There are some standard questions that most of us will be familiar with and expect to crop up in an interview. General questions such as "Tell us about yourself", "Why do you want to work for us?", and "Describe your biggest achievement" are all typical interview questions that most candidates should be well equipped to answer.
Increasingly though, companies are throwing in a curve ball; a seemingly bizarre, unrelated question that can catch you completely off-guard. Often these questions are designed to assess your ability to think on your feet, your analytical thinking skills, and your general way of viewing the world. In most cases, the process of getting to an answer is more important than the actual answer itself.
Ten of the strangest
In 2011, Glassdoor.com, a free online career community, published a list of the top 25 oddball interview questions as shared by their readers. Here are the ones we consider to the absolute top 10 weirdest!
- Room, desk, or car – which do you clean first?
- What do you think of garden gnomes?
- Name five uses of a stapler without staples.
- How would you get an elephant into a refrigerator?
- How many people are using Facebook in San Francisco at 2:30pm on a Friday?
- If Germans were the tallest people in the world, how would you prove it?
- How would you cure world hunger?
- How many different ways can you get water from a lake at the foot of a mountain, up to the top of the mountain?
- If you were a Microsoft Office program, which one would you be?
- Pepsi or Coke?
Handling a weird interview question
Firstly, take your time when answering a bizarre and seemingly random interview question. Your interviewer has designed the question to be intentionally testing and won’t necessarily expect you to have an immediate answer at your fingertips.
Think about what the company does and what the role in question aims to achieve. If there is an opportunity to show off specialist knowledge, technical ability or mathematical skill in answering the question, this is more than likely what the question is designed to do.
In most cases, these bizarre questions are an opportunity to demonstrate your powers of lateral thinking, so try to think creatively about how you could approach the problem. For some of the more bizarre interview questions, there may be a number of possible answers and not necessarily a right or wrong answer.
Try not to get flustered, but try to apply reasonable rationale and talk the interviewer confidently and calmly through the steps you’d take to come to a conclusion. Your acceptance and willingness to embrace an unusual question and your efforts to give a logical answer will be looked upon favourably by an employer, whatever answer you eventually arrive at.
Preparing an answer to odd interview questions can feel like an impossible feat. Remember to:
- Take your time
- Enjoy the creativity of producing an answer to a question like "How would you cure world hunger?"
When faced with an unusual question, think on your feet and demonstrate your lateral thinking; it's about embracing the unexpected.