I touched on this briefly in my last post, but I would like to expand on why I ask those questions, listed in my last post, during the interview. These non-work related questions can vary from interview-to-interview, and the questions will change largely based upon the applicant's responses. I also provided you a list in the previous post about questions to steer clear of. Use your best judgment when asking these non-work related questions.
What are some of your favorite books?
People that read share certain characteristics that I look for in potential employees. They have the ability to focus on a singular task, have a great attention span, and are interested in self-improvement through learning. Reading is also a more laborious task than watching TV or playing a video game. I will discuss with them what they are reading as well; what they read reflects who they are as a person and their likes/dislikes. You don't have to necessarily like what they read but through discussion you can understand what they like and who they are by their choices. I generally will not hire a person if they don't read as a hobby.
True Story: If you have an applicant that says their favorite book is "Dealing with Anger". You can draw the conclusion that they are interested in self-help, which is a positive, but they also may have anger issues. You can ask them additional questions to determine if your conclusions are correct, such as “Why do you like this book?” They could respond, "In the past I have found myself becoming extremely angry at customers. I often have to vent to my co-workers about how stupid people are." This is the same person that answered "no" to “Have you ever lost your patience with a customer?” They may not have had a direct outburst with a customer, but now you know they may take their frustration out on their co-workers and hurt the overall morale of your operations. This is an extreme example, but you will find out a lot about an applicant through this question.
What type of hobbies do you have?
People with hobbies are people that are committed and are often passionate. I think we can all agree that commitment and passion are attractive qualities in an applicant. Their actual hobby is not important; what is important is that they have found something that they love doing and they stick with it. If they don't have hobbies or have had continually changing hobbies they more than likely lack the commitment and passion to invest themselves. Ask them about their hobby; “Why did you decide to start crocheting? What do you like about crocheting? How long have you been crocheting? What is the neatest thing you have crocheted? Can you make me a sweater?” These conversations often turn out to be very interesting and you can learn a lot about your potential employee and their interests.
What’s your favorite movie?
There are a lot of good movies out there and this is a really subjective question. I go into this question understanding that people are very diverse and there are many favorite movies out there. I have received all types of answers and there are really no wrong answers outside of "Battlefield Earth" or "Scary Movie 4". If they don't have a favorite movie there are generally two reasons, one very negative and one very positive. The very negative is that the applicant watches so many movies and so much TV that they can't pick a favorite. I enjoy watching TV and movies but I consider the hobby of watching TV and movies to be that of an unmotivated person. The positive answer, which I don't hear too often is that the person doesn't have a TV or watches very little TV. This is generally a person with diverse interests who spend a good portion of their time trying to better themselves.
There are many non-work related questions you can ask an applicant to understand them and their motivations better. I generally spend 10-20 minutes during the interview on these type of questions and they weigh heavily on my decisions to hire a person. I encourage you to ask these or similar questions during your interviews. You will learn more than you ever expected about a person.