The interview ‘curve ball’ question
Interviews can be tough at the best of times and hiring managers don’t help the situation when they throw in bizarre questions that can never be prepared for and demand answers that seem to have no relation on your ability to perform the role in question.
So why do they do it, and what are they looking for?
Interviews are an unusual situation. It is often hard to gauge a candidate’s true colours as they will have hopefully prepared well and are on best behaviour. Managers are looking for someone that they can work with on a daily basis and this comes down to more than just someone’s skills and experience.
It is therefore becoming more common for interviews to throw in a couple of ‘curve ball’ questions to try and reveal more about a candidate. Here are a few of my favourites:
“It’s the apocalypse, how do you survive?”
“You’re prime minister for a day – what’s the first thing you do?”
“Who’s your favorite Disney princess?”
“Name five uses of a stapler without staples.”
“If you were a Microsoft Office program, which one would you be?”
“Ermm…?!?” is usually always the first response to these questions. But don’t panic – there is rarely a right or wrong answer, unless maybe the hiring manager has a weird adoration for Princess Jasmine….
These questions are intended to take you off guard and make you think on your feet. They can allow an interviewer to assess performance under pressure, analytical thinking, skill of deduction… The answers are often more natural and honest, giving a glimpse into the candidate’s true character.
And let’s be honest – the answers are probably far more interesting than “your greatest achievement” which has been well rehearsed and undoubtedly undergone a little elaboration.
So if you are asked a question like this what should you do? Take a second think about it and just answer honestly, as you would do any other interview question. They will be looking more at the way you handle the situation, explain your opinion and get to your answer, rather than the answer itself.
But don’t forget – an interview isn’t just for the hiring manager to test if you are the right candidate for them. You need to be sure you want to work for this person, so throw your own curve ball and see how they deal with it!