Tips on handling off-the-wall job interview questions

Employers have started a new trend that seems to be sticking. Rather than jumping into interviews with a traditional question, many of today’s employers are asking questions that are completely unexpected. For example, employers have asked what the applicant would do with a brick if they had one, or to “Estimate the number of diapers found in the entire world.” These are questions that are designed to see whether you can respond well in a difficult situation, and they test your analytical ability. Here are some tips when that off-the-wall job interview question comes your way:

Stay calm. Employers ask these questions for specific reasons. Usually, the primary reason is to see how well you respond when you are thrown a curveball. Some interviewees will get put off by these questions and others will not be able to come up with a coherent response. If you remain calm, you show the employer that you have what it takes to respond well when the pressure is on. From there, you must concentrate on providing an answer that shows them your best skills.

Take the question seriously. It is very easy to disregard a question when you’re asked to describe how you dry your body as you get out of the shower. You might be tempted to laugh before telling the employer that you prefer not to dry off at all. This is the wrong way to approach these questions, though, as employers are looking to see whether you are willing to deal directly with a difficult inquiry. You should avoid the temptation of stepping around these questions, and not treat them as a joke.

Answer the questions as analytically as possible. Most people do not ever think about the process that they engage in to skin an orange. The employer wants to know whether you are the kind of person who can analyze this simple action. Don’t just tell him that you peel the orange. Rather, tell the interviewer that you get a sharp knife to remove the center pulp. From there, you use your right hand to remove the orange peel in one motion, trying your best to keep the peel intact. The more detail you can offer, the more impressive your answer will be. Know that there is truly no right or wrong answer to this question. There is, however, a wrong type of answer.

You might not think it’s reasonable that you have to answer such questions. In truth, these questions have little if anything to do with the job tasks at hand. If you want to get the job, though, you will need to handle these situations with some skill and moxie. You have to remember — behind every question there is a reason for the question, and not just to take up time. Take the question seriously, remain calm through the process, and come up with a detailed, analytical answer. If you succeed in doing this, you will stand out in a crowd of job-seekers that is almost certain to feature many who swing and miss at these curveballs.


About Charlotte Weeks - Executive Career Coach / Executive Resume Writer / Outplacement Consultant

Prior to founding Weeks Career Services, Inc. Charlotte Weeks worked in human resources at a national association, where she experienced the hiring process from the other side. She's also the past president of The National Resume Writers' Association (The NRWA). Charlotte specializes in providing C-level executives (CEO, CFO, CMO, etc.), association executives, executive directors and senior-level professionals (director, VP, SVP, etc.) with comprehensive career coaching services and high-ROI resumes. She is author of "I Want a Job in an Association -- Now What?? A Guide to Getting a Job in a Professional Association, Membership Organization, or Society" and featured author of "101 Great Ways to Enhance Your Career." Additional book contributions include "The Twitter Job Search Guide," "Resumes That Pop!," and "Step-by-Step Cover Letters." As an internationally-recognized expert, Charlotte provides programs and documents tailored to each individual’s needs. To ensure that each person is given the highest quality of attention and service, Charlotte works with a limited number of new clients each month.
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