How to Answer Odd Interview Questions

Some interviewers have logical, data-backed reasons for asking, what on the surface, can appear to be an oddball question. They might be soliciting insights into your decision-making skills, values, or creativity. There’s nothing wrong with this as long as the questions and the evaluation of answers are validated and consistent.

Unfortunately many ill-prepared interviewers are just winging it or trying their hand a practice they don’t fully understand. The following are three popular oddball questions and a suggested play for handling each:

  1. If you could have dinner with anyone in the world who would it be and why? Confirm the assumption that they are looking to see which leadership traits you admire via your selection and then answer honestly.
  2. If you were an animal, which would it be, and why? Politely ask the purpose of the question. If they don’t know or won’t provide, jokingly ask what vegetable they would be if trapped in a vegan farmer’s market. (If you’re feeling particularly playful, attempt to gain insight as to whether they would they look to be purchased quickly or would try to hide out and go gently into that culinary goodnight.) If they refuse to play along or at least crack a smile, leave. Working for the humorless is a miserable proposition.
  3. If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be, and why? No one likes an amateur psychologist. Ask for their Dendrology credentials and then circle back to the farmers market.

The above advice is offered of course a bit tongue in cheek. Many of us have been in financial and career circumstances that would encourage both diplomacy and acquiescence. There’s no shame in putting up with some nonsense to take care of your own. Still, where possible, wait a beat before humoring the interviewer with a response.

You have the right to know why various questions are being asked and what insight the interviewer hopes to gain from your response. Even a gentle inquiry shows you have a backbone, an inquisitive mind, are willing to respectfully challenge authority. On the other hand, openly talking about your reincarnated tree preferences without pause can paint you as creative, but it also sends a signal of desperation – never a good trait.

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Be sure to check out my latest book The Introvert’s Guide to Job Hunting and follow me on Twitter at @timtoterhi

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