How to Handle Weird Interview Questions

If you get called in for a job interview at soap company Method, you’ll likely be asked about how you would keep the company “weird” if hired. It’s not exactly on anyone’s list of common job interview questions.
According to a Q&A with Method co-founder Eric Ryan in this month’s Inc., it’s a question they ask because they want to “get a sense of who this person really is.” One candidate responded by asking staffers to wait outside while he designed a Method-themed scavenger hunt. Think you could compete with that?

Ryan isn’t the only interviewer who’s fond of unconventional questions. Here are a few other weird (but not completely inappropriate) questions that my clients have faced over the years:

  • If you could have lunch with any historical figure, living or dead, who would you share a turkey club with?
  • If you could be any animal, what animal would you be?
  • Demonstrate your most unusual talent. Right now.
  • Tell me something fascinating about you that’s not on your resume.
  • What’s your favorite color and what does that say about you?
  • Tell me about a life-changing moment.
  • Who’s your role model and why?

Are these questions designed as a form of torture? Sometimes, perhaps. But the point is usually to get you to drop your interview pose and show a bit of your true personality.

It’s a more creative alternative to asking you about your favorite book, movie, or hobby. Many candidates now come prepared with an interview-friendly favorite book and/or favorite hobby.

Interviewers have grown bored of hearing about your inoffensive loves of golf, tennis, and “spending time with friends,” so they’ve come up with new approaches.

A weird question may also be a way to see how you think on your feet. If you seem just a little too rehearsed, your interviewer may want to shake things up and see if they can make you sweat. This is more common in interviews for sales positions and other roles that require improvisation skills and composure under pressure.

How can you prepare yourself to deal with weird interview questions? Well, you can research the company and learn as much as you can about their job interview process. If you’re interviewing at Method , for example, be prepared to talk about what makes you weird. Check out Glassdoor to see if others have reported unusual questions.

Otherwise, you really can’t prepare for weird interview questions — and you probably shouldn’t.

However, be aware that if you hear a question like the ones above, you are likely dealing with a non-traditional interviewer who is looking for what makes you stand out from the crowd.

Don’t let it throw you. Follow the interviewer’s lead and share your fascination with Orson Welles, your resemblance to a sea otter, or your ability to sing “Happy Birthday” in Greek. Play along — just steer clear of controversial topics (politics, religion, information about your personal life, dirty jokes).

If they’re asking you this question, they’re probably taking a similar approach with other candidates. Do your best with it, but don’t overthink it.

Focus your time and energy on preparing great answers for the questions about your strengths, accomplishments, and career goals. These are the topics that really matter when it comes to making a hiring decision.

However, your ability to handle weird interview questions with some humor and confidence could help set you apart from another candidate with similarly stellar qualifications.

Now we want to hear from you: What’s the weirdest interview question you’ve been asked — and how did you respond? (Post it here at the Big Interview Facebook page)

Connect with Pamela Skillings on Google+

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