Successful hiring managers draw on a diverse set of skills. They can quickly screen candidates, and spot a suspicious resume before wasting time with an interview. During the interview cycle, too, an ability to sniff out deception is critical, especially considering that purportedly 81 percent of candidates lie during interviews.
Traditional job interview questions tend to not be very illuminating; sometimes they simply prompt the candidate to rehash what's already on a resume or cover letter. Savvy hiring managers go beyond what they've already learned on paper, and get a better sense of how candidates think on their feet, deal with adversity, and see themselves fitting into (and helping shape) the organization's future.
Here are how some top CEOs approach job interviews, and rely on questions that dig beneath the surface.
1. Airbnb's Brian Chesky wants to hear about your life.
Chesky famously and opportunistically once decided to rent out his small living space as a "bed and breakfast" (albeit with airbeds) during a popular local conference. He was looking to make his rent payment, but he was also ready to capitalize on a solution that proved to have far more potential than he would have initially forecast.
In interviews, Chesky wants to hear about accomplishments and solutions, not just rote recitations of climbing one corporate ladder or another.
"I also ask people to summarize their life in three minutes," he told The New York Times in 2014. "I'm trying to figure out the formative decisions and experiences that influenced who you are as a person.
2. Warby Parker's Neil Blumenthal likes to get random.
Hiring for cultural fit can be a dicey proposition, as sometimes biases -- hidden or otherwise -- can lead hiring managers away from great candidates who would have been star employees.
Still, while culture may be not be a make-or-break factor in an interview, it's of course important to get a sense of how candidates would fit into your organization.
That's why Blumenthal, amongst other business leaders, likes to throw curveballs during an interview. One favorite, as he explained to The New York Times, is "What was a recent costume you wore?"
The point, of course, isn't that you have to wear costumes to get hired at Warby Parker. But if candidates respond in a way that suggests they take themselves a little too seriously, it's considered a red flag for a cultural fit.
3. Amazon's Jeff Bezos grills candidates on accountability.
Most job candidates are ready to rhapsodize about past triumphs, but Bezos frames questions designed to put the candidate on a hot seat. Hiring managers can often learn more about how candidates have responded (or would respond) to demanding day-to-day situations, like dealing with combative bosses or working under seemingly unfair deadlines.
Essentially every employer wants creative problem solvers or results-oriented collaborators; often times they even state this directly on job descriptions, so hearing candidates describe themselves in those same terms isn't very revealing. Employers differ, though, on how they like to see employees face some of those challenges -- which makes it nearly impossible for candidates to develop a canned response that works for all situations.
4. Peter Thiel seeks contrarians.
The billionaire PayPal co-founder liked to find candidates who were willing to take a stand with an unpopular belief or opinion. In his book Zero to One, he wrote about his approach to job interviews -- and the importance of finding candidates who could articulate their reasons for discarding conventional wisdom or going against the grain of accepted truths.
5. Yashi's Jay Gould wants you to play devil's advocate against yourself.
Few things are more frustrating for candidates than to have to recount the same stories or give the same answers in interview after interview for the same employer. Yashi's Gould trusts his team members to vet candidates and cover experiences, and then he spends his time focused on culture and character.
His go-to question: asking candidates why he should decide against hiring them.
"If they they think too long, or can't answer the question at all, they may be hiding something," he explained to Fast Company in 2015. "If their answer is genuine then you have a contender."