From the sublime to the ridiculous

wacky interview questions

There’s little doubt that interviews can be scary, especially when you’re at the start of your career and a little less practiced. The sweaty palms, a cracking voice and your mind going completely blank. Interviews are hard enough, but it seems that the recruitment process is no longer a question of running through your CV and recounting your strengths and weaknesses.

Instead, it appears that the rule rather than the exception these days is for interviewers to throw in some curveball questions. Top companies from Apple and Yahoo to Goldman Sachs have been known to ask questions strange enough to disarm even the most prepared interviewee.

Bizarre interview questions can catch you off guard, but they are often designed to assess your critical thinking, problem-solving skills and ability to think on your feet. Companies use them to gauge a candidate’s abilities beyond the standard interview format. They are often designed to assess an applicant’s powers of deduction, analytical thinking and general way of viewing the world – with the process of reaching an answer usually more important than the actual answer itself.

‘For the most part, they are an opportunity for the applicant to demonstrate their ability to think on their feet, adapt to unfamiliar situations and exhibit problem-solving skills,’ says Rachel Campbell, managing director at Page Personnel, part of FTSE 250 PageGroup.

‘While these types of interview questions may initially catch candidates off-guard, they should try to apply reasonable rationale and answer them confidently and calmly. In most cases, being able to adapt and show quick thinking skills in practice will impress an interviewer.’

Wacky questions present excellent opportunities to let your personality take centre stage while also showcasing your talent and capabilities. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Employers want to gauge your thought process, creativity and ability to handle unexpected situations. Stay calm, think through your responses and showcase your skills and personality in your answers.

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A survey from global employment website, Monster, asked almost 150 recruiters their most unusual interview questions

The answers can be grouped into four main categories:

  1. Hypothetical situations. This is where recruiters ask candidates to pretend they’re in a certain situation or to imagine themselves as someone or something else. Examples include: What famous person would you like to have dinner with and why? Select a figure who inspires you and is relevant to the industry or field. Explain why you admire them and how their qualities or achievements align with your own aspirations. The interviewer is keen to see how quickly you can respond and provide justification for your answers.
  2. Preferences and opinions. A question such as ‘What is better, a cat or a dog?’ is not there simply to establish your favourite pet. There’s no right or wrong answer. Interviewers also use these kinds of questions as a way to get you to relax a little and show off a bit of your personality, lighten the atmosphere and let your personality shine through. Such questions are often a good indication of whether or not you’d be a good cultural fit.
  3. Morality tests. Your personal values are another good indicator of whether or not a job will be a good fit for you. For example: ‘Tell me about a time you faced an ethical dilemma?’ Interviewers ask this question to understand how you responded to the ethical situation. Use a real life example – it doesn’t have to be a question of life and death. It can be as simple as finding some cash that didn’t belong to you. Explain your thought process for the example you give, and how you relied on your morality and integrity to make the right decision.
  4. Travel. This gives you the opportunity to talk about where you’ve been and where you’d like to go and can be seen as an analogy to your career journey. For example: ‘What is the rare once-in-a-lifetime holiday you have taken or want to take?’ Your answer is the perfect opportunity to show the potential employer whether you have thought about future plans, how adventurous you are and whether you are a risk taker. Don’t feel pressured into answering dishonestly, though. Some jobs are much better suited to those who are more risk averse!

Author: Beth Holmes, writer

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This article was first published in Student Accountant in August 2023Get the SA app now

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