The 20 best interview questions of all time

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Questions

And the reasons behind them…

The fact is most interviewers decide within 5 minutes of meeting whether the candidate in front of them is worth pursuing.  Often, then, the interview process that follows is an elongated charade with no particular purpose.  However, along the way many intuitive questions are asked of prospective employees and the shrewd recruiter is armed with posers designed to identify the candidate’s skills and emotions, tricking and cajoling along the way.

Here are my top 20 interview questions which, if asked in one sitting, would certainly identfy a fake from a flyer:

1.  What circumstance brings you here today?

One of the best opening questions ever, where candidates reveal problems with their current employer, potential insubordination, and both positive or negative character traits.

2.  Which three people (famous or otherwise) would you most like to invite to a dinner party?

Offers insight into the candidate’s personality.  Some go for safe options, whilst others may be more risky or exhibit signs of humour or quirkiness.

3.  What felt unfair to you in your last job?

A great way of finding out what makes someone tick and what they stand for

Great white shark4.  What’s your favourite animal and why?

Sub-consciously most people consider an animal they believe most accurately personifies them.  This is a good question to identify personality traits.

5.  What type of work environment do you prefer?

There is little point hiring people who do not fit the company’s culture.  This question identifies the candidate’s likely fit, aside from the ability to do the job.

6.  My partner and I are planning a holiday, where would you recommend?

This question allows you to speak about a topic outside of the job role, breaking down barriers and exploring the candidate’s ‘non-interview’ personality.

7.  What are you most passionate about?

The answer doesn’t really matter but the way they answer does.  The best candidates respond very quickly, sit forward slightly and are usually very animated.  Never hire anyone without a passion for something.

8.  What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in your life and how have you overcome it?

The candidate is forced to open up and be honest, whilst allowing the interviewer an opportunity to explore how the candidate handles challenges.

9.  Which famous person would you most like to see play you in a film?

The answer to this question will be a great insight into the candidate’s confidence as well as providing a great exploratory topic of conversation.

Risk10.  What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

Studies indicate that people who take risks are generally more successful than those who do not.  But too many mavericks in one organisation can be disruptive…Discussion on this can be very revealing.

11.  Describe someone outside your field of interest who inspires you and why?

This question identifies motivations and affords personality insights.

12.  When I call your old boss what will they say about you?

Other than asserting the point that you will be taking references, this question asks the candidate to think about how they feel they are perceived by their previous (or current) employer, testing their ability to think on the spot and align the answer to the job they are interviewing for.

13.  Why are you interested in this job?

Is the candidate interested in your job or any job?  Have they researched the company and understood what’s been mentioned throughout the interview?

14.  If you could be anyone else who would it be?

Provides the opportunity for further analysis of personality traits and creativity.

15.  What are the biggest strengths you would bring to this organisation?

Aligned with question 13, the answer affords the interviewer the chance to gauge the candidate’s perception of how their skills and personality would help drive the company forward, whilst testing their ability to assert themselves.

Angry16.  What makes you angry?

Helps understand personality traits and motivations.

17.  What are the first 5 things you’d do if you got this position?

Tests what the candidate has understood from the interview and how they perceive their skills and personality would add value to the company and role.  Confident individuals are likely to look at the company culture as well as the job function itself.

18.  If you inherited an acre of land what would you do with it?

This question helps explore the candidate’s personality and creativity.

19.  Why do giraffes have such long necks?

The factual truth behind this question (there’s conjecture over whether it’s for food or fighting advantages) is incidental, as it is a great way to explore the candidate’s creativity – or natural history knowledge! 

20.  What accomplishment in your life are you most proud of?

Everyone has an achievement of some kind (if they haven’t, don’t employ them!) so this question identifies motivational traits and passion.  It is also a great way to end the interview on a positive note.

What great question have you asked or been asked in an interview?  Feel free to comment below…

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11 Comments on "The 20 best interview questions of all time"

  1. Chris April 24, 2013 at 4:58 pm ·


    I’d probably suggest re-titling the blog to be ’20 of the most unusual interview questions ever’. What happened to competency based questioning? Surely this is still the best way to really see if a candidate has done what they’ve said they have, especially in Sales recruitment, lots of bluffers in that sector still I’m afraid!

  2. Bill Vick May 2, 2013 at 9:55 pm ·


    The only questions missing were those vital to determine the candidates fit, skills and ability to do the job. Too much cultural or soft questions and not enough of the kind of questions that hires superstars, IMHO.

  3. Tamera Tienter May 9, 2013 at 12:07 am ·


    I was asked “If I skip the interview process and hire you right now, would you give me the shoes your wearing” I didn’t get the job and I’m not sure if it was because I said to her “If I give you the shoes can you raise the salary for this position because now I’ll need more money to go buy some shoes” She actually laughed, but it sure made me feel a lot less tense. I’ve followed her technique since then and it’s worked for me all these years.

  4. Liz Diez May 17, 2013 at 9:44 am ·


    Some of these questions are great, but ones like ‘what’s your favourite animal’, ‘who would you invite to a dinner party’, and who’d play you in a film?’ are I think best placed for a peer to peer interviewing, or bar drinks. Will it have any bearing on your hiring decision if they choose Brad Pitt over Daniel Day Lewis? Meryl Streep over Judi Dench? Probably not. And the animal question – don’t get me started on it. It’s been around too long to ever get an honest answer on and whether it’s honest or not, so what?

    If you’re interviewing a candidate, remember you have only a limited amount of time to get to the crux of their experience, personality and motivation, and they only have a limited amount of time to get that across to you.Don’t waste your time or the candidates time with ‘fluff’ questions that dont surprise anybody anymore. In my experience, you’ll get to understand their behaviour, style of communication and background through more direct questioning far better.

  5. CV KNOWHOW August 31, 2013 at 9:28 pm ·


    Very funny question 19 is my favorite to be honest, I was once asked to stand on one leg in a interview for a Sales role in a Recruitment company I went for many years ago…

    I asked the interviewer ‘why what will that mean to you’ he asked if I would do it, I said I would if he told me what would that mean to him if I did. He said it will show him what wouldn’t I do to close a deal and also commitment!!!

    Lets just say I didn’t stand on one leg, I didn’t get the job, we had few word’s and I ended taking my CV out of his hands and ripping it up saying shall we just call it a day.

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  7. Ruben May 18, 2014 at 4:07 am ·


    Often the recruitment managers are questioned on “What would be your 30/60/90 day plan look like”?

  8. Patty Ross May 22, 2014 at 7:40 pm ·


    Questions 3, 5,12,13,15, and 17 are ok, the rest are not relevant to the job and may be inappropriate or illegal to ask if they do not specifically related to the skills necessary the the position being interviewed for.

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