Weird interview questions that hiring managers ask candidates
From ice cream to spirit animals to garden gnomes, this is how to prepare your answers to offbeat questions.
As you prepare answers to common job interview questions, you should also expect some curveballs. Interview questions aren’t always about your skills and work experience. After all, there’s only so much of your personality a recruiter can absorb from asking you about your proficiency with PowerPoint. From determining your spirit animal to which famous person you would choose to be for a day, hiring managers like to force you off the traditional path to see how you think and what that reveals about you. Don’t let these intentionally weird interview questions trip you up.
Monster asked almost 150 recruiters to tell us some of the most unusual questions they’ve asked job candidates, and why. The questions can be grouped into four main categories:
- Hypothetical situations
- Preferences and opinions
- Morality tests
Let’s take a closer look at these categories and some examples of interview questions.
1. Hypothetical situations
This is the most popular category under which the weird interview questions fall. Recruiters ask candidates to pretend they’re in a certain situation or to imagine themselves as someone or something else. Many questions involve getting to know a historical person:
- “What president would you like to have dinner with and why?”
- “Who would you love to have dinner with, alive or dead?”
- “If you could spend a day with anyone in the world, alive or dead, who would it be, what would you talk about, and why this person?”
These kinds of questions are meant to test your creative thinking. One recruiter said he was looking for “creativity, depth of response, and knowledge of history.” Another wanted to see “how unusual, different, unique the candidate is and how they handle an unusual situation.”
Certain hypothetical interview questions are more complex so as to assess your problem-solving skills. The answer is less important than the logic you use to arrive at your answer. For example:
- “Imagine you got lost in a country where no one spoke your language and there was no internet, what would you do to get home?”
The interviewer wants to see that you are able to keep a cool head and come up with a plan of action on the spot.
The final type of hypothetical question is one that wants you to imagine yourself as another person or inanimate object. Some examples:
- If you could be any famous person in the world, who will you be and why?
- If you were a part on a bicycle, what would it be and why?
- If you were to pick an animal, what animal best describes your professional personality?
Obviously, there are no right answers to hypothetical questions. The interviewer is keen to see how quickly you can respond and provide justification for your answers. Interviewers also use these kinds of questions as a way to get you to relax a little and show off a bit of your personality. This is why it’s important to back up your answers with some substantial reasons.
2. Preferences and opinions
Like hypotheticals, questions that ask you to choose between two options or give your opinion are meant to lighten the atmosphere and let your personality shine through. Such questions are often a good indication of whether or not you’d be a good cultural fit. For example:
- “What is better, a cat or a dog?”
- “What do you think of garden gnomes?”
- “Where do you like to eat?”
- “What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?”
Again, there’s no right answer to any of these questions. Your explanation is what’s of particular interest to hiring managers. Do you seize up at these questions, or can you relax a bit and engage the interviewer with a short, entertaining story to justify your answer?
3. Morality tests
Granted, an interviewer can't ask you about your religious beliefs (that falls under the category of illegal interview questions), but your personal values are a good indicator of whether or not a job will be a good fit for you. Naturally, interviewers are going to want to see how you deal with questions that are intended to go against the grain. For example:
- “What would be the one crime you would commit if you knew for certain you could get away with it? And if you did so, would your own conscience get to you since the judicial system didn’t?”
- “What’s your worst sin of the seven deadly sins?”
Recruiters use these questions to determine your character. They’re not hoping for a particular answer but they do want the question to be answered sufficiently. One recruiter said they ask questions like this “to see how [the candidate] reacts to the question, how honest they are, and how polished the answer is.”
The final category of weird interview questions focuses on travel, both where you’ve been and where you’d like to be. For example:
- “What’s the most unusual, unique, crazy, or weird place you have ever visited?”
- “What is the rare once-in-a-lifetime vacation you have taken or want to take?”
As with previous questions, recruiters are hoping your answer will help them to assess cultural fit, as well as your ability to think quickly. Again, they’re more concerned with the quality of your answer over one particular answer.
The right answers
Job interviews are stressful on their own, without the wacky questions being thrown into the mix, but they present excellent opportunities to let your personality take center stage. While you certainly want to talk about your talent and capabilities, if you’re not going to mesh with the personalities of the people in the company, chances are the job will be a bust. The key is planning your answers ahead of time so you don’t choke on the spot. Could you use some help with that? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can get interview insights, career advice, and job search tips sent directly to your inbox. From why you want to work at the company to describing your personality to why you want to be a professional deep-sea diver for a day, Monster can show you how to craft strong answers and back them up.