By Gerald Walsh ©
As if interviews weren’t stressful enough already, interviewers will sometimes lob a strange or silly question your way to see how you respond to an unexpected query.
The stupidest questions (in my opinion) are ones supposedly designed to measure an aspect of your personality. For example: “If you were an animal, what animal would you be?”
Apparently if you answer tiger, lion, cougar, or some other type of strong animal, you have the required aggressive tendencies to propel you into the corner office in no time flat. On the other hand, if you say lamb, cat, bunny rabbit, or anything cuddly or furry, you are destined for more passive jobs, such as an accountant or human resources.
As you have no doubt detected from my sarcasm, I do not think highly of these questions.
However, there are also strange but interesting questions that are designed to test your thought process.
For example: “How many gas stations are there in North America?” Understandably few people would know the answer and the interviewer doesn’t expect you to know.
So, what should you do?
Your best strategy is to take a moment to figure out why the interviewer is asking it. What quality are they trying to get at?
Most likely the “gas station” question is trying to get at your problem-solving and analytical skills and you should describe how you would arrive at the answer if given some time to solve it.
Other questions might be designed to test your interests and character.
For example, “What is the most interesting place in the world you have visited and why?” might be designed to test your openness to other cultures and ideas.
Or “If you won $10 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money?” might be designed to measure your sense of social responsibility.
Regardless of how you feel about these seemingly strange questions, one thing they do is add a sense of spontaneity to the interview process. For that reason alone, they can be a fun departure from the traditional interview, which is usually based on a set of predictable, standardized questions. I just hope no employer makes their hiring decision based on answers to these questions.
Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. During a 30 year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn.