Interview Questions at Creative Companies
We just completed a round of interviews for a new position on our team. Some people hate this process but I found it fascinating to think through different questions to ask and how to judge the responses. It was also very interesting the types of questions some people ask and why. Interviews aren’t just about can a person do the job but it’s also about will that person fit in with the team and company culture. Super important with a smaller company like ours.
For instance, one of our owners is always very interested in historical questions like, What was the first thing you were ever paid for? At first, I didn’t understand why this mattered but then he explained how different answers can reflect things like work ethic or even desire to learn. For instance, if the answer is they had a regular lemonade stand from age 8 then we can glean they are an entrepreneurial type. But, if someone never did anything to earn money until after college, then it can cause us to question their drive to succeed. Now, I’m simplifying for the sake of an example because the person who didn’t earn any money might have spent all their free time training to be an accomplished musician or athlete. But isn’t it interesting to think about how our past can still make an impact on a potential employer?
For me, I’m always thinking situationally for the job at hand. Questions like, how would you respond if “this” happened? I usually try to think about a challenge I’ve experienced and see how the interviewee thinks they will respond. There isn’t always a right or wrong answer. Sometimes, I’m not sure, can even be a fine answer. Challenges are the best opportunity to learn and sometimes making mistakes in your responses are the best lessons.
As we were discussing questions to ask our applicants, we started telling stories about our worst and best interviews. One great question that came up was “What is your worst habit?” I thought this was a great twist on the expected, “What is your greatest weakness?”
We liked the idea of not asking those traditional questions so that we don’t get practiced responses. And this leads me to the two questions we shared from our own past interviews that I thought were the best:
1. If you woke up to an elephant in your backyard, what would you do?
2. If you were a bean, what bean would you be?
It was pretty interesting what we determined from our responses. For instance, the person who was actually asked the elephant question said she would put a sari on, take it to the beach and pretend I’m visiting India. Creative answer for a creative question. And fun. And she is fun.
My first thought was, check to see if there are any peanuts in the house and fill up the kiddie pool with water. And, of course, my imaginary backyard was fenced. Can you tell I’m a mom? I bet you my answer would have been different pre-kids.
I was actually asked the bean question several years ago and I think I said black bean – something about it being healthy? But one of our designers had the best (and immediate, no thinking reply) – jelly bean. Clearly, I’m not the fun one.
So, no right or wrong answers. But, when you ask unusual questions, it is pretty fascinating what you can tell about a person. How they will respond to new situations, challenges, and if they are the right person to round out your team.