Weirdest Interview Questions: Are You Hiring a Mini-Me & Missing Out?

Published by:
Valerie Valmores
November 20, 2023
min read

In the wild world of job interviews, candidates often find themselves on the receiving end of a barrage of peculiar and downright bizarre questions. From "What kind of animal would you be?" to "Which fruit are you most like?" to the timeless classic, "Why are manholes round?"

Yes, you read that correctly. Manholes. Round. 

We asked over 2000 people what their weirdest interview questions were – the results were eye-opening. We uncovered some of the weirdest questions ever asked, shedding light on the unpredictable nature of the hiring process.

But why do hiring teams ask such strange questions, and what's the deal with the Mini-Me phenomenon?

Let's dive into the deep, dark world of weird interview questions.

The Curious Case of Weird Questions

So, why do employers throw these curveballs at job candidates? The answer is a mix of psychology, personality, and a dash of quirkiness. Employers often ask unconventional questions to catch candidates off guard, see how they handle unexpected situations, and gauge their creativity and problem-solving skills.

These questions aim to reveal a candidate's thought process, their ability to think on their feet, and their capacity to stay composed in unfamiliar territory.

However, while these questions are meant to be seemingly fun and thought-provoking, they can also lead to unintended consequences.

Unintended Consequences: The Mini-Me Phenomenon

One surprising by-product of these weird interview questions is something I like to call the "Mini-Me Phenomenon." When hiring managers ask candidates questions like "What's your spirit animal?" or "If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?" they may unknowingly foster bias in the hiring process.

These questions might lead to hiring managers subconsciously favouring candidates who share their interests, values, or quirks.

This favouritism is called affinity bias, where people subconsciously gravitate towards people who resemble them in some way. In essence, weird interview questions could inadvertently turn job interviews into "mirror" interviews where hiring managers prioritise candidates who reflect their personalities or preferences. While this might result in a workplace where everyone loves the same movies, music, and hobbies, it also leads to homogenous teams that lack diversity in thought and perspective.

Survey Results: Your Weirdest Questions

The survey revealed some interesting responses. Participants shared their unusual questions from "Do you smoke?" to "Are you planning to have children?"

Here are the results ranging from quirky to completely inappropriate:

1. Jammy Dodger

"I got asked what biscuit I would be. I’m not quite sure how a biscuit is meant to measure my work ability, or if it’s just something they did to put you at ease. Anyway, I put a Jammy Dodger."

2. Age Bias

"You sound and look very young, have you had that feedback before? What do you do to make sure you are taken seriously?"

3. Physical Appearance

'"How attached are you to your facial hair?" I had a long beard and they didn't like that'

4. Online Presence

"Why don't you make your picture on your LinkedIn public? We can't accept any of your application or consider you because we couldn't see your face online..."

5. Neurodivergence

'“Do you really think neurodivergent people are a good fit for this industry?”, this was followed up with “How do you think I you’ll handle it?” The “it” was never defined even after I asked for more specifics. The industry they were referring to is counselling & psychotherapy.'

6. Kids or Career?

"Are you planning on starting a family any time soon? "
"When do you plan on having children?"
"Do I want children?"
"Are you planning to have children?"

Unsurprisingly, quite a few responses were related to having children.

This highlights the ongoing challenges of balancing work and family life, the gender pay gap, and the need for workplaces to address these disparities to create truly equitable work environments.

7. Just Plain Inappropriate

“Whilst having a final interview in a city bar, opposite their office, with the CEO: “The job is down to you and one other. Get that girl's phone number (pointing to the girl at the bar) - and the job is yours.”

Breaking the Bias: How to Avoid the Mini-Me Trap

To avoid the pitfalls of the Mini-Me Phenomenon and minimise affinity bias from the hiring process, employers should strive for a balanced approach in their hiring processes. Here are some strategies:

1. Objectivity is key: Develop a structured interview process with clear criteria for evaluating candidates. This can help ensure that hiring decisions are based on merit, skills, and qualifications rather than personal preferences.

2. Prioritise skill-based questions: Ask yourself why you're posing a specific weird question. It might be time to reconsider whether it adds value to the hiring process if it's solely for entertainment or personal amusement. At Applied, we recommend asking candidates a standardised set of work sample questions that test skills. 

Decades of research have consistently shown that work sample tests provide a more accurate and predictive measure of a candidate's ability to perform well in the actual job compared to relying solely on their interests.

3. Consider cultural add over culture fit: While it's important for employees to mesh well with a company's culture, it's equally vital to promote diversity of thought and experiences. Be open to candidates who may bring new and unique perspectives to the table.

The Bottom Line

Weird interview questions can be both entertaining and enlightening, but they come with a caveat: the Mini-Me Phenomenon. It's natural for hiring teams to gravitate toward candidates who share their interests, however, avoiding this bias is essential for fostering diversity and innovation in the workplace.

So, next time you find yourself interviewing for a job and are asked, "If you were a superhero, which one would you be?" remember that the answer may reveal more than just your love for capes and masks—it might also shine a light on whether the interviewer is on a quest to find their own personal sidekick.