What Interviewing Curve Balls Say About Your Culture

I was recently interviewed by Fast Company on the effectiveness of “curve ball questions” in the interview process.  When I received the call, I was intrigued. Surely there would be a pro and con, and I was happy to be the con artist.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in hiring managers conducting deep interviews to get beyond the BS. But judging competence on a 30 second response to “Who would win a battle between Spiderman and Batman?” places heavy value on a candidate’s ability to BS eloquently rather than lead.

Insightful introverts will lose in this game every time. That is a tragedy.

5 Messages Oozing From Curve Balls

  1. “We’re really smart, hope you can keep up (we don’t know about you, but we’re the bee’s knees.)”
  2. “I’m in charge, figure me out (I’m more important than you.)”
  3. “We love to play games (that make you feel uncomfortable… get used to it.)”
  4. “Form matters more than substance (we value a great gamer… are you tough enough?)”
  5. “There’s more where that came from (we expect you to learn to throw curve balls with your team and teach your high-potentials the art.)”

I’ve watched enough Little League to know that nothing feels more powerful than a curve ball.

But you’re bigger than that. Think wiser.

Yes, yes, go deep in an interview. Here are some ways.

Conduct behavior-based interviews. Dig deep and find out what matters most to them, and how it aligns with your culture. Look for ways your candidates set themselves apart. 

Want to build a game-changing culture? Call me at 443-750-1249 for a free consultation.

Posted in Authenticity & Transparency, Career & Learning and tagged , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of several books: Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates (Harper Collins Summer 2020), Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. There must have been a time or two when I was thrown a curve ball during an interview though I can’t recall one right now.

    My approach was to be on the offensive. Meaning I had a number of questions I’d ask the hiring manager. Such as “What keeps you up at night?” What would someone on your team say is the best thing about working here? The worst thing?

    Whenever they threw the question “What’s your biggest weakness?” I’d always say “I’m going to be biased with my answer. Here’s my wife’s number, give her a call. I’m sure she’ll share a few things I should be working on.” They would break out laughing and then I’d acquiesce and give an honest answer.

    Curve balls eh? Are you a baseball fan? Whose your team? I’m a stripes fan. I grew up a few miles from the Bronx and have always been a NYY fan.

    I’m not sure why people despise the Yanks. They should all have a little sympathy for my pinstripes. It’s tough winning that 28th ring. ;-p

    • Steve, oh that’s a great line! I come from a long line of Orioles fans but I must admit I don’t have much patience to sit through a whole baseball game. Unless of course it’s Sebastians little league game where I’m more invested and the parent watching is always good for some added fun.

  2. I think that interviewing today is out of control with the type of questions asked, just to trip up the candidate. Having said that, I think candidates interviewing need to first know who they are, what they stand for and where they would like to go in their careers. Then think of responses to the craziest questions, knowing that one of the questions they will be asked will fit into a response they have thought about. Interviewers are just using different words for the same type of questions.

    Thanks Karin!

  3. Having just watched the movie, Trouble With the Curve, and so pondering all the ways trouble and curve showed up in the movie, I have to chime in on this!

    I like the idea of asking non-standard questions to get a deeper feeling for the candidate, however it seems from Karin’s points that they have turned into a test of extemporaneous speaking ability and sense of humor, which is only useful if the candidate is interviewing for a clown position.

    While it’s important to ensure that new hires fit in, how far does one take the test? In baseball it seems that the extraordinary hitters are the ones who can hit the curve and if they get that, other types of pitches are easy by comparison.

    So I understand the desire to do the same thing in a business environment, especially in a situation like hiring. It’s the people who can, and will, think outside the normal process that contribute most to the success of the organization.

    I think it is powerful to start with a standard question, such as “Tell me about project that went well, how you contributed.” This gives the candidate an opportunity to warm up. Then I might ask what some might consider a curve, but since it’s related to the position, I think it’s acceptable. I outline a tricky situation and ask how they would handle it – specific steps and expected outcomes (like Karin does so well in her book).

    Thank you for another wonderful post and great ideas to ponder and implement Karin!

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