So you’ve gotten past the application phase and have been invited for an interview. Give yourself a pat on the back! But it’s not time to relax quite yet — you’ve got to prep for your big meeting. If you’ve been through the interview process before, you probably have an idea of what to expect. But there’s always the possibility of being thrown a curveball.
Potential employers want to keep you on your toes to see how you respond to unexpected questions and assess your critical thinking skills. Often they ask bizarre questions to take you off your script, or to get you to answer questions that you haven’t prepped for in advance. They want to see how you think on your feet. Here are the main points to remember:
- Don’t get rattled. Practice brainstorming under pressure. It gets easier with practice.
- For most of these questions, there is no right answer. Don’t try to find one. Instead, show a logical thought process and explain your reasoning.
- If a question is too wacky, the interviewer may just want to see how you react. Sometimes it’s okay to push back. Or answer with humor.
But knowledge is power — especially when you’re looking for a job. We reached out to our community and asked for the toughest and wackiest questions they’ve ever been asked in an interview. Here are our favorite six — and what you can learn from them.
“Draw how the internet works.”
If you’re interviewing for a position in a tech or digital field, this is one that could come up. You may not have given much thought to visually representing the internet and its particulars — but it’s time to start. Keep your drawing simple enough that a 10 year old can understand it, and don’t make any assumptions based on your knowledge. Use easy to understand facts and label, label, label. Likewise, if you’re asked to explain how the internet works, use the same process — just ditch the drawing, and write out steps. For example:
Essentially, the internet is a worldwide network of computers. We’re connected by the virtual tubes or tunnels that transport information between our computers and smartphones. See? Simple enough, but it gets your point across and demonstrates that you understand the significance of a world where ideas and information can travel in a second.
“How many phone booths are there in Manhattan?”
Is the interviewer looking for an exact number? No! But he wants to get an idea of how you break down a problem and solve it.
The key to a question that asks you to give an estimate is to outline your parameters, give step by step assumptions, then come up with a “guesstimate” based on these assumptions. For example:
- Let’s say Manhattan is 10 avenues across and 150 streets vertically, or 1500 square blocks
- Take out 30 blocks by 3 avenues (90 square blocks) for Central Park so we are down to 1410 square blocks
- Assume there is 1 phone booth per block
I would guess 1410 phone booths in Manhattan
But the real answer may be zero — phone booths may not exist anymore because everyone has a cell phone!
“What kind of car are you?”
(or “what kind of animal”….or “what color”)
This question may seem like it’s bordering on the absurd — but ridiculous or not, you’ve got to answer it. To prepare, think about the qualities you’re hoping to project to the interviewer — and what will be valued in the position. Do you need to be strong and aggressive? Understated but powerful? Reliable and hardworking? And whatever type of car you do end up choosing, back your answer up with the “why”. For example:
“I would be a Tesla because I am innovative and a risk-taker. I can adapt to new technology and come up with creative ideas quickly.”
What’s your biggest weakness?
This could be the oldest interview question in the book. Odds are most job seekers will be asked this at some point during their search. So what should you do? DON’T say “I don’t have any weaknesses,” or “I’m a perfectionist — that’s my weakness.” Everyone has weaknesses. Form an answer that describes an area of development that you recognize has been an issue, then spend most of your answer talking about how you have worked to overcome it. For example:
“I get nervous presenting to a large group. In my previous job, I recognized this was an important part of my job so I joined Toastmasters to practice public speaking. I still get nervous but have actually become good at it!”
Explain a time when you or a team you were on acted in an unethical way.
This is tricky. Of course you have to answer, but you are stepping onto a landmine. If the example shows truly unethical behavior, you will not get the job. Think of an example of a situation that is more middle of the road — and show how, in the end, you came around to do the right thing. For example — you watched a friend cheat on a test and didn’t report him. However, you convinced him to turn himself in.
What song describes your work ethic or philosophy?
This is a tough one. Not only do you have to have a song repertoire in your head, you have to quickly come up with lyrics in a symbolic way. The good news with a question like this is almost any song works, because songs are meant to inspire or show grit. “Drive,” “Fight Song,” “Eye of the Tiger,” or “Survivor”…
If your life was made into a movie, who would play you?
For a question like this, the interviewer is trying to get a glimpse of who you are when you are not in a formal interview. Sometimes it’s best to answer spontaneously to show creativity and a sense of humor. Just realize, if you get the job, your answer may follow you for years, so be humble. Brad Pitt is probably not the best pick.