skip to Main Content

Answering odd interview questions – Part 1

I’ve been asked by many clients lately how do I answer those strange interview questions like if I were an animal what would I be? We have all heard horror stories about difficult interviews. One of our clients in Baltimore, Jeff, said he had participated in an interview where he felt they were truly testing his ability to answer questions under stress. They changed the schedule on him several times and asked him to speak to multiple people he wasn’t prepared for. Here are some of the questions I wanted to answer for you regarding odd interview questions (excerpted from the things clients typically ask me) and how to best prepare for them. Read more in our next blog post this week, this will be broken into 2 parts:

Is using strange interview questions  in the hiring process becoming more common?

It is, as employers try to come up with new ways to effectively vet out employees. With so many more applicants per job opening, there are more qualified applicants per opening than ever. It becomes even more important to find ways to determine the right fit. I also think the standard typical what are your strengths and weaknesses questions just don’t cut it anymore because they don’t give enough insight into an employee’s behavior, how they think, and what their work performance might be like. Behavioral interview questions are becoming more common. Employers want to understand how an employee thinks, performs and reacts in order to determine if they’re the right fit. 

Are these kinds of questions used to trick people or to see if they can think quickly on their feet?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Some companies do ask trick/tough questions to stump an employee to see how they perform under pressure. Other times the employer truly is trying to get to the bottom of an element that’s important to the position that they don’t just want to ask a yes or no question to. Too many people might just say yes in order to land the job when it’s not completely accurate, or the issue they’re trying to vet out is more complicated than a yes or no closed ended question. Plus employers don’t want you to just say yes you can do something or explain it, it’s much more insightful to have you tell them about a time or situation that demonstrates the skill they’re wanting. Then they can see how that skill was applied.

What are some examples of these questions?

  1. What would your current/former boss say about you that’s positive and negative? [This could be used to find out strengths and weaknesses and how you handle them now, if you are self-aware and pro-active about managing both.]
  2. Why are you leaving your job? [This could be used to find out what went wrong if anything, why you want their job and how you handle a situation where things aren’t working out.]
  1. Tell me about a time when you failed in a professional situation. [This could be used to determine how you handle problem solving and failure.]

Do employers always get the answers they need from them?

If the candidate doesn’t have an answer, stumbles and doesn’t give a good example of what they were actually looking for or hedges and answers another question no, they won’t. Or if the question was not well formed and doesn’t address what they’re actually looking for, it won’t work either. But the majority of the time, it gives the employer information about you and your communication skills, even if it doesn’t divulge what they were specifically looking to find out.

Hallie Crawford
Job Coach

P.S. How do you know if your resume is good? Take this Resume Quiz to find out how to keep your resume out of the trash can.