You've prepared for your interview as best as you could. You’ve researched the company and the position at hand. Now, you’ve made it to the interview. You’re poised, polished and ready to share your strengths and successes that make you a great candidate for the role. The interview is going smoothly, you’ve even built great rapport with the interviewer and then, you hear it… that one interview question designed to throw you off your game. As your heart rate increases and beads of sweat form on your forehead, you smile, hoping to buy some time as you think quickly for an answer.
“What is your biggest weakness?” may still be the most widely-hated interview question of all time, but it’s no longer the biggest curveball an interviewer can throw since most people are expecting this question and have rehearsed their answers.
Questions like, “If you were a fruit, what fruit would you be?” and “Why is a manhole cover round?” have also been somewhat played-out as tricky interview questions. Today, large companies like Google and Goldman Sachs are asking seemingly stranger questions like, “If you were shrunk to the size of a nickel and put in a blender, how would you get out?” If the interviewer also tells you that your density won’t change, even though your size did, then technically the correct answer to this question requires an understanding of the relationship between mass and density and an appropriate response would be, “I’d be able to jump out.”
But, what the interviewer is really analyzing is how you approach the question. Do you get frustrated or easily thrown by a problem you don’t totally understand? Will you say the first thing that comes to mind or will you take the time to analyze your options and then pick the best one? What is really important here is how you answer, rather than what you answer. Stay cool.
Here’s another question we’ve heard: “If you were standing in a line that wrapped around a building, would you rather be in the front of the line, the middle or the end and why?”
As much as I personally dislike these types of interview questions, I do love this one. Everyone can relate to the proposed situation, and there is no right or wrong answer. Some people just instinctively respond, “Who wants to wait in line, I’d rather be first!” These people may be risk-takers and go-getters — people who jump right into a situation with both feet, ready to field whatever comes their way. Others who gravitate towards the back of the line may prefer to observe, collect information from people who exit the building, and then go in more prepared for what lies ahead. Out of 10 random people who answered this question on the street, two of them asked what they were in line for, indicating that they are more analytical by nature.
Taking your time to answer tough questions like these is probably the best thing you can do. Don’t be afraid to pause for a moment and think before you speak. These are thought-provoking questions that the interviewer hopes you don’t have an answer prepared for.
Michele Mavi has nearly 15 years of experience as a recruiter, interview coach, and resume writer. She is Atrium Staffing’s resident career expert, as well as director of internal recruiting and content development. She also founded Angel Films, a division of Atrium Staffing focused on the creation of recruiting and training videos.