Has a job interviewer ever asked you a question that sounds completely random, like a logic puzzle, a hypothetical scenario, or a question about your personality? As out-of-left-field as they might seem, weird interview questions are asked for legitimate reasons, and employers pay close attention to your answers.
We’ve already talked quite a bit about how to present yourself on the job search, and a typical interview Q&A often follows a certain script. But an answer to a question you weren’t expecting can offer interviewers a more authentic picture of who you are than an answer you may have rehearsed. Your responses indicate how you’ll think and act on the job, and even how personal values shape your career choices.
Getting to know you—genuinely
Lighthearted questions—the kind you ask during icebreaker activities—can give interviewers plenty of insight into your personality.
- A question about your preferences, like your favorite candy or comic superhero, is a chance to show a little unscripted enthusiasm. Interviewers want to know the reason behind your choice; the qualities you admire in your favorite superhero, for instance, may hint at your own aspirations.
- A question that lets you describe yourself in a creative way, like “What kitchen appliance would you be and why?” or “What three items would you bring to a deserted island?” shows your personal tendencies and the strengths you’d bring to the organization. Your desert island picks might indicate if you’re practical or inventive, cautious or willing to take risks.
- A question about your personal life, like “What news sources do you read regularly?” or “What qualities do you admire in your friends?” can reveal a lot about who influences you and how you approach the world.
There are no secret right or wrong answers to weird interview questions like these. The open-endedness is the point, so don’t stress about saying what you think a hiring manager might want to hear. Even before you respond, interviewers are watching to see whether you can take the question in stride and with good humor.
Problem-solving and critical-thinking skills
Interviewers may toss in a math or logic puzzle that seems like a turbo-charged SAT question, such as:
- “How many gas stations are in the continental United States?”
- “How many basketballs would fit in this room?”
- “How would you get 10,000 ducks safely across the country?”
Here’s the good news: even when questions have quantifiable answers, interviewers aren’t looking for you to get the number right. They’re paying attention to how you think about the problem. They listen to which information you prioritize, what kind of clarifying questions you ask, and how innovative your solution is.
Your problem-solving approach shows, to some extent, how you’ll tackle problems on the job. Are you a big-picture person or more detail oriented? Do you tend to second-guess yourself or work with your first assumptions? Are you more comfortable with numbers and stats, or with abstract concepts? Do you ask questions when you have them?
Other weird interview questions are more open-ended to invite complex critical thinking. You may be asked how you’d describe the color red to a blind person, or to describe the organization’s mission to someone from another planet. Again, employers want to see how you approach an unexpected, difficult task and stretch your thinking outside your own frame of reference.
Learning your values and goals
Some questions appear more job-related, but they’re outside the usual interview framework, and they’re meant to assess how your values, aspirations, and talents fit within the organizational culture.
Questions like “How do you measure success?” or “What changes would you create in the world over the next decade if you could, and what would their impact be?” illuminate what you’re really passionate about and what your career goals are.
Another kind of weird interview question flips the script by asking what you would prioritize if you were the organization’s chief executive, what you’d most like to change in the industry, or what you’d ask the interviewer themselves if they were a candidate for the job. The employer isn’t seeking a specific “right answer” here either, but rather assessing how well your priorities fit with those of the organization. Think of these questions as a chance to show extra ways you can add value; you may even surprise yourself with your answers.
Weird interview questions don’t have to throw you off your game. Take some time to think before you respond, as you would with any other challenging question. Even if you do get stumped, you can always give the question some more thought and include an answer in your follow-up message to the interviewer; they’ll notice your attention to detail.
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