It’s important to come prepared for job interviews, including practicing potential interview questions, but that’s not always possible. Unusual interview questions challenge candidates to think on their feet, under pressure. These sorts of questions can be difficult to handle because you can’t predict them. When faced with a curveball question, remain calm, rely on key talking points and feel free to ask follow up questions.
“Tell me about yourself.”
“How would you handle… ?”
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
“What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?”
“What is a major challenge or situation you have faced?”
These are some of the most common interview questions. And you likely already have your answer for each thoroughly mastered (being sure to make adjustments for specific companies and roles). You’re feeling confident, prepared and ready to nail the interview.
The interview day finally arrives and it’s not at all what you expected.
Your interviewer tosses out several curveballs, asking questions you haven’t considered at all. Some may even call them odd or unusual.
“What film genre best represents your personality and why?” “Moon or sun?” “If you could [blank]...?” … All weird interview questions designed to make candidates pause and challenge their otherwise well-rehearsed answers.
I spoke with career and interview coach Kyle Elliott, Ed.D., MPA, CHES to learn more about the practice of asking such unusual questions and how job candidates should handle them.
Unusual Questions Make You Think
By now, it’s common knowledge that job seekers normally practice for a job interview.
And employers know this.
While there’s nothing wrong with having rehearsed answers, they don't always afford hiring teams a clear, authentic reading of who you are, both professionally and personally. They want to see how you respond under stressful situations — unrehearsed. Unusual questions tend to be a great method.
Most employers ask such questions to see an applicant’s thought process in action. Elliott notes that they want to gain an understanding of how you think on the spot. “As an interviewee, it’s your opportunity to demonstrate your ability to think on your feet and communicate effectively under pressure.”
However, outright odd or irrelevant interview questions can simply be the result of a poor hiring process.
“One reason hiring managers ask odd questions is they’re simply not trained in how to conduct effective interviews,” states Elliott. “Not enough companies invest the time and energy needed to prepare their interviewers to properly assess talent.”
This could potentially be an interview red flag that shouldn't be ignored.
You can never fully predict what questions an interviewer will ask, common or uncommon, but at least you can come prepared with solid answers for more typical ones, like “Tell me about yourself” or “Why do you want to work here?”
Unusual questions pose a new challenge for job applicants because it’s all up to the discretion of your interviewer and potential employer. Plus, they can ask almost anything.