Using trick questions when interviewing

May 19, 2015

Using trick questions when interviewing

Most candidates head into job interviews prepared to answer basic questions like why they want to work at the company and why the employer should hire them. But what if the interviewer suddenly wants to know the candidate’s guilty pleasure? Or which browser homepage they favor, what day of the week they prefer, or if their life was a movie, how would the trailer look like? What if you ask how many prime ministers Canada had over the last ten years?

It’s OK to surprise the candidate

Things just happen in real life and most often than not, they don’t happen in an orderly way. Therefore, you must be able to gage the candidates’ behaviour as if they were doing the work already. If you ask stereotype questions, you will get stereotype answers. If you are interviewing for a software position, ask “what they would do if the Internet stops working? This question will help you gage the sense of urgency, creativity and problem-solving.

What would be your ideal daily task at this job?

Instead of asking what they like or dislike to do, phrase your question in order to gage how much knowledge the candidate has about the job and how they will behave if they get the job. You get to evaluate the candidate’s response at multiple levels, not just based on a prepared answer.

Don’t push it

Use a combination of expected and unexpected questions. You don’t want to cross the line and potentially lose a qualified candidate. However, questions like “Tell me about yourself” can be asked early on. Way before the candidate had an opportunity to get to know you. As such, they will not change their answer based on what they think you would like to hear.

Be attentive to their behaviour before and after the interview

Most candidates are at their best behaviour during an interview, but not all are aware that the interview begins the second they walk through your door and only ends when they leave the building. How they behave with the receptionist or any administrative staff they meet can indicate how they treat their colleagues. How early or late they arrive can indicate how reliable they are. Do they remain professional even after the interview is formally over, or do they become too casual? Their behaviour after an interview can give you insight as to how they might act in your business.

An interview is a dynamic meeting that grants you multiple opportunities to evaluate a candidate. How the candidate answer the questions is important, but it is only one measure for making your decision. Candidates’ actions before, during and after an interview as well as how they answer tricky questions help you assess their ability to do the job and tell you a lot about their personality and professionalism.

Use every tool you can to make the best possible hire; look beyond the actual answers to your questions. Don’t make it easy to them. Make it easy to you!

Image credit: by studio tdes, via


Aline Ayoub

Aline has made a lifetime career in HR and is the founder of Aline Ayoub HR Consulting; a bilingual company that is helping small businesses recruit and hire the right people through a unique hiring process she has developed. She is an award winning coach and is an active member of Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA). Visit Aline’s website or follow her on twitter and LinkedIn.