Things can get a little discouraging when you don’t know what to say in response to an interview question—let alone an odd one. One of the best ways to answer weird interview questions is to understand why hiring managers ask them in the first place.
Unusual Questions Explained
We’ve all had to answer a strange question or two before—but even the wittiest person can find themselves caught off guard when they have to do so in a professional setting. Despite how off-putting and pointless some questions may seem, your interviewer has a reason for asking them.
To help you figure out how to answer weird interview questions, we explain why someone might ask them and some of the best ways to respond.
• “If you were 80 years old, what would you tell your children?”
This unusual interview question attempts to discover whether your plans for the future align with those of the company. Employers don’t want to invest in someone who plans to leave the first chance that they get, so they want to know where you see yourself in the future. This question is also their chance to learn more about your goals, hobbies, and career desires.
• “What if you find out your boss is having an affair with a colleague?”
Interviewers typically ask this question to see how efficiently an interviewee can define personal and professional boundaries. The interviewer wants to see if your professionalism overpowers your need for gossip.
• “What are the qualities you like least and most in your parents?”
This question roughly translates to “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses.” In other words, it attempts to disclose similar information. Interviewers ask this question because interviewees are less likely to act defensively when discussing their parents. It also gives them insight into how you’ll act while on the job and who you are outside of work. For instance, if you dislike how unorganized your mother is, you’re more likely to be extremely organized to counteract that trait. People tend to adopt the qualities that they like in their parents and turn away from the ones that they don’t.
• “What’s your favorite cartoon and why?”
While it’s possible to read this question as an attempt to figure out your underlying developmental morals, most interviewers just ask this as an icebreaker. There is no right or wrong answer, and your response can help everyone ease into a natural conversation.
• “What’s your spirit animal?”
It’s important to remember that a job isn’t just an experience match—it has to be a cultural match as well. This question is a test to see if your personality matches that of the company. Many employers want to maintain a certain culture, and this question helps them judge whether you’re a good fit.
How to Approach Answering Unusual Questions
If you find a question off-putting, your interviewer knows it. They ask said questions to see how you’ll react under pressure and if you’re qualified outside of your resume. Generally, most weird interview questions don’t have a right or wrong answer; they merely aim to discern your personality. Some interviewers see the answers they receive from such questions as more honest because interviewees have less time to prepare for them. However, just because a question comes out of the blue, doesn’t mean that you can’t be ready for it.
Knowing how to answer weird interview questions begins with knowing how to act. If your interviewer asks you a strange question, it’s crucial that you maintain your composure. Since the interviewer probably wants to see how you handle being put on the spot, stay positive and smile through the panic. If you can’t come up with an answer, simply say that you don’t know and ask if you can come back to it. Along with receiving a thought-out answer, your interviewer also wants to know that you’re willing to admit when you’re stumped. Having the courage to admit that you don’t know an answer shows them that you’re open to learning, and asking to come back to it shows that you’re willing to do the work to find that answer.
Just the same, you can also ask clarifying questions if you don’t fully understand something. After answering, you could even ask how others responded. Some interviewers view this as having good conversational skills and will gladly feed your curiosity. Answering the question enthusiastically is always a plus because it will give your potential employer the impression that you’re passionate about what you do and feel.
The Importance of Being Prepared
Though it’s difficult to answer unusual interview questions, and therefore difficult to prepare for them, it’s still crucial to plan as best as you can. While it’s impossible to plan out your responses word for word, preparation will—in the very least—give you some sort of guidance mid-interview.
The most important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t read off a script. Sometimes, after we’ve spent days preparing, we can’t help but spew memorized answers verbatim; This is not ideal because it often makes us sound mechanical and rehearsed. Even if you resort to prepared answers, they should always come off as personable and conversational; This gives your potential employer the impression that you’re genuine. Still, it doesn’t hurt to look through lists of odd interview questions to get a feel for what someone could potentially ask you.
Though it can be nerve-wracking to think that your interviewer might ask something that you have no response to, the slightest amount of preparation can go a long way. Along with all the questions mentioned above, it’s important to study your resume. While this seems like a basic thing, odd questions tend to throw us off our game, leading us to forget everything we know about ourselves. Prolonged stress is known to trigger temporary memory loss and make it more difficult to retrieve information from the brain. Sudden spikes in stress have the same result. So, when someone asks you an odd question at random, the sudden spike in stress levels can trigger memory loss type symptoms. However, having a strong foundational knowledge of your skills and experience will allow you to answer these interview questions promptly.
If you need extra help preparing for your next interview, don’t feel discouraged. Burnett’s Staffing is here to help—our staffing agency can help you prepare and walk you through the entire interview process.