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How to Answer Curveball Interview Questions

How To Answer Curveball Interview Questions

April 22, 2019

Have you ever been sitting at a job interview when out of the blue the interviewer pops a question so strange that you wonder whether you heard them correctly? Or maybe you’ve heard that odd questions are sometimes asked during the interview process and the very idea churns your stomach.

Understanding why these questions are asked and how to answer them can help to prepare you and put you more at ease during your interview.

Why do interviewers ask curveball questions?

The idea isn’t to intimidate you. In almost all cases, the interviewer is simply attempting to get to know your real personality. They’re looking for an answer that’s from your heart.

Unexpected situations sometimes arise on the job that can take us by surprise.  By throwing an unexpected question your way, the interviewer is attempting to shock you so that they can gauge how you might react in a real-life curveball scenario.

What to do if you get a curveball interview question

If you encounter an odd question during your interview take a breath. It’s ok to pause and reflect briefly to gather your thoughts. Acknowledge the question by saying something along the lines of “That’s an interesting question, let me think about that for a moment.” Taking a moment to think can mean the difference between sailing through the interview and looking back on it later in despair!

The following are examples of two types of curveball interview questions and ways you could answer them:

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

There are many types of “what would you be” questions. Keep in mind that at this stage the interviewer is not trying to get to know you as a friend, but as a potential employee. Your answers should reflect the qualities you have that pertain to the job you’re applying for, so avoid answers that have no relevance to the job.

Reflecting on the qualities you possess that would be suitable for someone in the position you’re applying for should be part of your interview preparation. Base your answer on those qualities.

A tried-and-true answer to this question is the oak tree. It’s reputation for strength brings to mind someone who is strong enough not to cave under pressure. Other qualities are equally valued such as flexibility and productivity, so think of how a palm tree can withstand a hurricane or how a rubber tree produces a product that is versatile and useful.

When answering “what would you be” questions, there are some answers that may get your point across but have negative connotations connected with them. What is the common opinion? Some trees are considered nuisances, cottonwoods and crab apples for example. A weeping willow is also flexible, and while it may sound poetic to you it could sound miserable to someone else. A tree might be a favorite of yours, but it’s more important to take the opportunity to show off those all-important qualities.

The same principles apply to whatever object the interviewer might be asking about.

How many basketballs can you fit in a limousine?

Brain teasers are intended to allow you to demonstrate your problem-solving abilities. Several forms of this question exist:

  • How would you move a mountain 1 foot to the right?
  • What would you do if you found a penguin in the freezer?

The goal here isn’t to give the correct answer, it’s to give the interviewer insight into your thought process and reasoning ability.  Begin by thinking the answer through out loud, let the interviewer hear your thoughts. There is no shame in asking for a pen and paper, it shows you’re resourceful.

Answer the question with something like this, “If a basketball takes up approximately one cubic foot of space, I’d have my answer by finding out the average cubic feet that are inside of a limousine.”

If the question is fill up the limousine with smaller objects then your answer could be, “I could take a one cubic foot box and fill it up and then multiply that number by the average cubic feet of space in a limousine.”

Are there right and wrong answers to curveball questions?

When it comes to curveball questions remember that it’s not the answer that matters. The reasons you give for your answer and your ability to remain calm under unusual circumstances are what are being evaluated.

While you may not be asked these exact questions, these strategies should help you through. We wish you the best with your interview!