Whether you’re an entry-level industry applicant, a prospective part-time worker or an established employee switching companies, interviews are always unpredictable. They can get pretty strange, too.
Sometimes, these weird interview questions don’t seem to be related to a job position at all. Initially, at least. Reports like the one hosted over at Inc.com offer some insight into these oddball interview inclusions. By and large, hiring managers want two things—generally, at least.
They want an employee who meets, or surpasses, the technical qualifications.
They also want an employee who’ll be an efficient, innovative and dedicated team member.
Let’s face it: The first quality can be pretty clear-cut. Years of experience, formal education and a track record for stat-based success is pretty easy to relay in a resume. As for Quality Number Two? Not so much. Today’s hiring managers and recruiters are coming up with unconventional interview questions all the time. And job applicants, more often than not, simply can’t keep up with the newest curveballs thrown their way.
Even though it can be tough to learn the newest interview methodologies, it can be worthwhile to know the newest directions hiring managers are taking. In every industry, businesses of all sizes need to adapt to changes. Even though creating new job requirements can help, a lot of these changes require more nuanced approaches. No business leader can fully predict the future—so their newest requirements, sometimes, seek out different types of people. Things like adaptability, creativity and a penitent for seeking out new solutions hold more value than ever.
These things considered, maybe weird interview questions aren’t so weird after all.
But they can still sound odd.
Related Article: Compelling Interview Presentation Topics to Showcase Your Skills
Weird Interview Questions to Prep For
In most cases, wayward interview topics can’t be planned for. Even so, knowing the types of interview questions today’s hiring managers ask can help. You might be blindsided in the middle of your interview—but how you handle the situation, likely, is what’ll matter the most.
See, weird interview questions are designed to make a candidate think on their feet. If an answer sounds rehearsed, it’ll flop regardless of what it is. If it’s rehearsed but sounds like it’s off the cuff, it’ll still flop in the long run: Memorizing common, effective interview questions, normally, isn’t enough. What’ll happen when a hiring manager continues such a line of questioning? Eventually, your candidacy will need to stand on its own feet.
On the flipside, internalizing the importance of your answers—and of the position you’re pursuing—can make all the difference. So don’t overthink it—and expect the interview questions to get a little weird. Just follow the interviewer’s lead, and loosen up.
And check out these weird interview questions in particular. They’ll shed some light on what hiring managers are looking for:
Weird Question One: “How Do You Like Your Eggs?”
Let’s start out with breakfast. This question has popped up in recent interviews, and several HR experts have jumped into the way it’s cooked. One such HR expert—the founder of JVP Legacy, Joy Pittman—has stated it’s all about honesty. “We show up to business the way we show up in life,” Pittman explained, further discussing the importance of those who’re “intentional about who they are.” Similar to her take on the question, other industry leaders have suggested that the following answer, oddly, is one of the best:
“I don’t know.”
Honesty is the best policy, when it comes to interviews. Through this lens, pointing out one’s unfamiliarity with this line of interview questioning is, all in all, a good thing. It shows that one would rather be honest in their answer, rather than crunch on ways to solve a puzzle. Strangely, even taking the time to ponder whether it’s a puzzle to begin with, here, may be a no-go route as well. It’s okay if you do, of course, as this is a common response. Still, there’s something to keep in mind if you do encounter it.
The question, in most scenarios, will almost always be irrelevant to a current interview. More or less: It’s so strange that it can help identify a candidate’s openness—as it’ll likely cause some confusion off the bat. Fortunately, it probably won’t be held against you if you do consider it to be a brain teaser. If your hiring manager does bring up the question, you’re probably already on their good side:
If you weren’t, they’d probably avoid asking in the first place. It’s awkward for them, too.
Weird Question Two: “What’s Your Spirit Animal?”
This one is probably asked lightheartedly, but it’s a pretty clever question. “What’s your spirit animal?” opens the floor to talk about your strengths. More importantly, it does this in a positive, conversational way. Interviews can feel a little forced, at times, especially if we get nervous. And, as most of us know, questions about our personal strengths, weaknesses, aspirations and fears will totally pop up, eventually.
What’s cool about this question, even if it’s strange, is that it opens the floor for something else:
A number of professional career planners have weighed in on this one. Their advice is this:
Taking the time to ponder, on this question, won’t seem like you’re attempting to game the interview system. The question implies its meaning, upfront, and your hiring manager will probably view any contemplation in a positive way. So, asked again: What spirit animal are you?
You can turn this question around, if need be, by directly explaining your strengths. Sure, they’ll be framed in metaphors about dogs, cats, starfish and kangaroos, but it’s the thought that counts. Plus, you’ll score extra points for displaying a knack for out-of-the-box thinking. If your spirit animal happens to be a dog, for example, there are a few routes you can take. Is it because you’re loyal? Or is it because of your fondness of others? Perhaps it’s your ability to sniff out solutions, even when the odds are against you.
