5 Examples of curveball interview questions to ask your candidates
When looking for the perfect candidate, it can be hard to know exactly what to ask.
Curveball questions are a great way to get to know your interviewee. Done right, they can provide insight into how they’ll act in the job. Done wrong, they could make your interviewee feel confused, uncomfortable and less keen about the role.
So we’ve compiled some tips and examples to ensure you make the most of the time you have with your candidates and direct brilliant curveball interview questions.
What is a curveball interview question?
A curveball question does exactly what it says. As if coming out of nowhere, a curveball question is meant to startle your candidate and get them thinking in a new way.
By putting your candidate on the spot, you’ll see how they think on their feet and deal with problems on the job.
Are curveball interview questions out of style?
Over the past few years, curveball questions have gained a bit of a bad rep. Being called everything from overused and cliche to “terrifying“, many interviewers have shied away from using curveball questions.
However, curveball questions can be a great interviewing tool. Directed to the job specification, you can see how your candidate deals with problems under pressure. Do they keep their cool and follow logic? Or do they crumble?
But it’s important that you ask the right kind of questions.
1 – Don’t be too whimsical
The idea behind curveball questions is to see how the interviewee thinks under pressure. If your curveball question is too playful – like would you rather fight two hundred mini lions or one huge moth? – it won’t help you identify your most skilled candidate or make a great impression.
While curveball questions can put people at ease, this is still an interview. You are looking for an answer that will help you better understand your candidate and how they will fit in the role.
Keep it light, but keep it professional.
2 – Give your candidate some time
With curveball questions, you want to see the way your interviewee thinks. So it’s important to give them a second to understand what you’re actually asking. Don’t rush.
Your candidate might ask a few questions in response to help work their way through their answer. Give them some time. And make sure to record their answer so you can come back to it when reviewing applications.
3 – Don’t try to be too obscure
You want your interviewee to be taken aback by your curveball question, but not completely stumped. Make sure your question is relevant to the role to ensure their answer helps with the hiring process.
Play with the examples that are already out there to ensure your question is one they haven’t heard before. But maintain a similar question structure so you can give your applicant the best shot possible.
5 Examples of curveball interview questions
Here are some examples of curveball interview questions to give you some inspiration.
But we would always recommend coming up with your own!
Sell me this pen.
This question is a classic curveball that’s perfect for sales and customer service roles. By picking an object next to you and asking the interviewee to sell it back to you, you’ll get an insight into how they will work on the job and sell things on a whim.
As this prompt has been used in The Wolf of Wall Street, it might be best to avoid pens and choose something random. This will keep your candidate on their toes and avoid renditions of Hollywood movie scenes.
If you could be one person for a day, who would you choose, and why?
As well as providing a great insight into the interviewee’s personality and interests, this question is perfect for socially motivated roles or roles that require a lot of dedication.
If you’re looking for someone who cares about a specific interest, test their passion by seeing whether they pick Malala Yousafzai or Kanye West.
Better yet, their reasoning will show what they value and what they seek to get out of their career.
Would you rather be liked or feared?
As long as they don’t go on a philosophical tangent, this is a great curveball question to use when interviewing for a managerial position. Plus, it’ll give you an insight into how your candidate will fit on your team.
If they immediately answer either way your candidate is probably not a good fit. No one wants a pushover or a sociopath at the office. But if they take some time to think about the benefits of each, this question will provide a great insight into your candidate’s mindset and management style.
How would you go about counting the number of skittles in a bathtub?
Coming up with a difficult mathematical problem is a great curveball question to ask at an interview where problem-solving skills are key.
You can play around with the objects being counted as long as the problem is an equally tricky one to calculate!
Rate my interviewing skills on a scale of 1 to 10, and explain your reasoning.
Questions like this are perfect for management and human resources roles.
This question isn’t just about allowing a chance for some constructive criticism from your candidate, but rather demonstrating how they would navigate difficult workplace discussions.
The last trick to curveball questions is to be kind. Your candidate might be stumped at first and ask you to repeat the question a couple of times. You might get a few questions in return, but this should be expected.
Even if they produce a funny answer, they will probably be a good fit for the role if they’ve communicated their thoughts well.
Hopefully these examples of great curveball interview questions will help you pick the right candidate for the role – or at least sift out the wrong ones!
If all goes wrong, at least you’ll hear some quirky answers which will lighten up a day of interviewing!
If you’d like more help with hiring, check out our hiring platform and our other helpful hiring guides to see if we can help.