8 Non-Traditional Interview Questions – and How to Handle Them

Job-seekers are, by now, familiar with traditional interview questions, such as: “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” “How do you handle conflict?” “Do you work well with a team?”

While these questions may still play a role in interviews, recruiters are becoming more and more likely to ask certain non-traditional questions which can offer even more insight into a candidate’s personality, creativity, and aptitude. Used exclusively, traditional questions simply do not reflect a candidate’s capabilities quite as accurately – and completely — as those which veer slightly off the beaten path of the standard interview “script”.

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While companies may benefit from this unconventional approach, preparing for this type of interview may be considerably more difficult for the candidate. Keep in mind that recruiters are not trying to confound you with unanswerable questions; they are just seeking a more effective way of learning about your work ethic, personality, and your ability to “think on your feet”.

However, to make the process a bit easier on you, we have compiled a list of potential non-traditional interview questions with advice on how to prepare and respond.

1.  What does your work routine look like?

When a recruiter asks you this question, he or she is aiming to determine your work performance style. How you prioritize your day and the ways in which you assess and organize tasks assigned to you can tell an interviewer a great deal about what you will be like as an employee.

2.  Tell me about a poor professional relationship you’ve had — and why didn’t it work?

In essence, your interviewer wants to know how you handle difficult situations. When you answer this question, make sure that you can identify and analyze the root of your problem with the colleague in question. Then, discuss how you worked to overcome the poor relationship and how you did not allow the relationship to get in the way of your work. Also, it’s imperative not to sound like you’re simply talking badly about your colleagues. Make sure you maintain a fair and professional tone.

3.  How would you define hard work?

This is another attempt to gauge your working style: Is working on one project for a long length of time your idea of hard work? Perhaps it is working on a number of smaller projects at a very fast pace. There isn’t really a right or wrong way to answer this, but be truthful since your answer may determine whether you are a fit for the company’s culture.


4.  Is there a type of person (or personality) that bothers you?

This question is meant to help the interviewer assess how well you will get along with the company’s current employees. Nevertheless, it’s not a good idea to say that no one ever troubles you — we all take issue with certain characteristics from time to time — however, how you answer this question is critical. Without sounding overly disparaging, focus on conscious reasons why a specific trait may distress you, and then discuss how you have overcome that barrier in the past, or how you plan to in the future.

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5.  In five minutes, describe a complicated idea or concept that you feel you know well.

The topic or idea you choose isn’t necessarily what matters when responding to this particular question. It is, rather, about how you can break down, analyze, and communicate the complexities of an issue to someone who has no prior knowledge of it. Of course, the more interesting and engaging the answer, the greater the impact will be.

6.  Of those you know on a personal basis, who do you admire most?

In the past, you may have been asked which public figure you admire most, but some recruiters prefer a different version of this question, as it can help define who you are on a more profound level. What significance does this person hold in your life? Which of this individual’s traits do you value most, and why? Your answers will indicate the types of characteristics you aspire to make your own in the workplace. Be sure to focus on work-positive characteristics such as ambition or eagerness to learn.

7.  What made you most excited about your last job?

It may be true that you weren’t very fond of your previous job, but try your best to visualize at least one aspect you may have found enjoyable or rewarding. By sharing these details, you allow the interviewer to determine what motivates you to work hard, and what keeps you passionate and engaged. Be sure your answer is truthful while also tailored toward the perimeters of the apparent company culture; and that it proves you have the ability to stay inspired – even when work becomes tedious.

8.  What would your first 30 days look like if you were to get this job?

This question not only addresses how you will benefit your potential employer within your first month on the job, it also shows that you have thoroughly researched the company and considered how you might fit with their particular corporate climate. In this instance, your best strategy is to explain how you plan to relate and adapt to your new responsibilities, work environment, and coworkers.


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Although your next interviewer may not necessarily ask these specific questions in their exact wording, thinking about how to best answer questions like these will help you determine just how your overall habits and personality will intersect with a particular workplace culture. The essential goal of non-standard interview questions is simply to ensure that you are the right person for the job. Answer professionally and truthfully, establishing yourself as the qualified and unique professional you are. In the end, this is what will further your chances for a successful and fulfilling career.


Fred Coon, CEO 

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200