Welcome to Interview Insider, our educational series dedicated to sharing the “inside scoop” on the latest and most effective interviewing tips that land jobs. If you’re seeking guidance for answering straightforward to the most challenging interview questions, you’ve come to the right place. Remember, your answers should always be tailored to fit your unique situation.
Answering Unusual Interview Questions – Interview Insider
“If you were a tree, what type of tree would you be?” “On a scale from 1 to 10 how lucky would you say you are?” “If you were asked to organize one million gum balls by color, how would you do it?” “What’s your favorite meal?” (For a look at even more unusual interview questions, check out the examples compiled on Glassdoor.)
Unusual interview questions seem to be the norm in today’s job market, especially at companies where competition is fierce (we’re looking at you, Google.) Candidates can usually expect to have at least one (or more) thought-provoking questions asked of them during the interviewing process.
But what is the reason?
Why Employers Ask Unusual Interview Questions
Though it’s impossible to know the intent of every employer, a majority of them ask these questions for a few reasons:
+ to see how well you think on your feet
+ help them decide if you’ll be a fit for their culture and team
+ uncover any potential issues that were overlooked or excused previously
+ as a screening measure, if there’s a “right” answer
Non-standard interview questions may come early on in the process during an initial phone screening or the final round before a decision is made. Given that many employers ask such questions, candidates can ask their recruiter (if they are going through one), or do some employer sleuthing on your own to see if a company they’re considering uses this tactic as part of their process.
Preparing for the Unknown
In a perfect job-seeking world, it would be fantastic to have a study guide complete with the questions that will be asked to use as your prep worksheet before an interview. However, the benefit to employers asking the non-typical questions are the greater odds that you WON’T have rehearsed your response. Thus, increasing the likelihood that they will get to see an unscripted version of you.
This can cause unnecessary worry for any candidate. To better prepare yourself for such a scenario, turn interview preparation into a fun activity. Do a Google search for: ‘unusual’, ‘weird’, ‘unconventional’ or ‘non-standard’ interview questions and browse the results.
Go through some of the questions you find and answer them. Write them out, say them aloud, and if you can, find someone that you can do this activity with. The point is to get yourself comfortable enough that no matter how weird the question, you’re not frazzled by it. Some of them may even have you laughing at the absurdity. All answers, whether from you practice session or real time, should have these components:
Answering the Unusual Interview Question
Highlight a strength
The key to answering an unusual interview question is to respond in such a way that it highlights one of your strengths (if it makes sense to do so.) An example of this is the, “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be” question.
A possible answer could be the willow tree. The reasoning is that willow trees have limbs that are flexible and roots that run deep, making them well suited to not only survive, but also thrive in unpredictable environments.
After reading that, we gather that this person is the kind of person who is flexible and adaptable; which are valuable skills many employers value.
Show some personality
If the question is more straightforward like the “what’s your favorite meal” question, the answer is best delivered by letting your own individuality shine through. There is no right or wrong answer here and every answer given is going to be varied. These questions help employers learn more about candidates on a personal level. Don’t be afraid to share something that will help a potential future employer gain a better understanding of you as a person.
Don’t dribble on
Recall the “favorite meal” question? Try to keep your answer short and to the point. It should paint enough of a picture that the person gets the idea, but is left wanting more. For example if you answer ‘my mother’s award-winning cannelloni style lasagna” the listener can’t help but to wonder what award it won and. It’s a good way to keep a natural flow to the conversation going by allowing the interviewer to engage further. Bringing us to our next point…
Build a connection, if possible
In some circumstances personal questions can be a good way to build a connection with the interviewer. In the case of the “favorite meal” question, you could ask them what their favorite meal is provided there’s a pause and chance to do so. And towards the end of the interview if time permits, you can ask them what that specific question helps them to learn about candidates. It’s a great way to learn more about how the person (or company) thinks.
To put it in perspective: there may not be a “right” or “wrong” answer. And if there is and you’ve answered in a way that was truthful and all YOU (your personality and all) but not what they employer wanted to hear, then it wasn’t the right opportunity for you. At least you’ve had the practice and were able to expand your professional network.
The Key Takeaways
Interviewers will use these questions to help screen and gain more insight to potential candidates. While it’s nearly impossible to prep for, taking the time to research and practice answering some potential questions will help build your comfort level. When answering, always highlight a strength if you can, let some personality show when it’s appropriate, answer succinctly, and build a connection if you can. Unusual interview questions can be part of any interviewing process, which is all about an employer getting to know you, but also an opportunity for you to get to know them. Don’t let an odd interview question throw you off from your ultimate goal – finding the best job and employer for you.