These are usually designed to test how well you can handle surprises and how logically you can answer seemingly illogical questions. There really are no right or wrong answers to these strange questions. My best advice to you to either give an answer that sounds logical or, if you’re up to it, give an answer that shows a little humor (which, by the way, is always appreciated by hiring managers if used appropriately).
Let’s look at some examples of these oddball questions and how I might answer them. There are literally hundreds of these types of questions and my intent is to give you some ideas as to approaches you can take.
Question: If you were an animal, which one would you choose to be?
Possible Answer: (I know, I know – it’s a really stupid question but it’s still asked). Try this for a logical answer: I’d like to be an elephant. They’re big, they’re powerful, they have few natural enemies, they’re reasonably intelligent and they have a long life span. This is a good, generic answer that will fit most situations.
If you’re interviewing for a job where aggressiveness is considered an attribute (many sales positions fall into this category), then try this one: I’d want to be one of the big cats – a lion, a tiger, or a panther, because I want to be at the top of the food chain, not the bottom.
Question: Give me a step-by-step explanation of how to tie my shoes.
Possible Answer: This is a good example of a question designed to test your ability to think logically and describe accurately. It may about nearly anything. What you need to do is envision the process in your mind and describe it one step at a time.
Question: If you were a tree, what type would you want to be?
Possible Answer: (yep, like the animal question, this one is equally dumb, but it’s still sometimes asked). Avoid the cliché answer of wanting to be an oak tree “because they’re sturdy”. Instead, try this: I’d like to be a Joshua tree. They’re attractive, extremely hardy, and simply don’t give up – they can survive in harsh desert conditions where little else can. That’s what I like to be – tough and durable.
This answer shows you have your head on straight and are realistic about life. I can also practically guarantee won’t be used by any other applicant (unless, of course, they’ve read this post!).
Question: How many gas stations would you estimate there are in the United States?
Possible Answer: The point here is to see how logically you approach the question. You’re not really expected to give an accurate answer.
This can be about anything: how may basketballs would it take to fill the inside of a ten foot square room, how many baseballs does it take to fill Yankee Stadium, how many stop lights are there in Chicago, etc. The best way to approach this one is to start thinking out loud about how you’d solve the problem.
For example, let’s take the gas station question, I would reason it out like this: “Now let’s see, the town where I live has a population of about 20,000 and I estimate there are about 20 gas stations. That means there’s a station for every 1,000 people. There are about 300,000,000 people in the United States, so that would about 300,000 gas stations.”
This answer is probably wildly off but that doesn’t matter. The point is that I arrived at it in a logical manner and that’s what the Hiring Manger is looking for.
Question: Tell me one thing about yourself that you don’t want me to know?
Possible Answer: This is similar to the question “What is your greatest weakness?” It’s a land mine designed to make you admit something negative about yourself.
The best way to handle this question is to admit some relatively minor bad habit you used to have. For example, that you used to smoke but quit a long time ago, or you used to be overweight until you lost 50 pounds, etc. The trick here is to make it a personal bad habit, not a business one, and one you have since corrected.
I could go on for hours describing these types of oddball questions, so don’t try to develop and memorize answers. The key is to give answers that demonstrate logic, and to use minor or innocuous answers whenever you’re asked anything negative.
In my next posting, I’ll end my series on how to answer interview questions by sharing with you the best interview answer I’ve ever heard!