There was a point in my career when I dreaded the Interview: the questions were always the same.

It had even gotten to a point where I could almost predict every answer (thank goodness for Google). Stock interview questions made for generic answers and didn’t tell me anything about the candidate.

If they had Googled the appropriate question, they knew the right answer and were allowed to advance to the next level in the game.

Check out the picture gallery below for some creative examples on how to answer these stock interview questions.

Neither the structured nor the behavioral questions (those answers are out there too) gave me any insight into how the candidates would perform or behave in the workplace, nor did it give me an idea of how the person would fit into our corporate culture.

I was just grilling the person and getting meek, boring answers in response; there was no dialogue between Interviewer and Interviewee.

But what could I do? I was a peon after all, just following the directions of my boss, and her boss, and so on. Could generations of HR professionals have it wrong?

It turns out they didn’t have it wrong, it just wasn’t a good method for me; I was not able to discern the potential of candidates according to some textbook questions.

I find that the best way to get to know someone is to engage them in real conversation. Asking someone what their strongest and weakest traits is not going to bring out the best in them. It will just make them nervous, make them question their own abilities and maybe even sweat profusely.

So after the pleasantries, I start with, “Do you believe there is life in outer space?”

I will not lie, a few interviewees have sat there, dumbfounded. Not a good fit. A few others laugh and ask me if I’m serious.

The candidate that I am really looking for may also laugh, but then they answer the question, maybe even taking the time to think about it seriously.

These are the people I want: the ones who can think on their feet, roll with the punches, and come back swinging.

I’m not alone in the oddball interview question department. The wonderful people over at Glassdoor publish their list of favorite interview questions every year.

Some of my favorite from 2010:

“If you could be any superhero, who would it be?” – asked at AT&T

“What do wood and alcohol have in common?” – asked at Guardsmark

“What would you do if you inherited a pizzeria from your uncle?” – asked at Volkswagen

Guess I’m not alone in the Oddball Interview Question Department.

What's your favorite interview question? I know the ones below aren't.

Tags: Advice, Interview Questions, GlassDoor