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How to Ask Creative Interview Questions

Author: Gary Kitanoski

Recent research has branded the “creative” brainteaser questions favoured by Wall Street and Silicone Valley over the last two decades as ineffective in identifying the best candidates; in fact, Google started phasing such questions out a few years ago. “How many times heavier is a mouse than an elephant?” may be off the interview agenda, but to attract a high standard of talent, it is still important that you display an element of creativity without losing sight of the fact that every question has a purpose.

So what are the most important questions to ask in interview, and what do you want to get out of them? Most HR departments will have a set of key questions, such as “Tell me about yourself” and “Where do you see yourself in five years?”, but getting a little creative can help you to find the best fit for the role in question. Here are four of our favourites; they are a challenge to candidates and insightful for you.

1. Pretend you are a head-hunter and you want me to join (Name of recruiting company). Pitch (Company) to me.

This is a good alternative to the usual “why do you want to work for us?” question. It gives your interviewee the opportunity to utilise the research they have done on your company and will give you an insight into their real motivation: a move to UAE, career progression, employee benefits, the opportunity to join an industry-leader. Depending on the role applied for, some candidates will struggle with this question more than others. The most important thing is not, however, in the delivery, it is in the essence of what they are telling you about your organization.

2. Tell me about your previous work relationships. Provide examples of the best and the worst ones.

This is not a popularity test, but an opportunity for you to see how well the candidate will fit within your team and how they are likely to interact with others. Few candidates will be willing to be negative about colleagues or bosses, so the way in which they vocalize less positive relationships without appearing divisive could be interesting.

3. Tell me about a project or task that you would describe as the greatest accomplishment in your career. Describe your plan and management, how you measured the project’s success, and the biggest mistakes you made.

Most candidates will have seen this question coming and, as such, will have prepared and practised their answer. This means you are looking for something really good. No matter how spectacular, or not, the task or project was, this answer will give you an insight into a candidate’s work ethic. A good answer will demonstrate confidence, the ability to adapt in unexpected circumstances and flexibility and determination in the face of challenges. You are looking for an answer that displays confidence and professionalism, alongside humility, identifiable by the ability to give credit to others, to analyse mistakes and adapt accordingly.

4. What part of this interview process has differed to your expectations?

Even the most original interviews are created to gather the same core information, which means that, most of the time, interviewees have been able to prepare their answers in some way. Asking this question will test their spontaneity and how good they are at thinking on their feet. Look for honesty, specifics and maybe a touch of humour; anything from the colour of the décor to tasks they have been asked to complete during the recruitment process. Whatever their response, you are looking for an answer that is delivered with confidence.

Sadly, there is no such thing as a fail-safe interview process; on occasion, someone less than suitable may be offered a position, and someone brilliant may fail to impress. Understanding this will help you to use your instinct a little during the interview process; maybe a fantastic candidate is having an off day, is suffering from jetlag or has not yet acclimatized. Your interview panel will have enough experience in management and HR to be able to give a candidate the benefit of the doubt if there is a huge disparity between your expectations of them and their performance in interview; if this is the case, don’t be afraid to create a shortlist and invite candidates back for a “final” interview. Do you want to share your interview tips and nightmares, or would you like more advice on effective recruitment within UAE? If so, follow us on LinkedIn.