There’s a large variety of questions you could be asked during a job interview, and if you’ve done your fair share of job-hunting, chances are you’ve probably heard them all. From simple introductions to tackling tricky (but common) questions, surely you’ve practiced enough times to get by them with ease.
But it’s not always possible to predict all the interview questions that come your way. Imagine that in the middle of an interview, the recruiter asks you how you’d handle a zombie apocalypse (or bring up other kinds of hyperbolic situations). You thought it’s meant to be a simple jest, but their expectant gaze tells you that not only are they serious, but they’re waiting for your answer.
And in the midst of your shock, you might be wondering – what’s going on here?
A test of character
Your first thought might be that maybe your interviewer has a sadistic side, and they’re just asking these questions to make hopefuls like you squirm in their seat at their mercy. But in actuality, there’s a good reason why you might have been given such a curveball.
Firstly, the interviewer probably knows that you’ve rehearsed for this interview, and although it’s always good to be prepared, sometimes they want to know what you’re like when faced with the unexpected. And what better way to throw you off than to ask an unexpected question?
Moreover, this is also a good way for them to gauge both your creative thinking and how you’d fit in with the company culturally. How you answer these questions will serve as a probe for them to delve deeper into your thinking process and personality.
Types of questions
Although these questions are generally asked as an attempt to gain insight into you, they also tend to be on the casual or light-hearted side. But regardless of what kind of information they’re after, you can be assured that they come in different ways of phrasing, ranging from hypotheticals to puzzles to making you pick between two options. But what are the core purposes of these questions? Here are a few listed below:
1. Icebreakers and getting to know you
At the start of the interview, you might be given some light-hearted questions right off the bat. For interviewers, they do this not only to help you relax a little and get used to speaking to them, but if you play your cards right, you can use this golden opportunity to make a good first impression.
2. Problem-solving and thinking skills
This can range from asking you to respond to hypothetical situations to logic puzzles and brain teasers, all with the intention to see how well you’re able to assess a given situation and act accordingly. That being said, don’t stress about whether your answer is ‘correct’ or ‘accurate’ – that’s not what the interviewer is looking for! Instead, they’ll focus on your thinking process and your own justifications behind your given answer.
3. Your values and goals
Apart from your skills and qualifications listed in your resume, another thing that the company has to consider is how well you would mesh with the company if they choose to hire you. Because of this, some interviewees may find themselves being asked questions revolving around their aspirations, values and talents.
Dealing with the unexpected
So how should you handle these questions? Generally, the approach is similar to how you’d treat any question that leaves you stumped. For starters, it’s best to stay calm and keep a cool head – remember that the interviewers ask these questions for a reason!
If you find that you need any clarifications, or find the question too vague, there’s also no harm in asking for more information, or to even ask for a little bit of time to ponder over it. With that out of the way, what do you do if you’re asked an unexpected question like these?
For starters, don’t panic, or worse, shrug and say you don’t know (unless you want a one-way ticket to immediate rejection). Stay calm, and remember that you’re free to ask for extra time to ponder over the question. Also, remember that these questions are generally related to the job in some way, so you can think about how your response can best demonstrate a quality you want to showcase to them.
And if you’re really struggling, you could offer to get back to them after the interview, and bring up your answer in your thank-you letter.
Ultimately, unexpected interview questions like these don’t have to throw you off-guard. In fact, they can help you better showcase your talents and capabilities if you know how to answer them. Moreover, it can also give you an impression of what working there might be like, and help you make a more informed decision about the company you're interviewing for, and if it suits your personality.
So although some preparation won’t hurt, it’s fine to just be honest when it comes to these questions and answer on the spot!