There’san apocryphal story that has been bandied about for years, about an interviewwhere the interviewer asked a candidate: “Do something to surprise me”. Theinterviewee got out his lighter and set fire to the interviewer’s newspaper.It’s not an action we would advise emulating, but very definitely comes underthe heading of utterly incomprehensible interview questions.
Why do these questionsget asked?
"Whydo these questions get asked" is a tricky question to answer, but as itappears to have started in Silicon Valley during the tech boom its roots arelikely to be found in the free-thinking, mould-breaking philosophy that many ofthe tech pioneers applied to their businesses. Ultimately for some interviewerit’s about unearthing someone who offers more than just “can you do the job”.Wall Street soon followed suit and the practice has become more commonplace.The question for most of us is not why are they asked but how do I answer them?
Firstand foremost you should remember there isn’t a right answer, depending on thenature of the question, which these questions are about your thought processes,your coolness under pressure, your personality and your approach to problemsolving. What you don’t do is say, “I don’t know”, or “that’s a good question”and stare off into space. Let’s take the question: “How many cricket bats arethere in the world?” You could either pluck an answer out of thin air: “Threemillion?”, or go about figuring out how to work it out. “Well, if thepopulation of the sporting public in the UK is X, and a tenth of them playcricket, then that’s XX for the UK, plus another X for the cricketingpopulation in India…” etc. This is the sort of approach the employer would belooking for.
Five types of questionsyou might encounter
1.Lots of these questions fall along the lines of if you were a colour/ananimal/a garden gnome/a car/a food/a computer application (yes, really) whatone would you be and why? Try to think of the qualities of the object and howthey might relate to your skills or character.
2.What are all the different uses you can think of for a lemon? Apparently askedduring an interview for an airline pilot, this type of question is designed tofind out how much of a creative thinker you are.
3.Who would you invite to a dinner party/what superhero/movie character would yoube/who is your role model? In other words, what character traits do you mostadmire in other people and why? Think about what specific things they haveachieved and what it is about those achievements that you admire so much.
4.How many people will be on Facebook in New York on a Friday afternoon? Thereare a raft of questions that are much more technical in nature and much morealigned to the role you are seeking. This question was aimed at a marketingexecutive, and was probing how well they understand the use of social mediaaround the world.
5.Tell me a story. This is a firm favourite, and represents a golden opportunityfor you to tell a work-related anecdote that is also relevant to the role inquestion and also illustrates how you see other people and the world aroundyou.
Thisis the key to a good interview. However, thesequestions are not something that you can easily prepare for. If your job is atechnical one, brush up on your technical knowledge. If it’s a creative role,keep a clear head and try to analyse how you would approach some of these typesof questions. Above all, expect the unexpected!