How To Ace Even The Strangest Interview Questions
How should you reply to crazy interview questions? Most employers don't ask weird questions like these, but it's a good idea to prepare for how you'd address them, just in case.
These strategies will help you answer any oddball interview question.
1. Never question the value of the inquiry itself. If you say, "What does this have to do with the job?" you might as well get up and walk out of the interview. (Unless they are looking for a contrary or difficult candidate, which is unlikely.)
2. It's OK to stop for a minute to think. In fact, it's a good idea to take a deep breath before delving into your answer. You may also want to repeat the question to make sure you understand it correctly.
3. Unless the organization is overtly political, do not introduce controversial or political topics in your answers. For example, in answering the question about what state to eliminate from the U.S., don't let on that you'd like to axe California because it's reliably democratic, or Texas because it is always "red."
4. Consider the reason the interviewer may have chosen the question. Maybe he is trying to see if you have a sense of humor, in which case you could respond with a funny answer. Petco asked an analyst candidate, "How would you direct someone else on how to cook an omelet?" It's likely the job requires being able to explain concepts and possibly action steps to people, which makes the question seem reasonable and not so off-the-wall.
5. Many oddball questions help the interviewer assess how you think, so be sure to demonstrate your thought process, don't just give an answer. For example, interviewers at JetBlue who asked a pricing/revenue management analyst candidate, "How many quarters would you need to reach the height of the Empire State building?" probably don't expect a correct answer. Replying, "500,000" isn't going to give the interviewer any insight about you. Instead, talk out your thought process. For example, "It's best to stack the quarters on top of each other. A quarter is about .05 inches thick, so there are about 240 quarters in a foot. If the Empire State Building is about 1,400 feet tall, it would take about 336,000 quarters to reach the top. That doesn't include the antennae!" When you answer this way, even if your specifics are not correct, you can still win points for your thought process. (And for the details you include, such as stacking the quarters and considering the antennae.)
6. Focus on the characteristics of the job, if possible. At Trader Joe's (a food store), they asked a crew candidate, "If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?" This is a great opportunity for the job seeker to demonstrate what he or she knows about the food at Trader Joe's. "I would select some of Trader Joe's best, fresh vegetables -- asparagus is in season now, to serve with organically fed poultry. I'd cook them with Trader Joe's brand mole sauce and, voila -- a great meal."
7. No matter what, don't let any question rattle or stress you out. Amanda Lachapelle, director of HR and talent acquisition at Glassdoor, a jobs and career community said, "The worst answer you can give is a short response with no explanation or say 'I don't know.' When answering tough questions, take your time, ask the interviewer to clarify if necessary, show your personality and explain how you can problem solve out loud."
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Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Business Success, Social Networking for Career Success and 100 Conversations for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success. Get her free white paper: 5 Mistakes Job Seekers Make and How to Avoid Them.