Interviews, Watercooler

4 ½ Ways to Respond to Oddball Interview Questions

I just finished reading the Glassdoor blog entitled, “Top 25 Oddball Interview Questions Of 2010” and while some of the questions were tricky, many of them had absolutely no definitive answer at all.  A few were downright impossible.

These types of questions can be truly frightening to an interviewee. It is important when preparing for interviews to consider that you may be given a whacky, off-the-wall question. Interviewers are typically trying to figure out how you react to the unexpected and determine your thought processes, along with your approach to solving problems.

What can you do if you are in an important interview and find yourself faced with a bizarre question or two?  Here are a few recommendations to help you regardless of what is asked.

  1. If you receive a question that relates to probability or mathematics, and it doesn’t appear that all of the information necessary to solve the problem has been provided, you can invent a solution. Provide the missing hypothetical pieces of the puzzle and generate a dynamic answer. This will show the interviewer that you can think on your toes. Just be sure to map out how you came to your conclusions.
  2. Questions that have no apparent answer are typically intended to measure your reaction to stress.  If you feel there is no way to answer the question accurately and you cannot find a solution, stay calm!
  3. You can talk about the variables of the problem that would be necessary to provide an answer. The key is to recognize that there might not be an answer. In such a situation, any answer that sounds reasonable would count as being “right.”
  4. Sometimes questions are designed to bring out your opinions and attitude.  Be very careful here.  No matter what the question, your answer should be thoughtful. How many licks does it take to get to the center of the Tootsie Pop? Your answer could be 2 or 27 depending on how you eat it!

And 4½…  Applying a light touch of humor can be quite effective. How many piano tuners live in Boise, Idaho? Answer: It’s set up like an MLM (Multi-level Marketing) program. There’s one head guy and he employs 30 others who work directly for him. The point? It’s ok to be creative. The questions are creative; therefore the responses can match.

It is virtually impossible to rehearse for each and every unusual interview question that may arise. I often work as a career coach with clients to practice answering unanticipated questions as well as the standard fare. Employers like to throw in curve balls to see your responses and gauge how you react in stressful and challenging situations. Sometimes they may even do it just for fun. Who knows?

Tricky questions are becoming more common in today’s job market. Maintain your composure, and don’t worry so much about providing the “right” answer where one might not exist. Let your personality and confidence in your abilities speak for you!

Want more tips and advice so you can prepare for your next interview?