Use These Weird Interview Tricks to Decide on a Candidate Fast

In a recent Twitter post Greg Harris, CEO at Quantum Workplace, an employee feedback software company, said this:

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“I’ve had 3 interviews with job candidates in the last week. Not one of them asked why I have a squirrel costume hanging on my door.”

When asked why he had a squirrel costume on his door, Harris said: “It’s just there to as an exercise in curiosity for new hires.”

Exercises in curiosity and unique, out-of-the ordinary questions are good ways for employers to find out more about candidates, especially when they are seeking a way to separate two equally talented candidates (such as finalists for a job), or when trying to make quick decisions on a candidate.

Harris was likely trying to see which candidates would think outside the box, or have the courage to bring up the squirrel costume – traits employers value. While this is not a trick, it is unique. And employers like unique, which is why they implement weird or out-of-the-box scenarios to help aid in the interviewing/recruiting/hiring process.

One scenario involves asking candidates whether they think humor plays a role in the workplace, says Carole Martin, The Interview Coach and author of the book Boost Your Hiring IQ, a fun and interactive quiz that helps objectively determine whether the person you’re interviewing is the right person for the job.

“That question’s answer is a real indicator of a person’s true work spirit,” says Martin. “In this crazy world of work, you’d better be able to laugh or you’re in trouble.”

There’s other weird interview scenarios that can help separate candidates. Like these, from Sherry Jordan of Sherry Jordan Coach. Jordan grew up in family businesses, and for the last 20 years has been coaching high performance executives, small business owners, solo entrepreneurs and professional teams to success:

1. Create a 90 day plan

If the candidate is applying for a supervisory, management, or sales position ask them to create a 90 day plan on how they would enter the position and make it their own. Knowing the process a new employee will use to organize, familiarize, make necessary adjustments and manage is always helpful in determining the start-up time and expense.

2. Give them a test

Many employers design a “project” or “scenario question” that will allow them to test skills that are not easy to uncover in a verbal interview. Be sure the test will offer insight into how the candidate identifies problems or issues and uses strategic thinking skills to solve them.

“The best way to do that is to fill it with errors that can only be detected by someone that has a firm understanding of the industry, role and position,” says Jordan.

Use a past experience or related company scenario to develop this test.

3. Provide simple, but specific instructions

In the application process, ask applicants to do something specific when filing their application.  That could be instructions on sending in the application or specific additional information.

“I have a client that always asks their candidates to fax in the application,” says Jordan. “He is always surprised at how many send an e-mail with attachment. Applications for those candidates go straight to the waste bin.”

Interviews can be mundane and straight forward. They can also be exciting and informative and include weird tricks to help identify and separate the best or most unique candidates. Use these tips and tricks the next time you interview to help make the decision that’s right for your needs.  

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Matt Krumrie is a career columnist and professional resume writer who has been providing helpful information and resources for job seekers and employers for 15+ years. Learn more about Krumrie via, connect with him on LinkedIn ( and follow him on Twitter via @MattKrumrie.

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