Lately I've personally noticed a trend in online magazines and blogs mentioning "Killer interview questions". These are questions which are quite off-field and sometimes strange.

Lifehacker (aus) even has a specific topic dedicated to these types of questions.

What I'd like to know is; How effective are these types of interview questions?

Are they just a gimick that large companies use to stand-out from the rest? Are they scientifically-backed and effective?

Unrelated but interesting examples of Killer Interview Questions:

  • How effective are they at what?
    – DA.
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 4:43
  • If interviewing with a math department, the only correct answer to #3 is xkcd.com/599 Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 5:43
  • 3
    a trend in online magazines and blogs doesn't mean they are a trend in actual practice. If you have a blog, you have an incentive to publish something to create attention, stimulate comments, etc.
    – Brandin
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 9:13
  • 1
    @Brandin Also, remember blogs gain traction when they are linked together. Lifehacker might post a link to the article in other blogs so it looks like it is "trending" but reality it is merely marketing the blog to attract readers, comments, etc. Basically a "click bait" to attract people who are going to either disagree or agree that it should be done or not. Just read the title. It has the word "killer" in it to make you want to click and read it.
    – Dan
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 12:26

3 Answers 3


The best interview questions and activities are the ones where both you and the candidate can get a feel for what a person knows, how he/she works, and how well he/she will fit into your company. Questions should be relevant to the work they will be expected to do.

Random, oddball, "out-of-the-box" questions have very little correlation to the success a candidate will have on the job. They are most often used to satisfy the entertainment/curiosity of the interviewer, usually with the lame excuse that they are attempting to discern how the candidate thinks, views the world, handles "stress", etc. These are lame questions.

Consider my answers to the "killer" questions listed in the original question:

If The World Is A Stage What Role Would You Want To Play?

Director. Next question.

What Is Your Spirit Animal?

Human. Next question.

What would you do in the event of a zombie apocalypse?

Move out of the way (not my idea).

What might you infer from my responses? Virtually nothing, realistically. But you might be justified in thinking I could be pragmatic. What I'm actually saying (hidden by the starkness of printed words on a page), is that I'm not impressed by your questioning.

In my experience (I've been interviewing candidates off and on for 15 years), these types of questions most often come from inexperienced interviewers who were thrust into the role unexpectedly and scrambled on the Internet to find some questions to ask so they didn't feel/look stupid in front of a candidate. Over time, good interviewers find relevant questions and techniques and get good at evaluating the candidates' responses to them.

  • Strongly disagree. Depending on on the job it might be very important to know your applicant handles strange situations (that being the silly interview questions, not the apocalypse) and react to this kind of stress. Throwing people off their game can be revealing.
    – fgysin
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 7:02
  • It seems that the tech fields wants to be innovative in the interview process when it probably should stop frustrating candidates and just follow what has worked in other industries. Its kind of like this trend of hazing, then there is this other trend of "don't believe anything the candidate tells you". So why not just stop the interview process and thank them for their time? I think its kind of projecting a lot about the employers' maturity level. I really wish the tech industry would "grow up" when it comes to the interview process, instead its a Wild West show, SMH
    – Daniel
    Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 9:19

Whilst I tend to agree with Kent's answer I would think there is perhaps some value in these questions in addition to standard competency questions and for specific companies.

As Kent says part of the interview is to "get a feel for ... how well he/she will fit into your company". If the company was very relaxed, social and nerdy I could see the reaction to the 'zombie apocalypse' question giving a good indication of if a candidate would fit it.

It also strongly depends on the role being interviewed for, these may not be appropriate for technical interviews but I could see questions being used for sales positions just to get a feel of how people respond.

Having said all that, I couldn't see myself asking anything like that as an interviewer. There are other, better, ways to establish the same thing without trying to throw candidates off with weird questions. And the 'spirit animal' one strays dangerously close to spirituality / religion which would be off limits in interviews in some countries (and should be everywhere short of interviews for specific religious positions).

To answer your specific question:

Are they just a gimmick that large companies use to stand-out from the rest? Are they scientifically-backed and effective?

As far as I can find there's no scientific evidence, to support that the best I have is from an Entrepreneur article on the subject:

The good news is that companies are moving away from them. Recent research shows these questions do little more than boost the interviewer’s confidence. Even companies famous for oddball questions are abandoning them. In the words of Laszlo Bock, Google’s HR chief:

“If you’ve heard that Google likes to pose brain-teaser questions to candidates—like why manhole covers are round—your information is out of date. There’s no evidence that they suggest how people perform on the job.”


If The World Is A Stage What Role Would You Want To Play?

Perfectly acceptable question for a political party to ask of their presidential candidates.

What Is Your Spirit Animal?

Perfectly acceptable question when being interviewed for a position as a homeopathy salesperson.

What would you do in the event of a zombie apocalypse?

Excellent question when interviewing writers for next season's Walking Dead series.

In any other context? Just silly BS.

  • This should be the accepted answer.
    – onnoweb
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 19:04

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