Guest Post by Matt Monge

Most interviews are pretty boring, so it stands to reason that most interview questions are also boring. There are certainly exceptions, of course, but by and large interview questions are some of the most predictable and inane questions we ever ask other humans. Seriously, you’d almost have to be an idiot not to answer some of these brain-busters correctly:

Are you a team player? What are they going to say? No?

Tell us about your attitude. If they’re dumb enough to say they have an awful attitude, hate people, and occasionally kick cute puppies, you don’t have to hire them. But most folks aren’t dumb enough to give you anything other than what you want to hear.

What are your leadership strengths? Really? You both know what the candidate’s going to say. He encourages collaboration. She likes to empower her employees. He’s an “innovative problem-solver.” She happens to have just the right mix of “big-picture thinking and attention to detail.”

What are your weaknesses? “Guess what–I have flaws. What are they? Oh, I don’t know. I sing in the shower. Sometimes I spend too much time volunteering. Occasionally I’ll hit someone with my car…”

And somehow, through questions like that we’re hoping to discover whether this person is truly innovative, imaginative, creative, and so on. So we’ve got to think about framing leadership interviews differently. I’m actually in favor of scrapping traditional interview formats altogether, but that’s for a different post. Most of us still have to think of ways to ask questions and spark discussions that really help us get to know that person sitting across from us that we just met. Perhaps if nothing else, example interview questions like the below might help get your creative juices going…

1. What wild cards do you see emerging in our industry that could pose a threat to our business? What would you do about them?

2. If you had one month and $25,000 of budget space to tackle any project your little heart desired, what would you do?

3. What situations or environments seem to make you most creative?

4. If you had ten minutes to talk with CEOs across our industry, what would you challenge them to do differently?

5. Tell me about a time you attempted to solve a problem with a completely unorthodox approach. What was the problem, what was your approach, and how did it work out?

6. In concrete terms, please explain the last creative idea you had to improve your own work performance or that of your team.

7. What are some specific things that your organization changed and/or implemented as a result of your ideas or ideas generated by a team you led?

8. What previous professional failure are you most proud of? Why?

9. Say you’ve come up with a crazy idea that you think could have a huge, positive impact on your organization. You pitch your idea to your executive team, but they don’t buy what you’re selling. What do you do? Can you give us an example of a time you did this?

Obviously these aren’t terribly profound. (I mean, really–if I can think of stuff like this, almost anyone can.) I just think we need to ask more targeted questions if innovation–or any other quality, for that matter–is something that’s important to us. If nothing else, try changing up the phrasing or wording in your current questions. Try to nudge the candidate off-balance a little bit. After all, the life of a leader is lived off-balance, right? See how they can adjust to questions they might not have anticipated. Press them for specifics if necessary. The bottom line is that with interviews, like many other things, you’ll only get what you ask for. So ask for more.

Matt Monge – Credit union executive by day. Workplace mojo maker by night.  Matt’s primary passion is his work as Chief Culture Officer at Mazuma Credit Union, but he also does speaking and consulting work on the side to help other organizations with what he’s passionate about: developing awesome culture, organizational identity, and leadership.

Matt’s blog:

You can follow Matt on twitter @mattmonge

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  1. terry morgan says:

    LOVE these interview questions! I’m going to hang onto them and look for a chance to use some of them! Excellent out-of-the-box thinking! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Kelly says:

    I had also found over the years of interviewing associates for our law firm that the typical questions were of little use. I always found it more useful to simply engage them in conversation so that they would relax and become more comfortable. Then, the real interview would start where I would determine their character, work ethic, goals, motivators, etc. And, essentially, I would then determine very early in the interview if I felt comfortable with them. I also learned a lot by inviting them to interview me and the law firm, which brought out many of the items mentioned above.

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