That One Bizarre Interview Question

If you’ve been fortunate enough to have the services of an Employment Coach or Counsellor, you’ve probably been advised to expect an off-beat question during your upcoming interviews. You know, a question like, “What kind of animal would you be and why?” or “Tell me a story.” Well the later really isn’t a question but it is unexpected and may throw you for a loop. So what’s with these odd questions?

Well first of all, most companies assume that people are doing their homework these days, learning about the company, it’s mission and values, its products and services. Most interviewers also make a pretty safe assumption that you have rehearsed and practiced your interview answers to potential questions you might be asked.

Typically, you can expect to be asked questions pertaining to your strengths (what you’ll bring to the company), your weaknesses (what the company will have to train or teach you before you are valuable to them). Expect questions on what you know about the company, how you handle problems and conflict, how well you get along with your co-workers, your attitude and your outlook. So if you are preparing to tell the interviewer all the things that anybody could expect to be asked, how can they be sure they are seeing the real you and not just some image you want them to see?

That question that comes out of left field, that bizarre question that you puzzle over and can’t understand the logic in the asking of, is the one that superior interviewers relish. If it’s asked at all, it’s asked by companies who want you to demonstrate your ability to think on your feet in a matter of seconds. How good are you at improvisation? Freeze up at this point and say nothing and you demonstrate an inability to be spontaneous, to think laterally, and to act outside of a careful orchestrated script.

For example, you can pretty much assume you’ll walk in, shake a hand or two, be offered a seat, and be asked questions like, “Tell me about yourself”. “Give me an example of a time you had a conflict and how did you resolve it?” “What do you know about our company and products?” “What did you do to prepare for this interview?” “What skills and assets would you bring to the position that separate you from other applicants?” Very safe, very predictable, very good questions designed to get information the company wants to know.

However, let’s also take for granted that the interviewer is a smart person too. He or she prepared for the interview just like you. They know that one of the qualities they need is employees who can think for themselves, who can adapt to changes quickly, who won’t miss a beat when faced with change. Change is something many people do not react well too. So how can they get you to DEMONSTRATE your ability to do this and not just tell them? Create a situation where you are faced directly with something unexpected and see how you react of course.

So here, see how long it takes you to respond to this situation. Really, try this. Imagine you walk in, sit down, shake hands, and talk about getting to the interview without any problem. Chit-chat over, you’ve answered 6 questions you had prepared for and your confidence is high, your self-esteem rising. Okay, next question; “What single current news story world-wide is of interest to you today and what bearing if any does it have for our company?” Say what? The clock is running and the interviewer is looking at you for an answer, pen poised in hand ready to write. And you answer…….?

It doesn’t matter if that’s a fair question or not. It’s been asked and it’s on the table. You’re now being watched for body language, facial expression, signs of anxiety, nail-biting, looking off into space, finger tapping, or maybe you stall by saying, “Gee that’s a good question….” (what kind of stupid question is that? Is she messing with me?) “World-wide news story….” (AH why don’t I read the paper or listen to the news!”)

The question shows your general awareness, or lack thereof, of world events. In other words, how aware and how well-rounded are you? Would you be able to contribute to conversations and projects outside your specific job or not? By relating to the company, you show your ability to take events and connect them together. How does something like rising oil prices in the Middle East affect the accounting department when they have to pay employee gas mileage? Does the crisis in Libya impact on the net worth of the company interviewing you on the stock market?

Think about the odd questions but understand the interviewer will still ask you questions you couldn’t possibly expect. Think on your toes. Be ready and whatever you do, ANSWER the question. Don’t pass and say something smug like, “I choose not to answer,” or “I don’t know.”

Try these:

“Would you rather be a sapling in a city or a mature tree in a forest? Why?”

“What’s your favourite nursery rhyme and why?”

“Tell me a story.”

“If you were a raindrop, where would you want to land, and why?”

2 thoughts on “That One Bizarre Interview Question

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