- 07 Oct
We have probably all been there at some point, sweating nervously in an interview when the interviewer suddenly looks up with a more intense focus, maybe a slightly disturbing smile and then proceeds to drop an absolute horror of a question in your lap.
Your mind blanks as you desperately try to work out why they think that your reaction to finding a penguin in your freezer might relate to your application for the position in hand, unless of course you are interviewing at a zoo, or possibly as a taxidermist.
There is a key to curve ball questions and that is to understand why they are being asked. Here are some of our favourites explained.
If you were a cocktail/animal/piece of Lego [delete as applicable] what would you be and why?
Always a tough one, you want to appear to have a sense of humour and just demonstrate that you can think on your feet. Try and relate the object to the job with some positive traits thrown in. The jury’s still out on ‘a Bloody Mary’ – simple, effective, little bit spicy and great in the morning. But you get the point, show some personality.
Sell me this thing; Table/Shirt/18thcentury bureau– it’s all a twist on the interviewer chucking his or her pen at you and asking you to sell it back to them.
Do not under any circumstances try to remember how this situation was handled in the film ‘Wolf of Wall Street’, you will not be able to remember the details and the interviewer will not stick to the script, you will look stupid.
Any sales job is about finding out what your customer wants and then selling what you have to hand that fits their needs. Do not panic, unless your interviewer is some kind of idiot or sadist it is unlikely that you will be trying to sell someone a cheap biro that can also pick up their dry cleaning.
Seemingly simple maths equations…
Someone once showed me that if you begin to put the interviewee under a bit of pressure – talk faster, wave your hands around, tell them that this question is the most critical of the interview and then suddenly ask them what half of 99 is, 90% of people will then answer 45 or 45.5 (strange but true – give it a try)
The question is usually asked not to test your maths skills but to test how you respond under pressure. When the interviewer looks you dead in the eyes and only says “no”, how do you come back from this? If you can take a step back, think about the question again and produce the correct answer then you can think under pressure. Throwing random numbers out there wins you no points.
Tell me a joke
This is designed to take you outside of your comfort zone and see if you can play to your audience. Thinking of the joke involving dead horses and the sexual predications of an Irish man may not be suitable, but as any comedian will tell you it’s all in the delivery.
NB: “you” is also not a suitable response unless you intend to stand up and leave, know how to exit the building and already have your coat – but such things will be covered in our future blog “quitting your job: critical points to remember when making a dramatic exit”
Tell me something interesting about you that not many people know
This is your opportunity to shine, if by pure chance you were in a band, once won an award for something cool but obscure or played semi-professional football then it is highly probably that you have already recounted such a snippet at least twice already this very day.
Nonetheless the interviewer does not want to hear about the time that you cried alone in the cinema watching Dances With Wolves when you were 12 years old because this will make you look socially inept, true you haven’t told many people but… In short tell the good story.
If you do not immediately have a ‘go to story’ then get creative. “I once saved a bag of kittens from drowning” something like that (it doesn’t matter if you saved them by going to the 24 hour off-license and buying a bottle of vodka instead of putting them in the bag and chucking them in a canal because they won’t shut up at 3am* – the outcome was the same, kittens survived)
So before we descend further into trawling the depths of curve ball interview questions; some general points to remember when being chucked a wobbly one:
There is very usually no right or wrong answer (unless it’s 49.5) the interviewer is usually just testing you to see how you think on your feet, new and creative answers may win points.
Feel free to buy yourself some time, repeat the question out loud, make audible thinking noises. Whatever it takes to give you a vital moment of reflection.
Try not to panic, just make sure you give an answer and move on, it’s unusual for one question, especially a curve ball to make or break the interview.
*it should be noted that no kittens were harmed in the forming of Squid Ink, we actually love kittens and we don’t drink vodka, we much prefer craft ales and fine wines