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Three unconventional interview questions

By Slack
Published Last updated on This article is more than 2 years old.

An interview is often the only time an interviewer has with a stranger before signing up to spend, theoretically, several years with the candidate. Depending on the role, this near-blind jump can be a huge risk for the business. How can an interviewer get the most from that short meeting?

Different industries are known for different kinds of questions. Tech startups might try to stump candidates with a brain teaser or work out a problem on a whiteboard. Traditional office jobs often ask about strengths and weaknesses, prior problem solving experience, and the standard “where do you see yourself in five years?” Almost every interview closes by asking the applicant if she has questions, in order to gauge interest and curiosity.

Slack is especially keen on finding people with empathy for its users. It’s not easy to interview for that quality, but one way is to give candidates an opportunity to open up about themselves and their experiences. In doing so, candidates reveal how they think about the world and approach problems and solutions. Shared here are a few examples of interview questions that are helpful in getting to know candidates beyond their resume.

What’s a personal opinion you’ve had and changed in the last year?

This question asks people to explain how and why they’ve changed their thinking on an issue in the recent past. It’s a good indicator of whether or not someone is humble and open to re-examining their beliefs in the face of contrary evidence. It speaks to the mantra of “strong opinions, weakly held” which is generally a good thing in the workplace, where compromise is required for teamwork.

What’s the best (or worst) piece of advice you’ve gotten?

An answer to this questions tells a lot about how a person can reflect on his past and draw lessons from it worth sharing with others. If someone feels stumped by this, it’s often easier for people to recall failures, so flip the question. It might not be a great sign if someone is completely stumped, but it’s ok to give an interviewee time to reflect and come back to it later in the interview.

Tell me a story about how luck played a role in your life.

This is a question often asked of candidates interviewing at Slack. It gets a bit closer to being directly about empathy. When candidates are able to talk about their past and acknowledge when they got a lucky break that gave them a leg up, it’s another indication of humility. In some cases, this can potentially open up a conversation about privilege, and whether an applicant recognizes any advantages they may have had in getting to where they are.

This piece is part of a series examining the contemporary workplace, originally written by the Slack editorial team. For more stories from Slack, visit their blog, Several People are Typing.

This article was produced by Slack and not by the Quartz editorial staff.

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