Scared Of The Odd Interview Question?


There are many things you should be thinking of and working on in preparation for your upcoming interview. Worrying about the possibility of a bizarre, weird and just crazy interview question shouldn’t be one of them.

Most experienced interviewers know that the face-to-face interview is a time-sensitive precious period in which to get to know the applicant who may become a member of their organization. In the time-allotted, they need to find out how your past experience, your present skills and your personality are going to fit – or not – with the organization. Knowing this, the experienced interviewers tend to concentrate their few questions to discovering how you respond to their core needs. The core needs they have are typically found in the actual job posting under some heading like, ‘Responsibilities’.

That oddball question you may have heard some interviewers inject into the process happens less than you may have been coached on. That bizarre question is usually introduced by interviewers who are new to the game and want to exercise some smug sense of power as they anticipate it throwing you off, or it could be legitimately asked if the interviewer wants to see you think on your feet and feels your answers up to a certain point are coming at them as rehearsed, scripted or coached.

The most often cited weird question used as an example has to be the question, “If you were an animal, which one would you be and why?” This is such an over-used example of the absurd that most applicants are somewhat prepared for the question should it be asked, and therefore it isn’t as it’s lost the impact it once had. Most people now know they shouldn’t use some animal that is generally associated with negative traits. So a snake is a bad choice as is a spider. The dog is overused and too safe not showing much imagination, and the horse is as well if you’re looking at hardworking as a trait.

How much energy should you really invest in preparation for an upcoming job interview in the off-chance they ask you something peculiar? None. Seriously. After all, if the point is to ask you something you couldn’t possibly have prepared for in order to see how you think on your feet when confronted with something unusual, by its very definition, how could you prepare for it? How likely are you going to prepare for the question, “17 rosebuds about to bloom are in your garden. How many do you pick? There’s a right and a wrong answer.”

The best advice you can really receive is to spend your time focusing on preparing for the questions you can make solid assumptions on actually being asked in the interview. Knowing that a bizarre question could be thrown at you but likely won’t and doing your best by using your wits is what might serve you best. Even if you do get asked one such question, it’s not going to be a multitude of odd questions but one if any.

So how then do you prepare yourself for the questions that are most likely to be asked of you? Look at the job posting and read carefully over two sections: Job Responsibilities and Qualifications. It is here that the employer says straight out, “Here’s what we’re looking for; you have to have these qualifications for us to consider you and you have to have the experience that matches the experience the job requires in order to be considered.”

Looking at a job posting; (and yes you can pause here and grab a real one that you are considering applying for or are awaiting the upcoming interview for), check out the details. Grab a highlighter or use the computer’s highlight function to focus on what the employer states as qualifications and responsibilities. Go do this now.

Done? Great. Suppose you highlighted something about teamwork, team player or working with others. It is highly likely that you can now predict with certainty that the interviewer may pose a question to you that will ask you to share your past or current experience working with others in a team setting. They will be listening for words like: collaborated, cooperated, pooled resources, listened, compromised, led, initiated, successfully implemented etc. The bottom line? You work well with others and have a specific story from your past that makes this experience believable when related to them. Get across your cooperative attitude and your productivity. If it’s in the job posting, you should never claim you weren’t prepared for the question.

Just yesterday a woman I was preparing for an interview highlighted all the key words in the job posting and we noted how the word, ‘filing’ was highlighted 6 times! That to me comes across like a key aspect of what she can expect to be doing in the job, and therefore having examples from her past that prove she has filing skills and could find key documents as needed quickly would be useful to have ready.

Oddball questions do exist and yes you might get asked what colour you’d paint your co-workers toes, who has the best pizza in town or with whom you might most want to share a vacation with. Don’t overthink these. Just don’t kill your chances with a smug, “Why do you want to know?” or “I don’t think this is a useful question.” Just answer and move on.

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