In my 20 years of recruiting, I've conducted hundreds of joint interviews with recruiters and talked to hiring managers from all sorts of different industries, and there's always been one thing that has nagged me: No one really has a clue as to what the best interview questions are and no one really cares to find out. As a result, everyone defaults to using the same old interview questions used by everyone else, such as "What are your biggest weaknesses?" and "Where do you see yourself in five years?"

The reality is, these generic questions have always prompted generic responses. What's worse, candidates these days are really just Googling what the best responses are and then repeating them verbatim during their interviews. 

This realization led me on a journey of discovery to find the one interview question that would truly shed light on a candidate's intellect and whether they should be hired. After testing different questions for years, I ultimately found it:

"What are three unpopular opinions you feel strongly about, and explain your reasoning for having them."

So, what makes this such a magical question? Unlike all the wish-wash and hocus-pocus you get with conventional questions, this one gets at the heart of what you truly want to learn about your candidates. For instance:

Are they deep and creative thinkers?

Here's an unpopular opinion: If you don't have unpopular opinions of your own that you feel passionately about, then you likely aren't a deep or creative thinker. Deep thinkers question what they're told. Creative thinkers like to challenge the status quo. Having these types of mindsets naturally leads us to develop opinions that are controversial. Notice how I asked for three unpopular opinions and not just one? That's because this question is designed to truly test which candidates are constantly thinking outside the box and capable of becoming a thought leader in your organization.

Are they logical?

I absolutely love this question because it forces candidates to explain their logic to you. In fact, the candidates' explanations and reasoning for their unpopular opinions are far more important than the opinions themselves. When candidates are giving their responses, challenge their reasoning. If you find a seeming gap in their logic, call them out on it and see how they respond. Test to see if their logic can hold up to scrutiny.

The reality is, anyone can have their own crazy opinions about anything. This doesn't mean they're worth hiring. That's why this question isn't just meant to identify creative thinkers. It's meant to separate those who come up with their unique ideas using sound reasoning from those who are simply throwing crazy ideas out there for the sake of trying to be different.

Are they a good match?

Getting along with your potential new hire is just as important as finding someone who has the skills and credentials to excel at the job, and, believe it or not, this question helps with that, too. By simply listening to a candidate's response, sometimes you can just tell if you're going to click with them or not. A candidate whom I ended up hiring told me three unpopular opinions that I happened to have. We ended up gelling together perfectly in the workplace because our beliefs and ways of reasoning were very similar.

As you can see, this one line of questioning can give interviewers a huge amount of insight into how a candidate thinks and their level of intellect. This is what a truly insightful interview question can reveal to hiring managers. Don't waste time with generic interview questions that bring no substance to the table, and instead focus your efforts on questions that get at the core of what you want to learn about a candidate.

Published on: Sep 7, 2018