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Are Killer Questions a Thing of the Past?

Have you ever been to an interview and been asked a curve-ball question, to see how you react? If you were a dessert, what dessert would you be? What would you take to an abandoned island if you could only take one object?

There’s an expectation, sometimes, that ‘killer questions’ like these will reveal aspects of candidates’ personalities that would otherwise remain hidden during an interview, perhaps from a desire to appear formal and professional. The idea is that these questions will help assess relevance, culture fit and general attitude…and they’re often questions candidates can’t really expect or prepare for.

More recently however there’s been a move to asking difficult, content-related questions that help assess how people think on their feet. These are combinations of competency-based questions, but with a bit of creativity. They are, arguably, also curve-ball questions but they are more grounded.

Focusing on the HR space, I’ve recently asked some of my top candidates the sort of killer questions they’ve encountered at interviews:

  • Can you tell me about a time where you rallied support across a business for a particular HR initiative then realised you were wrong and had to back-track?
  • Can you tell me about an ER case that you’ve managed by thinking outside the box and coming up with a creative solution? (more and more there’s a move to ensuring people don’t have a ‘computer says no’ approach)
  • What makes you nervous about your current role, and how do you react when you’re out of your depth? Provide an example.
  • When have you disagreed with your line manager, and how have you addressed the situation?
  • Have you ever hired the wrong person for a role yourself – why were they wrong and how did you learn from that mistake?
  • How do you measure success in your current role?

Personally, I think these questions reveal much more about a candidate rather than them describing the inside of a ping pong ball. What are the worst questions you’ve been asked and which killer questions do you use in interviews?

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