Answering Those Oddball Interview Questions that Employers Ask
Is There Really a Correct Answer?
Usually, in most interviews, you will prepare and think you know what types of questions an interviewer will ask. The “ Tell me a little bit about yourself” question plus the “ What are your strengths and weaknesses?” can be expected questions for most any type of job. Interviewees usually get a little bit anxious about other questions an interview might ask, especially if they have had little to no experience interviewing for a job.
Tips for College Students
For college students, it can be even a little more frustrating since they know they are inexperienced and always think that there are more qualified candidates vying for the same job. The funny thing is that most candidates feel the same way, so it’s the person that chooses to prepare for the interview that will do a better job.
Practice, Practice, Practice...
From everything that you read, it’s important to practice prior to any interview. I recommend practicing with a friend or someone you trust and if there is no one around, be sure to practice using a mirror and practice your answers out loud. By practicing out loud you will be sure to make your mistakes before the interview rather than knowing what you want to say, but having it come out all wrong when you are actually interviewing for the job. In addition, be sure to follow these tips when preparing for an interview.
Answering Oddball Interview Questions
Whether experienced or not, there are some interview questions that employers ask that could stump anyone and they ask them just to see how well you can think on your feet. It’s important to keep in mind that no interviewer expects you to know the actual answer to these questions.
What they are looking for is your thought process and your ability to maintain your confidence in a stressful situation. For example, if you were asked a question like, “ If you were able to fly to the moon, how many seconds would it take you to get there?” or “ Most lobsters range in color from dark bluish green to greenish brown, redder on the body and claws, and greener on the legs, but some lobsters are blue.” “If you were trapping lobsters, what would be your chances of getting a lobster that was blue?”
To answer these types of questions, you need to come up with some type of formula that you would use that makes sense even if it is far from the correct answer. Oftentimes a sense of humor can help but also try to illustrate your reasoning so that your answer also makes some kind of sense. It is the process being used in these types of questions that are being evaluated, not the actual answer. So it’s important not to stress yourself out trying to find the right answer. Incorporating one of your strengths into the answer is always a good idea.
Recently I was helping a client prepare for a first interview via Skype. Since the candidate lived in Ireland and the job was in the US, we mainly prepared for the interview using Skype, which helped him to do a good job when Skyping with the employer.
One thing we did not prepare for was the chance of being asked an “oddball question” by the interviewer. Since this job was for an IT position that helped employees troubleshoot their computer problems, it was more likely that these types of questions would be asked. Even though this did put him off guard, he obviously did a good job answering them because he was invited to a second interview.
Here Is the Story He Relayed to Me after His First Skype Interview:
“I think the interview went ok. There was a very bad video connection on Skype and I had to ask the interview to repeat the question many times. I never blamed anyone, but I just said something like ‘I'm sorry, you were freezing on my screen, could you please repeat that last question?’ The interview started with the interviewer that originally contacted me and then 3 other people joined in. In total, the interview lasted around 45 minutes.”
"I must say that the interviewers asked some very odd questions. One was ‘How many hours are there in five million seconds?’ I sat for a while just thinking about the question and eventually said that I really don't the answer. They then asked me for a ballpark guess and I responded with 20,000. Which I now know is way off. I suppose he wanted to just see my reaction? Later someone else asked, ‘How many hours are in ten million seconds?’ I took it a little more relaxed and said, ‘I'm not really sure but I'm going to stick with my original answer, so just double the amount of my previous answer which would be 40,000.’ They also asked ‘If you could have one super power what would it be?’ I said I’d like to go back in time, and if that didn't count, then I'd like to be able to fly."
"They also asked, ‘How many automobile tires there were in the US?’ Again, I said I wasn't sure but maybe six million? They asked how I came up with that answer and I said, ‘I was just thinking of the population of the US and how many drivers there might be, and then multiplied that by four tires each to come up with a final answer’."
As you can see, this candidate was not at all prepared to answer these oddball questions but he came up with some “logical” answers that didn’t allow them to ruin the entire interview. By maintaining confidence and illustrating his thought process, he was able to come up with some plausible answers that seemed to satisfy the interviewers. When asked oddball questions in an interview, be sure to maintain your confidence and be able to provide some substance to your overall thought process.