Last week we talked about difficult maths problems in interviews – the kinds of questions that Google asks in interviews and always appear on ‘toughest interview questions’ listicles. Those aren’t the only awkward questions employers use to throw candidates a curve ball. Interviewers also use hypothetical questions like ‘what song best describes your work ethic?’ to get you thinking on your feet.
Unlike the maths problems in part one, questions like, ‘If you were a superhero, what would your power be?’ or ‘What items would you choose during a Zombie Apocalypse?’ are all about how you answer creatively, not critically. Let’s break down how you go about answering them.
Don’t agonise over the answer
These kinds of questions are rarely the key to interview success – very few employers think ‘she’s got all the right skills but she doesn’t know how to kill a zombie.’ The interviewer may be trying to lighten the mood in the interview or open up the conversation – ten minutes of deep breaths and second guessing isn’t really what they want.
Take a second to think and, if you need to, work through the answer verbally. This is all about understanding how you think and your ability to communicate your ideas under pressure so don’t be afraid to think out loud. Just like a maths problem, walk through the logic of the scenario and adapt it to fit your personality or the skills you have that you want the interviewer to see.
Be funny, not cheesy
Have fun with these questions, an interviewer who asks about super powers or music is likely to be seeking a little entertainment or creativity. If you can be clever or funny you will get a favourable response – if you can relate it back to your skills or the role it’s even better.
Don’t tell a marketing manager that your superpower would be ‘a super-human ability to drive brand engagement’. It’s boastful, cheesy, and not very creative. On the other hand, saying you would love to have telepathy because you would know exactly what your customers want, references the job in a more creative way.
Remember it’s still an interview
Be careful about being funny too, you need to consider your audience, and one person’s funny is another’s ‘not the right fit for this office’. Keep the jokes light and make sure you’re focusing on your skills or the role. The questions might be weird but this is still a job interview.
Every job interview is essentially a sales pitch, so think about what the interviewer is looking for and make sure that message is mixed in to your answer. Music that defines your work ethic is up-tempo and lively, super powers are positive and related to the kind of work you would be doing if you got the job. Our very own Paul Smith gave a great example of this when we asked him what kitchen appliance he would be.
Most importantly remember that these questions let you illustrate what you would bring to an employer outside of turning up to work every day and doing a good job. It’s a chance to show why you are the perfect fit for the role, the hiring manager, and the company; not because of what it says on your CV but because of who you are. That’s a huge opportunity – embrace it.
*This is part two of a two-part series on answering awkward interview questions, read part one here.