Hiring top talent is tough, which is why, over time, most hiring managers develop their own system of interview techniques and questions to grill would-be employees.

When it comes to specific interview questions, I’ve got collections of them sitting in an Evernote file that I’ve been carefully curating over time.

While many of these questions may be considered mainstream, such as "Tell me about a time when…” or “How would you approach a situation where…," I do like to mix it up with a few abstract queries that I seem to ask with a fair bit of consistency.


1. What’s your superpower?

I tend to see teams as a collection of super heroes, much like the Justice League or the X-men. Each team member brings his or her own unique set of skills: things they’re simply better at than their peers. For example, someone might be a killer negotiator, while someone else is consummate solution or product expert. Someone might be outstanding in the deal qualification process, another may be adept at quickly connecting with executive stakeholders, and someone else may simply excel at being what I call “the best friend."

Regardless of what their superpower is, asking a candidate to describe it (or how his or her current manager would describe it) is a great technique for three reasons:

  • It helps you understand what strengths and diversity the person could add to your team.
  • It highlights the candidate’s degree of self-awareness.
  • It provides the opening for a related line of evidence-based questions. For example, “Oh, so you're awesome at connecting with executive stakeholders? Tell me about an especially challenging instance where you had to make such a connection.”
  • A fourth reason I like this question: it tends to be a fun ice-breaker question that puts candidates at ease.


2. What’s your kryptonite?
While it’s always interesting to ask a candidate about how they’d use their superpowers  to win, it’s even more interesting to ask what they would do to win if they were up against themselves. This technique works well after you’ve gotten them to describe their superpower and a situation they were especially proud of. For instance, “If I were your competitor, what would/should I have done to steal it from you?”

This technique works well for three reasons:

  • It helps you understand the candidate's degree of awareness of his or her weaknesses, whether they’re personal, professional, or organizational.
  • It highlights how familiar the candidate is with the competitive landscape in his or her business or industry.
  • It will help you identify potential areas for coaching and development.


3. If you were a plant, what care instructions would you come with?

I usually introduce this question with a build-up that goes something like this: “Suppose I were to call your current manager and ask him to describe you in the same way he’d describe a plant he wanted me to take care of while he went on vacation. You know like, ‘Oh, Steve likes to be watered three times a day, indirect sunlight in the morning, and he really perks up when you play Mozart!’ Essentially, what would your current manager tell me to do to help you perform at your best?”

Do you crave autonomy? Do you need constant encouragement? Are you hesitant and seek advice when faced with new situations or do you dive in and ask questions later?

This technique is great for three reasons:

  • It provides specific insights into how you’ll need to manage this person for maximum effectiveness.
  • It provides insights into the affinity the candidate has toward his or her current manager and why, which is also helpful for you.
  • As with the previous technique, it helps you identify initial areas of focus for coaching and mentoring.

The interview process can often be a grueling one for both the hiring manager and the candidates, but injecting a little fun and creativity into the interview questions can not only help you secure the right talent, it can also help you set him or her up for success starting from day one on the job.