How to handle strange interview questions
When you are invited for an interview for a new job you will experience a lot of questions since the company wants to get to know you very well. At the end of the day, you are going to be a new part of the family. Everybody from HR over the team lead and your new colleagues want to categorize you and therefore they will ask really uncommon questions so they can see the real you and not the „interview-you“. They want honest and spontaneous answers from you.
A lot of the questions are really weird if you hear them first but they have a deeper meaning. All in all, they shall answer if you fit into the team. These questions can surprise you (and that is actually the purpose of them) and if you don’t realize the hidden message behind them, you will never know why you have been dismissed. Let’s get started with the most common questions like they have been heard in interviews with Google, Facebook or Microsoft.
If you could be an animal, which one would you choose?
This is a classic! This question is targeting the skills that you admire or would like to have but don’t actually possess. Inspiring animals like the freedom-loving eagle or the lion as a symbol for leadership skills are directly in everyone head. Every interviewer hears those answers a million times. But if you are interviewing for a position that needs creativity, why don’t go for a Koi carp? Living your best life, being chill all day but still be seen as precious and a symbol of success. Also, it takes a lot of courage to answer an odd question with a likewise odd answer.
Same background, but different style: Who are your idols? If you could be any other person for a day, who would it be? If you could have a conversation with any person in recorded history, real or fiction, who would it be?
With which animal do you identify yourself?
Sounds very similar to the first one, but this question doesn’t aim at the skills you want to have but rather those that you actually do possess. This question is closer to reality and tries to put your character into a metaphor. Obviously „sloth“ would be funny, but not advantageous for your application.
How would you describe your friends?
Everybody got friends and your surroundings say a lot about you as a person. No matter if you need people skills in your job or not, this question will be asked to see your loyalty. Companies are searching for employees who will stick with the company and not quite with the smallest inconvenience that comes along. But if you already snitch on your friends for a job, chances are that you will be directly out of the door as soon as somebody offers a tiny crumb of the cake more.
Tell us about your last employer.
Not directly a question, but it also aims at your loyalty. Nobody asked for you to talk bad about anybody. You can talk about the cafeteria or the parking lot for all it matters. Your new boss and HR want to know if you are talking behind the back and/or if you could provide them with internal secrets of their competitors.
These are interesting questions, but nobody will start with those questions. Normally it will be a normal talk about the facts on your CV, where you come from and where you want to go. Before this, you will get questions that will stress you and put you somehow under pressure. The goal of these questions are to make you unsure. Once you are unsure, you will react more spontaneous and direct, because you are scared to mess up the whole interview. Stress questions are related to your flaws and question odd or bad decisions you have made.
- Why did it take you so long to finish your studies?
- Why did you change companies so often?
- You are over/under qualified for this position. Why do you think that you will still be a good fit?
- How do you evaluate the interview so far?
It is essential to answer these questions with confidence and don’t fall for the traps. Don’t let anybody push you into a corner and be honest and professional – but don’t say, that your studies took you that long because the parties were great.
Next on there are brainteaser and estimations they will ask you. Mostly they want to see if you are creative, can think outside of the box or if you are quick-witted. You can expect questions like
- Why is the trash can a rectangle?
- How many Smarties fit into a Smart?
- How do you get a giraffe into a fridge?
- Are there 2 dogs with the same amount of hair on the back?
Right or wrong is not important here, it depends on your reason behind your answer. By the way, you open the fridge, put the giraffe inside and then close the fridge again. Nobody said how big the fridge is.
Lastly, there are trick questions where you simply can’t get the correct answer. It can start with „Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself“. You need to balance between being a professional and a human. You shouldn’t talk too much but still make a normal impression. How you answer this question always depends on your position, the company and who you are as a person.
Family or career, what is more important?
Of course, both are important, but how would you decide between the two? If you give your all for your career and the company makes it sound like you are heading straight for a burn-out and if you decide for the family it will sound like you will ask directly for flexible working hours, home office and more vacation days. It depends where you are in your life, but you can’t really make a diplomatic answer that will satisfy everybody.
Do you think, you can prevail in a team full of men/women?
If you start justifying yourself, you directly lost the job and the respect. There is actually a correct answer on this one, which is „I’m sorry, I don’t see where the problem should be?“. With this sarcastic but kind of naive answer you put the politically incorrect ball back into the corner of your interviewer.
Are you willing to work overtime?
This is a classic that screams for balance between rest and relaxation and a potential burn-out. If you want to answer diplomatic on this one you can tell them, that you know how to manage your time to work on deadlines, but, if necessary, are willing to stay longer to finish a project.
How do you respond to criticism?
HR directly asks if they need to sugarcoat everything they tell you or if you can handle straight up talk. But be careful, nobody likes to be criticized all the time. The diplomatic answer would be to say that you are taking constructive critic always serious and use it for personal and professional development.
There are lots of questions and even more motives on why to ask them. At the end of the day, you need to keep your cool and don’t get pushed into a corner. Moreover most interviewer only want to see in which direction you would go and every question, no matter how absurd they are, have a deeper meaning to it.
Do you think we missed a question? What questions have you been asked in your last interview, that are completely weird?