4 Tips for Answering Oddball Interview Questions


by Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, MRW, Glassdoor Blog

apple questionYour hair and clothes are pristine. You conduct a final run-through of common interview questions. Calm descends upon you. You are confident and cool as you enter the job interview.

That is, until your prospective boss slings a question like those listed on Glassdoor’s annual Top 25 Oddball Interview Questions list. For example:

1. “If you were on an island and could only bring three things, what would you bring?” -Yahoo, Search Quality Analyst interview.

First, take a deep breath and remember the interviewer isn’t trying to trick you. Instead, they are trying to learn how you think on your feet, how you problem solve or how you work on a team or individually. Through creative or challenging questions, the interviewer wants to find out if you will be a valuable addition to the company and a good cultural fit.

So, back to the question: Remember, it is okay to request clarity before proceeding. You want to demonstrate your ability to ask smart questions and find out all the information you need to inform your answer. For example, clarify if the island is a desert island or is equipped with contemporary amenities, such as access to Internet.

If the latter, you might say you would bring a wifi-enabled laptop with wind generator to charge the batteries, a sharp knife and a lighter! The point is, you have technology to keep up with regular civilization, including workday obligations (laptop); a vital tool in day-to-day operations (knife); and a tool to start fires and create light (lighter), ensuring a more amenable living and working environment. These answers show you can prioritize effectively.

2. “Are you more of a hunter or gatherer?” – Dell, Account Manager interview.

With each question, get your bearings and ask yourself: How might this question relate to the job at hand? Here, the interview is for an account manager, so you could choose gatherer, which shows your ability to farm your client base to cultivate long-term relationships that sustain through business’ ebb and flow. Often, hunter salespeople are motivated by the hunt and then quickly want to move on to the next sale. As such, hunters do not generally relish the day-to-day relationship details. That said, while toning down the hunter aspect, do not omit abilities as a hunter altogether. A blend of the two types of sales people (hunter and gather) with emphasis on your ability to nurture relationships over the long haul is important here.

Remember, there is no right answer. Interviewers are looking for how you think through a problem or showcase a skill you offer.

3.  “How lucky are you and why?” – Airbnb, Content Manager interview.

Bear in mind ‘luck’ is a word often bandied about. You hear “Lucky 7″ or “Luck of the Irish” or “Lucky in Love” – but real luck is simply when preparedness and opportunity intersect.

So, with that, point your response to how prepared you are for when opportunity presents itself. As a content manager, this may mean keeping your eye on content and news trends that would impact your future productivity and corporate visibility goals. It also indicates you can spot good content a mile away because you are intellectually, mentally and emotionally equipped.

In other words, you know how to create luck, and you will demonstrate this ability in your new role to the benefit of the company.

4. “What is your least favorite thing about humanity?” – ZocDoc, Operations Associate interview.

This sounds like a sticky wicket. Since humanity and the ability to display kindness and compassion are synonymous, the opposite of that would be unkindness and uncompassionate behavior. One way to tackle this question is to proactively answer by saying something about your distaste for inhumane behaviors as exhibited in the workplace.

In other words, you prefer to be part of a collective solution to company goals, and while you focus attention on your immediate requirements, you also do not lose sight of your teammates’ needs and how you can support them. Bottom line: You tap into your peripheral vision to ensure others’ goals are met along with your own.

So, as you can see, answering oddball interview questions doesn’t have to be sweat-inducing. In fact, by considering that a company wants you to succeed in the interview, your main responsibility is to relax, process and succinctly respond. Even the less-than-perfect response, if articulated thoughtfully with energy and poise will be well received.

Remember not to over-think or over-talk, and do not panic. There is no right answer to oddball interview questions. Tone, confidence and cool are keys to keeping the interview momentum going and ensuring a positive outcome!


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