If you’re stumped about your spirit animal, or even a little about yourself, don’t worry too much. Similar to the egg question, your interviewer probably knows you’ll be caught a little off guard. So just take your time, have fun with it, and think out loud if need be. Weird interview questions can have weird answers—and none of these answers is a wrong one.
Weird Question Three: “Pick Your Favorite Number Between 20 and 100…”
If egg preferences weren’t random enough, this one certainly is. For a question with such objective answers, it’s tough to see any reasoning behind it. Unlike the egg question, the “pick a number” question doesn’t even open the doors to deeper thought. It’s pretty pointless, all in all.
Before the full question is asked, that is.
Surprise! Let’s say you’ve picked the number 55. After doing so, you’re suddenly barraged with more questions. This interview approach is becoming somewhat popular, as well-established HR managers have grown fond of the extra questions, themselves. Several such industry leaders even refer to the “sheer terror” of surprised interviewees as, well, the perfect snapshot of a small crisis.
See, the following questions aren’t random. They follow a pretty specific formula. Here’s the most common one, if you’d happened to pick the number 55:
- “Quick! You have 55 seconds create a plan to cross the Atlantic Ocean. What is it?”
- “You also have 55 hours to cross it. What do you do? ”
- “Upon arrival, you only have $55 in your pocket. How do you spend it?”
Yikes. Talk about a sudden change-up—as each question directly relates to important career qualities. As we’ve seen above, though, there’s always a lot of leeway when answering odd questions. Even though this question seems to get very serious, very quickly, try to keep that thought in mind. Your interviewee probably knows they’ve scared you, a little bit, and probably won’t mind a ridiculous response. As one might guess, this strange question has a pretty clear-cut intention:
To see your gut response to surprises—especially when decisions need to be made quickly.
Weird Question Four: “How Weird are You?”
Some interviews go straight to The Twilight Zone, calling out the weirdness of interviews in general. And then the inevitable happens: You’re asked how weird you are.
At first glance, this might seem like a twist on the numbers question. Oddly enough, however, it’s a lot more sincere than that. A good few impactful HR decision-makers, across every industry, have taken a liking to this question. And the question, itself, isn’t exactly about contemplating paradoxes.
It’s all about business culture.
HR managers have noticed something in recent years: Job candidates are focusing more on skills, rather than day-to-day employee experiences. This interview question is a little rarer, as not every business considers internal culture to be a vital priority. If asked about your weirdness, though, your interviewer is likely searching for authenticity. As we’ve seen, this quality is sought out a lot, these days. By answering honestly, an interviewee can show their openness with others. It takes some effort to admit that we’re weird, sometimes—especially when asked by someone we don’t know. And especially if this person is professionally linked to us.
What would your answer be?
Weird Question Five: “What Do You Think About Garden Gnomes?”
This question was famously implemented by Trader Joe’s during the hiring process. One could make a number of guesses about what the question is really asking—but the answer is pretty simple.
It’s a conversation starter. That’s all.
For the number of weird-yet-insightful interview questions out there, this is one of the few that, really, doesn’t have a point. Or, rather, it doesn’t serve much of a purpose beyond creating a comfortable environment. It’s said that the garden gnome question can also reveal how thoughtful of a thinker a candidate might be. Based upon their answer, or lack thereof, hiring managers can also gauge a candidate’s openness to weirdness in general.
In some cases, suggest the communications specialists at Glassdoor.com, the question has yet another purpose: It can explore the ways a person relays a personal opinion. Garden gnomes are a good topic for this, as a candidate’s answer can’t really be swayed by pre-existing inclinations to impress anyone. It’s pretty tough, if not impossible, to explain why garden gnomes reflect your industry prowess, after all.
If you do get the garden gnome question, just know that it’s a good sign. Your interviewer just wants to create a comfortable, open environment. It’s good to remember, too, that businesses want to impress potential candidates, too. So, sometimes, a garden gnome or two can make potential hires feel more welcome in their environment.
Sometimes, the Best Approach Is an Unplanned One
Never forget: Your hiring manager in question knows that these questions are odd. They won’t mind a little diversion into other topics, as long as they’re related. So stay open-minded, as you can use this unpredictability to your own advantage.
Focus your efforts into explaining your strengths, currently, as a passionate worker. Accomplishments, career goals and approaches to professional challenges, at the end of the day, should always be a target to aim for. So when the going gets weird, just remember that a little weirdness, in your response, isn’t such a bad thing.
Qualified candidates with unique takes on their career, and on life in general, tend to be the most valued.