How to answer weird job interview questions


When most of us prepare for an interview, we have prepared answers to common questions like where you see yourself in five years, or examples of when you have displayed leadership skills. But watch out: there’s a new type of question being asked these days.

It’s becoming more frequent for interviewers to ask occasional off-the-wall questions as part of the process. David Kennedy reported in an article in The Globe and Mail that virtually every industry from tech to retail in Canada is employing this technique in their interview repertoire.

The rationale for these rather weird questions is to judge the applicant’s ability to think on his or her feet, to be creative, to perhaps display a sense a humour, and to show that an unexpected question doesn’t throw the prospective employee off guard.

In his book College Grad Job Hunter, Brian Krueger says one reason these types of questions are asked is to get past the pre-programmed answers and find out if the job applicant is capable of original thought.

Glassdoor reported some of the most off-the-wall questions asked in interviews in Canada last month:

  • Lululemon asked who you would like to high five, living or dead.
  • Labatt Brewery wondered what you would do with $1,000,000 with the condition you had to pay it back in three years.
  • TD Bank was interested in knowing how you would get a plastic ball out of a cup without touching the cup.
  • Starbucks wondered what inanimate object you would like to be.
  • Bell Canada asked how many traffic lights there are in Canada.
  • Telus wondered how you would move Mount Fuji.
  • Prism Resources asked what you would title your autobiography.
  • Bombardier wanted to know what kind and how many apples you would order if you owned a grocery store.

What you should know about these questions is that there are no “correct” answers. You’re being assessed on a number of different levels and the interviewer is interested in how you respond to unexpected questions to determine your line of thinking and ability to respond to an unusual query.

Chuck Fried, CEO of TxMQ, said you can determine some facets of a person’s personality by this form of questioning. He gives the example of interviewees being asked what three things they would bring to a desert island. A pragmatist might respond with a cell phone, matches, and a water filtration system. A more creative type might bring a bottle of wine, a great novel, and an iPod.

The important thing for you to remember is that the purpose of this form of questioning is to see how you handle a question that isn’t standard fare. The interviewer is assessing your ability to deal with something unexpected without getting rattled. Always remember, you can ask for a minute to get your thoughts together or have a sip of water to buy some time, and have some fun with it!

Susan Pratt has a certificate in journalism and has been published in The Globe and Mail, The Mississauga News, and online on the Alphabird site, plus she has over 15 years of experience in Human Resources.

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