25 Unexpected Questions to Help You Interview for Rare Value

Revive this Lost Art and Create a Value-Rich Interview Process

6 May 2016
The Not-So-Secret Swipe File. Image source: Pixabay

The Not-So-Secret Swipe File. Image source: Pixabay

Last week in The HR Rabbit Hole you were egged on to break the interviewing rules set down by ‘The Establishment’. 

It was for a worthy cause; to create a value-rich interview process that will grow your business.

Still need convincing to break some rules and shake up your interview questions?

Here’s why…

Unicorns and Purple Squirrels

No I haven’t lost my marbles.

Stick with me.

In today’s business world there are a confusing array of success criteria. In terms of perceived and accepted ‘value’, mythical creatures have captured the imagination.

The quest to own a unicorn (business) or to somehow share in the reflected magic does not seem to be disappearing anytime soon.

In employment space, the search continues for the ‘perfect’ candidate – the elusive Purple Squirrel.

B.O.L.O Alert: Be On The Look Out for the Rare and Remarkably Valuable Purple Squirrel.

purple squirrelYou would be hard pressed to capture a Purple Squirrel with your trusty bank of old interview questions.

These questions have served you well in the past.  They have helped you to assess your candidate’s experience, qualifications and skills against the requirements of the job.

But common questions will only get you so far in this high-stakes game. For this odyssey, you need to shake up your interview questions and hiring process if you want to attract the remarkably rare.

You need to dig deep. You’ll want to get down to the nitty-gritty of what makes them tick.

I know your plate is full. Alright, it’s overflowing. You are juggling more nuts than a squirrel, trying to keep up with your regular responsibilities. Hunting for purple squirrels is more like wishful thinking right now.

What if I show you a short cut to get started?

Skip back to last week’s post. Take your pick from 7 story connector interviewing tips to give your hiring process a boost.

Come right back as I am about to honour the promise I made to you last week.

Just for you, I promised to open my own swipe file of story connector interview questions. I already shared with you an appetizer of 5 questions. They are carefully crafted to sniff out precious values;  the promising qualities, willingness to contribute, passions, potential career paths and the authentic personality of your candidate.

This week I will share 25 MORE Interviewer / Story Connector Question Hacks. 

Aww! come on, who doesn’t love a hack?

Those nifty short-cuts that reduce frustration in executing mandatory tasks.

The clever inside-intel that allows you to cut your way through the tall grass, so you can make a positive impact by turning the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Whether passed on via colleagues and experts or you stumble upon it yourself, a genuinely useful hack is worth its weight in gold.

25 Unexpected Questions to Help You Interview for the Rare and the Remarkable

I have listed questions from my swipe file in no particular order of priority or preference.

Before you dive in, here are a few words of caution.

Remember, you want to engage in a meaningful conversation with your candidate.  Practice the art of conversation.  Here’s a style tip from the podcasters. Pile and bundle your questions.

It’s OK to do this and here’s why.

Story connector questions are different to regular interview questions. Each question acts as a cue, to prompt the storyteller (candidate) to add layers to their response and share personalised story.

Be careful as question stacking is like conversation starter lighter fuel.  You need to restrict yourself to adding a few strategically placed story connector questions amongst your regular interview questions in the beginning.  Then build on your conversation from there.

Draw inspiration from these 25 questions, customise to suit or design your own.

To help get you started, here is a peek into mine.

Above all, create your own swipe file.

1.  What’s your biggest dream / aspiration and what are you doing to make it happen?

2.  Do you find it easy to ask for help? When was the last time you did this? What was the situation? How did you feel?

3.  Please tell me about a change you made at home /work to make life easier for yourself / someone else? Why was it important for you to do this?

4. Please tell me about a change you made at home / work to make someone else happy? What made you do this?

5. What are you doing when you are at your best – in the zone? What talents, knowledge and values are you drawing on or using?

6. Do you think you are remarkable? What makes you remarkable?

7. What makes you different from other people?

8. What can you offer the world that no one else can? Source Chris Guillebeau, The Art of Non-Conformity.

9. What do you really want to get out of life? Source Chris Guillebeau, The Art of Non-Conformity. 

10. When was the last time you did something for the first time? What did you do?

11. What was the last book (blog, article) you read? What was about it that made an impression on you?

12. What do you understand by the phrase “lift as you climb”? How do you practice this?

13. What would you do if you didn’t have to work?

14. What character trait do you really appreciate in a colleague / leader?

15. What character trait would you like to have? Why?

16. What was your latest discovery?

17. What is your greatest triumph?

18. What can you not live without / throw away? What value or meaning does it hold for you?

19. What do most people not know about you? (hidden skill, talent, hope or dream?)

20. What criticism hurt you the most? Why?

21. When did you last want the ground to swallow you up? How did you move past that feeling?

22. Who are your mentors / teachers? How did they influence you? What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt?

23. Was there an “Aha!” moment when you realised you could or wanted to seriously pursue [XX]? Source: The Great Discontent.

24. What advice would you give to a young person starting out? OR What advice would you give your younger self? Source: The Great Discontent.

25. Tell me about your path to what you are doing now? Source: The Great Discontent.  What is next for you?

Swipe File Closed!


You can’t start throwing story connector questions willy-nilly into your old interview process and expect a miraculous uplift in your hiring results.

Genuine conversations need both participants to connect with each other in a meaningful way.

To be a skilled interviewer AND story connector, you need to be absolutely present in the moment with the candidate / story teller.  No distractions.

Eye-contact, empathy and exceptional listening skills are a must. You cannot fake this.

Now this style of interviewing is not for everyone, and that’s OK.

But if you want to make a difference badly enough, you must be willing to rethink what you are currently doing and make some changes.

A few small tweaks here and there, might be all that is needed to move your interview process from regular to stellar.

Ready to add some pizazz to your interviewing style to create a value-rich interview experience?

  • Season your old interview process with a few story connector interview questions and take a step closer to hiring remarkable individuals to join your employee community. Let me know how you get on.
  • Which questions did you find most useful?
  • Share your own customised questions.  I would love to read them, you might help another interviewer get unstuck.
  • Please share your thoughts on this post in the comments.

Until we meet again down the HR Rabbit Hole…




MORE of my sources of inspiration for story connector style, value-rich interviewing and great content

  • Flow Magazine: Flow is all about positive psychology, mindfulness, creativity and the beauty of imperfection. Sounds pretty human-centric to me. I stumbled across this magazine by chance in an airport shop.
  • Be mindful and present in everything you do.  Always make time to observe and listen keenly – conversations in the coffee shop or bus stop, at the gym, at the market, quality televised interviews, podcast, print or digital media interviews, any interaction with top notch customer experience.   I keep a small note book close by ready to scribble down any unexpected great questions and interactions. Human interaction is the inspiration you cannot beat.

Of course, you are very welcome to share, use, and draw inspiration from any material posted. When doing so please let us continue to attribute, credit and honour the originators, creators or sources of the material as a mark of respect to their craft.

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