What you may regard as weird and wonderful interview questions are almost an inevitable part of the interview process these days. They occur at all levels of your career and it is wise to think about them when you are preparing for your interview.
What sort of question am I referring to? Let me give you some examples that my candidates have been faced with.
- Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses? There is no right or wrong answer to this question. This question is being asked the better to understand your ability to solve problems and to express your thought process in a compelling, articulate way. If you are asked a question like this make your choice and clearly state your case. Tell them why you’ve made your choice. They may not agree with you, in which case rather than jump straight in and argue with them, or capitulate , ask them why they came to their conclusion. Thereby showing that you can learn from others, that you can have a rational debate and that you are not afraid to challenge in a non-aggressive way.
- If I gave you £1000, how would you double it in 24 hours? This is another question without a right answer. It’s being asked in order to access your thinking processes as well as your ingenuity and creativity. To see if you have the ability to do a lot with a little. Potentially also to see whether you have salesmanship abilities. How do you answer this question? If you can, answer it in a way related to the company that you’re interviewing with, for example if you’re being interviewed for a position as a stockbroker or currency trader you can relate your answers to those areas of business, it will showcase your knowledge. Actually as long as you can propose an idea, show how you think your idea can achieve what they asked, then you will be okay. Your idea does not have to be highfalutin’, it just has to be achievable. You could even say something like I’m going to bake 1000 cakes and go door to door selling them. I will charge an amount for each cake, in order to offset my costs and increase the thousand pounds to £2000 overnight . Simple and achievable.
- If we made you CEO for a day what are the first three things you’d do? Yet again there is no right answer to this question. What they want to see from you is that you can set priorities and make a case for those priorities, that you have knowledge of the company and industry, either through experience or research. It is perfectly okay to make the point that the priorities may change from day today and that you do not have the whole picture of the company and so your answer may be somewhat flawed.
- Tell me a joke. I think the point of this one is quite obvious the company wants to know if you have a sense of humour. Personally this one would fill me with dread. I do have a sense of humour, at least I think I do, but I’m rubbish at telling jokes and to be honest put on the spot I would will have to warn them that I have only one very corny joke to offer. Alternatively I would give them a list of some of my favourite comedians and tell them what I find amusing about them. Maybe the best advice have one joke at least in your back pocket just in case and make sure that is it’s not offensive in any way.
- Who would you chose to have dinner with Batman or Superman? Surprise, surprise there is no right answer. Your interviewer will be looking at how you put together your argument. Is it lucid? Your answer is also going to tell them how you will fit into the team, they may already know whether the team would prefer someone who would eat with Superman or Batman. Be honest and make your case, that’s all you can do.
Luckily there are some general rules that you can turn to if an interview question stops you in your tracks.
- Keep calm. Maintain a positive demeanour and try and smile.
- Play for time
- Say something like, oh that’s very interesting question.
- Ask a question, particularly if there is something you need clarifying. using our example number 2, perhaps you would ask what happens to the money at the end of 24 hours? Or is it okay to ask volunteers to help me? The questions might give you some ideas but they will definitely buy you some time.
- Simply ask for a moment to consider your answer.
- Don’t be afraid to ask if you can return to this question later and if you do return to it later and still can’t think of anything, just politely, and perhaps with a bit of humour, acknowledge that you can’t think of anything. You will not be the only one who has not been able to think of anything, but the way you handle it might be much more positive than others.
A few supplementary rules, the icing on the cake:
- When answering the questions, see if you can highlight some of your knowledge or skills.
- If you possibly can, try and relate your answers to the company you are interviewing with.
- Be honest, your interviewer will be able to tell when you are not and will absolutely give you credit when you are.