Even the most experienced job seekers, all of whom have been on dozens of interviews in their lifetime, never go into an interview feeling 100% at ease. The stress of being put on the spot and not knowing what questions the interviewer will ask can be overwhelming. As we all have been told before, the best way to reduce this stress is to prepare adequately for the interview. Common preparation tips include researching the company, reviewing common interview questions and appropriate answers, preparing to talk about previous work experience, goals, and preparing to talk about why we feel we are a match for the position. But, even the most intense preparation does not prepare someone for the moment when the interviewer asks the dreaded “weird” question. These odd problem-solving and brain-teasing questions are becoming more and more common these days.
The online career community site, Glassdoor.com, compiled a list of the most bizarre interview questions asked based on thousands of real submissions. From the 2012 list, here are the top 10:
- “If you were to get rid of one state in the U.S., which would it be and why?” An interviewer Forrester Research asked a research associate candidate.
- “How many cows are in Canada?” An interviewer at Google asked a local data quality evaluator candidate.
- “How many quarters would you need to reach the height of the Empire State building?” An interviewer at JetBlue asked a pricing/revenue management analyst candidate.
- “A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?” An interviewer at Clark Construction Group asked an office engineer candidate.
- “What song best describes your work ethic?” An interviewer at Dell asked a consumer sales candidate.
- “[Amazon CEO] Jeff Bezos walks into your office and says you can have a million dollars to launch your best entrepreneurial idea. What is it?” An interviewer at Amazon asked a product development candidate.
- “What do you think about when you are alone in your car?” An interviewer at Gallup asked an associate analyst candidate
- “How would you rate your memory?” An interviewer at Marriot asked a front desk associate candidate.
- “Name 3 previous Nobel Prize winners.” An interviewer at BenefitsCONNECT asked an office manager candidate.
- “Can you say: ‘Peter Pepper Picked a Pickled Pepper’ and cross-sell a washing machine at the same time?” An interviewer at MasterCard asked a call center candidate.
Just the simple thought of hearing some of these questions during an interview could make someone cringe. However, if you are interviewing, try not to get too nervous. The good thing about these questions is that there is no correct answer. So, why do employers ask them? Oddly enough, they are not just trying to watch you squirm uncomfortably in your seat. Many are looking to assess your thought process, analytical skills, and logic. Additionally, interviewers are trying to get to know you better without asking personal questions. Many hiring managers and recruiters believe these strange questions can give them more insight into you as a candidate. These weird questions are becoming very common in large companies because they receive so many impressive, yet devastatingly similar resumes when a position opens. In order to find the more creative candidates, they make use of these “out of left field” interview questions. As a result, these weird questions can be an opportunity for you to shine and set yourself apart from the other prospective candidates.
Knowing why companies are using these questions is helpful, but, more importantly, how do you handle them?
First of all, take your time
Breathe. These questions are intended to throw you off. Process the question and gather your thoughts before answering. The interviewer will be more impressed by a well thought-out response because they can gain insight into your thought processes and analytical thinking skills. It is important that you do not let whatever pops into your head roll right off your tongue.
Don’t question the question
If you ask something along the lines of, “What does that have to with the job?” your interviewer will write you off. Obviously, a question like “How many cows are in Canada?” probably has nothing to do with the job you are interviewing for. But, the company feels the question they are asking will help them find the perfect candidate. So, respond to a weird question just as you would any normal interview question.
A negative outlook on these weird interview questions will only turn off your prospective employer. Of course, these questions do not address your knowledge, skills, and abilities, but the interviewer still finds it important to ask them. They are using them to get a better look into your thought processes and personality, so be you!
Appear as though you want to answer this odd question, almost as if you were expecting it. Do not let the interviewer see that you are unsure of yourself; confidence is key. If you respond calmly and do not seem jolted by the question, you appear more professional. Be confident that you can respond to any question thrown at you, and you will be able to.
Keep these tips in mind if you are ever faced with these oddball questions. Weird questions are no longer an interview anomaly. In most cases, they are becoming a regular part of the interview process. In fact, approximately two-thirds of candidates note that they were asked bizarre interview questions. These strange interview questions are just a part of the process and are designed to elicit helpful information about you. Given this change in the interview structure, it is important to remember that weird is becoming “regular” and be confident and think positively. Using these tips, if you embrace the weird questions, you can use them to demonstrate the outstanding relevant skills that you have as well as your winning personality.
Works Cited and Additional Resources:
Finally, I am particularly grateful for Marly Roche’s hard work and research assistance. This posting would not have been possible without her exploration of this topic area.