Strategy 9 puzzling interview questions from real execs that seem to have nothing to do with the job

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Some companies love to test job candidate with offbeat questions that test their creative thinking skills.

"What would you do in the case of a zombie apocalypse?" play

"What would you do in the case of a zombie apocalypse?"

(AMC)
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Where do you see yourself in five years? What is your biggest weakness? Why should we hire you?

If you've interviewed for enough jobs, you've probably answered those questions so many times you could do it in your sleep. They're cliche, they're predictable, and much of the time, they fail to elicit anything more than a canned response.

Instead, some companies opt for slightly more offbeat interview questions that seemingly don't have anything to do with the job being offered. CEOs love them because they reveal how creative or quick-thinking a prospective employee might be as a member of the company.

Here are some of the strangest interview questions we've come across that, at first glance, seem to have nothing to do with the job:

What are the qualities you like least and most in your parents?

What are the qualities you like least and most in your parents? play

What are the qualities you like least and most in your parents?

(Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

Bob Brennan, the former CEO of records-management company Iron Mountain, said if he could only ask one question during a job interview, he would ask job candidates which qualities in their parents they like and don't like.

The question is so predictive of the candidate's personality that the right answer could inspire Brennan to hire them on the spot, he told New York Times columnist Adam Bryant.

"I'll let the human resources professionals debate whether such a question is out of bounds," Bryant wrote.

"But I'm hard pressed to think of a better crystal ball for predicting how somebody is likely to behave in the weeks, months and years after you hire them. After all, people often adopt the qualities of their parents that they like, and work hard to do the opposite of what they don't like."



Are you the smartest person you know?

Oracle executive chairman and CTO Larry Ellison play

Oracle executive chairman and CTO Larry Ellison

(Oracle)

This is a question that Oracle cofounder and former CEO Larry Ellison would have college recruiters ask recent college graduates.

It may sound like Ellison was trying to gauge a job candidate's arrogance. But in fact, he was trying to do the exact opposite.

According to Ellison biographer Mike Wilson, if the candidate answered that they are the smartest person they know, they'd get hired. If they said they wouldn't, the recruiter would ask, "Who is?" Then they'd try to hire that other person instead.

Wilson said the question exemplified Ellison's confidence in hiring intelligent people who will challenge him to do his job better.



On a scale from 1 to 10, how lucky are you?

On a scale from 1 to 10, how lucky are you? play

On a scale from 1 to 10, how lucky are you?

(Charley Gallay/Getty Images)

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh told Business Insider that he usually asks job candidates to rate how lucky they are on a scale from 1 to 10.

While there's no right answer, Hsieh said either extreme could be a red flag — if you're a one, you don't know why bad things happen to you, and probably blame others for your shortcomings. If you're a 10, you don't understand why good things happen to you, and might lack confidence.

Hsieh also asks candidates to rate how weird they are on a scale from 1 to 10 to see how they'll fit in with the company culture (again, he tries to avoid ones and tens).



Tell me something that's true, that almost nobody agrees with you on

Founders Fund partner Peter Thiel. play

Founders Fund partner Peter Thiel.

(Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Times)

PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel loves to ask this question because of the conversation it generates.

"It sort of tests for originality of thinking, and to some extent, it tests for your courage in speaking up in a difficult interview context," Thiel told Forbes in 2012. "It's always socially awkward to tell the interviewer something that the interviewer might not agree with."

"Most people think originality is easy, but I think it's actually really hard, and when you find it, it's really valuable."



How would you make money from an ice-cream stand in Central Park?

How would you make money from an ice-cream stand in Central Park? play

How would you make money from an ice-cream stand in Central Park?

(Slaven Vlasic / Getty Images)

Yasmin Green, head of research and development at Alphabet's tech incubator Jigsaw, said she asks every job candidate this question to test their creative-thinking skills.

"I'm curious to see how people deal with ambiguity and whether they can have fun while thinking on their feet," she said at a networking event in 2016.

And to get hired at Google, she said, you need to "be prepared to challenge the premise of the question."



What was the last costume you wore?

What was the last costume you wore? play

What was the last costume you wore?

(Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Cosmopolitan)

For this question, a favorite of Warby Parker cofounder and co-CEO David Gilboa, the reason you wore the costume is more important than the costume itself.

One of Warby Parker's goals is to "inject fun and quirkiness into work, life and everything we do," Gilboa told Quartz, and your answer to this question could reveal how well you'd fit in.

"If we hire the most technically skilled person in the world whose work style doesn’t fit here, they won’t be successful," he said.



Do something with this paper clip

Do something with this paper clip play

Do something with this paper clip

(Flickr/dominquegodbout)

A senior marketing executive told careers coach Celia Currin she would always have a paper clip on hand and would randomly ask job candidates to do something with it in the middle of an interview.

"The idea was to see how they reacted to strange requests and how creative they could be," she said.



If you die, what do you want written on your tombstone?

If you die, what do you want written on your tombstone? play

If you die, what do you want written on your tombstone?

(Wikimedia Commons)

Another executive told Currin she asks candidates this grim-sounding question to decipher what they want their business legacy to be.

Her preferred answers were ones that included career-related details, and not just personal details like "best father, husband, wife," Currin said.



What would you do in the event of a zombie apocalypse?

play

(AMC)

Every prospective employee at Capriotti's Sandwich Shop chain needs to answer this question before they are offered a job.

The unexpected question is a test to see how job candidates react under pressure, CEO Ashley Morris told Business Insider.

"There really is no right answer, so it's interesting to get someone's opinion and understand how they think on their feet," Morris said. "The hope is that for us, we're going to find out who this person is on the inside and what's really important to him, what his morals really are, and if he'll fit on the cultural level."