Question: "Why do some employers ask oddball questions at job interviews -- and how should I handle them?"
by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Even if you're an experienced interviewee and you prepare detailed stories that show case your accomplishments in anticipation of common interview questions, prospective employers may try to throw a wrench into the interview -- to see how well you think on your feet -- by asking an "off-the-wall" or wildcard interview question -- what you refer to as an oddball question.
Interviewers like to ask these types of questions to see how well you can think on your feet. Some of these questions have a "right" answer, but most of the time it is merely a chance to see how well you respond to an unexpected question.
So, when you get asked one of these questions -- such as, "if you were a fruit, what kind would you be, and why?" -- take a deep breath, perhaps repeat the question out loud to give yourself a few more moments to develop an answer, and then answer it, remembering that you want to frame the answer in such a way that it highlights at least one of your strengths. But if you can't quite think that quickly, then just give an honest answer to the question.
Just don't just sit there muttering to yourself, "good question, good question," as one recent interviewee did. Don't sit there staring blankly off into space.
Let me give you an example of one of the best answers I have heard. The job-seeker was applying for a high-stress event planning position that required great customer service skills and a can-do attitude. Her question was, "if you were an animal, what would you be?" Almost without missing a beat, she replied: "I would be a swan, because it moves so gracefully, and above the water it is the picture of calm and beauty, but under the water it is a ball of energy, its feet always paddling, getting things done."
Sometimes, though, these questions are meant as a way to test your analytical thinking. For example, one technical job-seeker was asked what she thought was the total square miles of land in Florida. The question wasn't meant as a pop quiz, but rather how she showed the process she would use for estimating the answer.
Some other weird, wacko, and off-the-wall questions:
- If you were a color, what color would you be?
- If you could have dinner with any one person, living or dead, who would it be?
- If you could be granted superpowers, what superpower would you like to receive?
- If you had six months to live, what would you do with your time?
- If you found out you won $50 million in the lotto tomorrow, what would you do with the money?
- In the news story of your life, what would the headline say?
Read more about dealing with these strange questions in this article: Don't Get Stumped by Off-the-Wall Job Interview Questions.
We also offer 20 wildcard questions -- with sample job-seeker responses -- in our Job Interview Question Database: Wild Card Job Interview Questions & Excellent Sample Responses.
This article is part of a series from The Career Doctor's Cures & Remedies to Quintessentially Perplexing Career and Job-Hunting Ailments. Read more.
See a list of all the most common college, career, and job questions -- and Dr. Hansen's solutions.
Who is the Career Doctor? Learn more, read his current career column, or browse the column archives when you visit the Career Doctor's homepage.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
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