with your trusty bank of old interview questions.

These comfortable questions have served you well in the past.  They have helped you to assess your candidate’s experience, qualifications and skills against the requirements of the job.

But common questions will only get you so far in this high-stakes game. For this odyssey, you need to shake up your interview questions and hiring process if you want to attract the remarkably rare.

You need to dig deep. You’ll want to get down to the nitty-gritty of what makes them tick.

I know your plate is full. Alright, it’s overflowing. You are juggling more nuts than a squirrel, trying to keep up with your regular responsibilities. Hunting for purple squirrels is more like wishful thinking right now.

What if I show you a short cut to get started?

First go here. Take your pick from 7 story connector interviewing tips.

Come right back as I promised to open my own swipe file of story connector interview questions. They are carefully crafted to sniff out precious value; such as the promising qualities, willingness to contribute, passions, potential career paths and the authentic personality of your candidate.

25 Unexpected Questions to Help You Interview for the Rare and the Remarkable

Before you dive in, here are a few words of caution.

Remember, you want to engage in a meaningful conversation with your candidate.  Practice the art of conversation.  Here’s a style tip from the podcasters. Pile and bundle your questions.

It’s OK to do this and here’s why.

Story connector questions are different to regular interview questions. Each question acts as a cue, to prompt the storyteller (candidate) to add layers to their response and share an authentic story.

Be careful as question stacking is like conversation starter lighter fuel.  You need to restrict yourself to adding a few strategically placed story connector questions amongst your regular interview questions in the beginning.  Then build on your conversation from there.

Draw inspiration from these 25 questions, customise to suit or design your own. Above all, create your own swipe file.

To help get you started, here is a peek into mine.I have listed my non-traditional HR questions in no particular order of priority or preference.

1.  What’s your biggest dream / aspiration and what are you doing to make it happen?

2.  Do you find it easy to ask for help? When was the last time you did this? What was the situation? How did you feel?

3.  Please tell me about a change you made at home /work to make life easier for yourself / someone else? Why was it important for you to do this?

4. Please tell me about a change you made at home / work to make someone else happy? What made you do this?

5. What are you doing when you are at your best – in the zone? What talents, knowledge and values are you drawing on or using?

6. Do you think you are remarkable? What makes you remarkable?

7. What makes you different (standout) from other people?

8. What can you offer the world that no one else can? Source Chris Guillebeau, The Art of Non-Conformity.

9. What do you really want to get out of life? Source Chris Guillebeau, The Art of Non-Conformity. 

10. When was the last time you did something for the first time? What did you do?

11. What was the last book (blog, article) you read? What was about it that made an impression on you?

12. What do you understand by the phrase “lift as you climb”? How do you practice this?

13. What would you do if you didn’t have to work?

14. What character trait do you really appreciate in a colleague / leader?

15. What character trait would you like to have? Why?

16. What was your latest discovery?

17. What is your greatest triumph?

18. What can you not live without / throw away? What value or meaning does it hold for you?

19. What do most people not know about you? (hidden skill, talent, hope or dream?)

20. What criticism hurt you the most? Why?

21. When did you last want the ground to swallow you up? How did you move past that feeling?

22. Who are your mentors / teachers? How did they influence you? What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt?

23. Was there an “Aha!” moment when you realised you could or wanted to seriously pursue [XX]? Source: The Great Discontent.

24. What advice would you give to a young person starting out? OR What advice would you give your younger self? Source: The Great Discontent.

25. Tell me about your path to what you are doing now? Source: The Great Discontent.  What is next for you?

Swipe File Closed!


You can’t start throwing story connector questions willy-nilly into your old interview process and expect a miraculous uplift in your hiring results.

Genuine conversations need both participants to connect with each other in a meaningful way.

To be a skilled interviewer AND story connector, you need to be absolutely present in the moment with the candidate / story teller.  No distractions.

Eye-contact, empathy and exceptional listening skills are a must. You cannot fake this.

Now this style of interviewing is not for everyone, and that’s OK.

But if you want to make a difference badly enough, you must be willing to rethink what you are currently doing and make some changes.

You might not need to ditch your complete hiring process.  A few small tweaks here and there, might be all that is needed to move your interview process from regular to stellar.

Ready to add some pizazz to your interviewing style to create a value-rich interview experience?

  • Season your old interview process with a few story connector interview questions and take a step closer to hiring remarkable individuals to join your employee community. Let me know how you get on.

Before I sign off, here is my final word (for now).

Be mindful and present in everything you do.  Always make time to observe and listen keenly – conversations in the coffee shop or bus stop, at the gym, at the market, quality televised interviews, podcast, print or digital media interviews, any interaction with top notch customer experience.   I keep a small note book close by ready to scribble down any unexpected great questions and interactions. Human interaction is the inspiration you cannot beat.

This post was originally posted in full in the blog The HR Rabbit Hole on 6th May 2016. It has been tweaked only a little by the author and now freshly served for the Recruiting Blogs community.

Nicole is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Aquarius Human Resources Consulting Ltd. Passionate about HR as Art, she is an advocate of Creative HR and transforming HR. Connect via Twitter @AquariusHRLtd.

Views: 852


You need to be a member of RecruitingBlogs to add comments!

Join RecruitingBlogs


All the recruiting news you see here, delivered straight to your inbox.

Just enter your e-mail address below


RecruitingBlogs on Twitter

© 2024   All Rights Reserved   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service