Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

6 Left-Field Interview Questions To Catch Someone Off-Guard

By Anthony Hughes | Mar 16, 2015 | Assessing Applicants

A seasoned job-seeker will have been there, seen it and done it when it comes to standard interview questions.

They’ll have a list of prepared, canned answers that not only sucks the life out of the interview, but it also means that you don’t get to see the real person behind the mask.

However, there are ways to drag them right out of their comfort zone.

One way is to chuck in the occasional bizarre question, a left-field curveball that they simply cannot have encountered before (unless the interviewee has read this blog!).

If it sounds like something David Brent might have done, then don’t worry.  Whilst it mean seem a little strange, a lot of big companies now use the oddball question as a routine interview tactic.  It helps them see how people handle themselves under a spot of pressure.

Here are some of the best bizarre interview questions that you could use to good effect.

1.  How honest are you?

It’s an intriguing question thrown out to all candidates at Allied Telesis in the United States and it has been adopted throughout the world.

Funnily enough, it’s one of the few here with a tangible right answer.

Of course it depends on the job, but most candidates will confess to a little white lie here or there while maintaining high standards of personal integrity.  The perfect answer, though, is “Completely”, although a total liar would give exactly the same answer.

Recruiter Pro Tip:

Obviously with this interview question, you’re not looking for a one word answer.  You want them to expand and give examples which prove their honesty, which could prove tricky for them to recall.

When they do, make sure you observe their body language and pursue anything that you think doesn’t look right.

2. If you were a breakfast cereal, which one would you be and why?

This random interview question has been credited to Bed Bath & Beyond in the US, yet it almost feels familiar.

You could imagine this question in a random conversation between friends, which is exactly why it’s such a strange question to have in a job interview.

I’ve heard of other similar questions too, such as, “If you could choose between Batman & Robin, which one would you be?”.  They’re all in a similar league of toughness.

Questions like this will completely bamboozle your candidate – just make sure that you ask it in a context and manner that doesn’t make you look like an idiot.

Recruiter Pro Tip:

There is absolutely no right answer here, so you can decide what you’re looking for in advance:  Someone who draws out a complex business analogy through the medium of Frosties or another candidate who answered simply and without annoying you.

Or if you really want to play it really tough, you could look for the ultra-focused people who flip the question on its head and asks “Why is that question relevant to this interview?”

You decide.

3.  How many square feet of pizza are eaten in the UK every year?

This nightmare of a question appears on Goldman-Sachs’ interview plan.

Nobody is going to get this right, but this question shows a candidate’s ability to quickly evaluate a new problem and come up with a solid workflow to get at least a ballpark figure.

It also demonstrates a clear mental arithmetic ability which is essential to investment banking and other financial services, which is probably why Goldman Sachs ask it.

Investment banking and many other industries, run on numbers, public information and balance sheets.

So if your candidate can show that they’re comfortable with the problem and quickly calculating a rough idea of what the numbers might be, then you might have the person for the job.

Recruiter Pro Tip:

My personal advice is to not ask this question unless you’re interviewing for a position where having a talent for maths is essential.

If you do, whilst you might be able to locate someone for your Marketing Manager position with excellent problem solving skills, you may actually alienate the perfect candidate for the position who didn’t pass their GCSE maths.  You’ve been warned…

4.  Are you a lucky person?  With examples…

This question isn’t actually that left-field when you look at it closely, but it’s an example of how AirBnB sneaks behavioural questions into their interviews.

In fairness, the question is brilliant and demonstrates whether the candidate has a positive outlook or not.

Some candidates will say they feel they’ve never been lucky in their life.  In my personal experience, they’re the ones most unlikely to get the job.

A good answer would always be yes, hopefully with the candidate counting humble blessings and not recanting a life-altering story that belongs on the big screen.

Recruiter Pro Tip:

Why is this question important?  Remember the famous golfer, Gary Player’s quote, “…the more I practice, the luckier I get…”?

The same could be said with this question.  Assuming of course you’re being told the truth, being lucky might not only be a sign of a positive outlook but also a good work ethic and someone that doesn’t give up.

Make sure you test the examples they give you just in case it is a bluff.

5.  What is your least favourite thing about humanity?

Ok, hands up – who wouldn’t be completely thrown by this one?

This interview question, cribbed from Zocdoc, a US-based healthcare website, wouldn’t be out of place in the pub after your 5th pint of Guinness with a few mates.

It’s a clever way to change the pace of an interview completely and make a candidate who might have been following the formbook really think.

Whilst it is an odd question to ask in an interview, of that there is no doubt, it can yield brilliant, really insightful responses.  It forces a candidate to actually show you a little of their personality and present a reasoned response to a very valid question that sits way outside the traditional comfort zone.

Recruiter Pro Tip:

Once again, there is no right answer, just be aware of the kind of answers that would impress you and prepare to be surprised by the results of this open-ended question too.

Whilst not on the same level as a psychometric test, this question will provide some really useful character insights and potentially demonstrate their political leanings.

Once you know that, you might get an idea how they’ll fit into your corporate culture.

6.  What was the last gift you gave someone?

The very act of giving should invoke some emotion, so taking them back to the last time they gave a present should help break down any emotional barriers in an interview.

It should also reveal something about the interviewee’s character and let you know if you want to work with them or not.

This question is much softer than the ones above and should illicit a positive, warm response where you should be able to draw a different kind of insight into the person’s character.

Recruiter Pro Tip:

This question is more about the story it invites, the way it draws a candidate in for the rest of the interview and their own level of emotional involvement in the interview.

Listen carefully to the answer and see if the candidate is a good fit for your team and culture.

Of course if you get a dry, starchy response informing you they gave a gift voucher to their young niece, move on, you learned nothing…


Whether or not you feel comfortable enough to shoehorn some of these questions into an interview is entirely down to what you’re like as a person, and how confident you feel in an interview.

My personal advice wouldn’t be to ask all of them – you will look daft if you do and you will come across as someone that’s reading from the cheesiest book of cheesy interview cliches.

In saying that, if you use them correctly and in the right context, the answers you get can be invaluable and will help support your decision making to find the perfect people for your business.

- Anthony Hughes

Anthony Hughes

Anthony is a recruitment veteran of 18 years and is also one of the original founders of Coburg Banks. He now trains recruitment consultants on the best methods to utilise when sourcing and assessing applicants for their clients. 


> More blog posts by Anthony Hughes

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