20 Great Interview Questions And Their Hidden Meanings

Written by: Laura Chetcuti
Published on: 31 Oct 2016


It's your own decision whether you choose to believe it or not, but it's said that an interviewer can tell within the first 30 seconds of meeting you whether you're 'the one' or not. Once they realise you're not right, the interview process that follows is nothing more than an elongated charade with no particular purpose (to the interviewer at least), culminating in a monumental waste of your time. However, along the way many intuitive questions are asked of prospective employees and the shrewd recruiter is armed with probes that are designed to identify the candidate’s skills and emotions, tricking and cajoling along the way. Miracles do happen and you never know, you will probably surprise even the most skeptical of interviewers and prove the 30 second rule wrong. 

We caught up with Managing Director of OnlyMarketingJobs.com, Simon Lewis, to discuss his top 20 interview questions and why he asks them. Hopefully this will give you an idea of what your interviewers might be looking for with their questions and how you can answer them well: 


1.  What circumstance brings you here today?


One of the best opening questions ever, where candidates reveal problems with their current employer, potential insubordination, and both positive or negative character traits. The trick in this one is how they answer it. By all means we want them to be honest, but there's a lot to be said for ones attitude, particularly to negative situations should they exist in their current circumstance. 


2.  Which three people (famous or otherwise) would you most like to invite to a dinner party?


This question offers insight into the candidate’s personality.  Some go for safe options, whilst others may be more risky or exhibit signs of humour or quirkiness. If you have a strong sense of culture in your organisation, you'll know what you're looking for in a candidates answer to this kind of question. Unfortunately for the candidate, there is no right or wrong answer. Just rest assured that if they don't like your answer, you probably won't like them much either. 


3.  What felt unfair to you in your last job?


This question is a great way of finding out what makes someone tick and what they stand for. 


4.  What’s your favourite animal and why?


Sub-consciously most people consider an animal they believe most accurately personifies them.  This is a good question to identify personality traits.


5.  What type of work environment do you prefer?


There is little point hiring people who do not fit the company’s culture.  This question identifies the candidate’s likely fit, aside from the ability to do the job, both of which should be equally intrinsic to the hiring process. 


6.  My partner and I are planning a holiday, where would you recommend?


This question allows you to speak about a topic outside of the job role, breaking down barriers and exploring the candidate’s ‘non-interview’ personality. As a candidate, you need to remember that not every interview question that doesn't fall under the traditional interview remit is a trick question. Sometimes the interviewer just wants to have a chat with you. They will yield far more from this sort of question in terms of your personality than most typical interview questions.


7.  What are you most passionate about?


The answer doesn’t really matter but the way a candidate answers does.  The best candidates respond very quickly, sit forward slightly and are usually very animated.  Never hire anyone without a passion for something.


8.  What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in your life and how have you overcome it?


The candidate is forced to open up and be honest, whilst allowing the interviewer an opportunity to explore how the candidate handles challenges.


9.  Which famous person would you most like to see play you in a film?


The answer to this question will be a great insight into the candidate’s confidence as well as providing a great exploratory topic of conversation. It's also a little bit of fun! Interviews don't need to be deadly serious for the entire duration and I find you get much more from candidates if you pull those barriers down every so often. 


10.  What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?


Studies indicate that people who take risks are generally more successful than those who do not.  But too many mavericks in one organisation can be disruptive…discussion on this can be very revealing. You also need to know what you're looking for in this specific candidate before you analyse their answer. 


11.  Describe someone outside your field of interest who inspires you and why?


This question identifies motivations and affords personality insights.


12.  When I call your old boss what will they say about you?


Other than asserting the point that you will be taking references, this question asks the candidate to think about how they feel they are perceived by their previous (or current) employer, testing their ability to think on the spot and align the answer to the job they are interviewing for. Candidates take note; don't lie the entire way through your interview. Your references can be very telling and they could get you in trouble if you've really gone for it!  


13.  Why are you interested in this job?


Is the candidate interested in your job or any job?  Have they researched the company and understood what’s been mentioned throughout the interview?


14.  If you could be anyone else who would it be?


This provides the opportunity for further analysis of personality traits and creativity.


15.  What are the biggest strengths you would bring to this organisation?


Aligned with question 13, the answer affords the interviewer the chance to gauge the candidate’s perception of how their skills and personality would help drive the company forward, whilst testing their ability to assert themselves.


16.  What makes you angry?


This helps you to understand personality traits and motivations. 


17.  What are the first 5 things you’d do if you got this position?


This tests what the candidate has understood from the interview and how they think their skills and personality would add value to the company and role.  Confident individuals are likely to look at the company culture as well as the job function itself.


18.  If you inherited an acre of land what would you do with it?


Another  interesting one, this question helps explore the candidate’s personality and creativity and is also a good talking point for further topics of conversation. 


19.  Why do giraffes have such long necks?


The factual truth behind this question (there’s conjecture over whether it’s for food or fighting advantages) is incidental, as it is a great way to explore the candidate’s creativity – or natural history knowledge! 


20.  What accomplishment in your life are you most proud of?


Everyone has an achievement of some kind (if they haven’t, don’t employ them!) so this question identifies motivational traits and passion.  It is also a great way to end the interview on a positive note.


Now that you're armed with some extra intelligence on what interviewers might be looking for with their interview questions, search for new jobs with confidence! We carry thousands of marketing jobs at any one time, whether you're looking for marketing jobs in London, digital jobs in Manchester or opportunities further afield, we can guarantee to have something to suit you.