What’s the best way to respond to an offbeat job interview question? Relax, have some fun with the experience, and try to come up with a creative answer.
These days, it’s tough enough to research everything there is to know about a company before you go to a job interview, then practice all your responses to the multitude of standard behavioral questions you may be asked.
Now, it seems you have to learn one thing more – how to answer a series of off-the-wall questions that have nothing to do with the actual job itself. Here is a short list of some of the strange questions Interviewers sometimes ask job candidates.
- What color is your brain?
- How would you get an elephant into a refrigerator?
- If you could be any kitchen utensil which one would you be and why?
- If you could eliminate one state in the United States which one would it be and why?
- If you could be any superhero which one would you be & which superpowers would you like to possess and why?
- If you were in a dark room that contained 19 gray socks, and 25 black socks, how would you select a matching pair of socks?
Perspective employers sometimes ask zany questions to see how well you can think on your feet; they want to see if you get rattled easily, test your creativity/sense of humor, or just challenge you, says Ph.D., Katharine Hansen in her article Don’t Get Stumped by Off-the-Wall Job Interview Questions. To read her entire article, visit www.quintcareers.com/wild_card_interview_questions.html.
Employers who ask weird questions may feel they actually relate to job performance in some way, Hansen says. Asking a goofy question may create some stress for you; as a result, the Interviewer may be testing you to see how well you’d respond to stress in the workplace, says Hansen.
It’s almost impossible to prepare for such off-the-wall questions because the Interviewer can make up virtually any question about any subject, the article continued. “The key is not to let an off-the-wall question rattle you,” says Hansen.
“You don’t have to brilliant; you don’t have to be witty. Just be yourself. Give an honest response. If worse comes to worst, and you absolutely cannot think of an answer, ask if you can come back to that question later. You may lose a few thinking-on-your-feet points, but you will gain points for handling a difficult situation with poise,” Hansen says.
And remember not to become antagonistic with an Interviewer over wild card questions. That kind of response just makes you seem combative and could potentially hurt your chances of getting a call back for a second interview.
It can be a real strain on your brain to try to come with answers to odd questions. So, if you have trouble coming up with your own answers to the aforementioned zany questions here are a few examples you can use, if you like.
The elephant-in-the-refrigerator question
Some respond to this question by assuming both the elephant and the refrigerator are their usual sizes. With that in mind, I asked a few friends to try to answer this question. Here’s what they came up with:
- take a picture of an elephant and put the photo inside the refrigerator
- cut the elephant into small pieces and put the pieces in the refrigerator (yuck!)
- place the elephant’s trunk inside the refrigerator since the Interviewer didn’t specify that the entire elephant had to fit inside the fridge
- put a bowl of peanuts inside the refrigerator, open the door, and the elephant will stick its trunk inside to get to the peanuts
- bring the elephant to your house, put a sign on your garage that says “refrigerator,” open the garage door and lead the elephant inside the “refrigerator”
- since the Interviewer never mentions whether the elephant is real, or how large the refrigerator is, there is not enough information to answer the question
- the elephant may be just a small plastic toy, stuffed animal, or paper cutout, so, all you have to do is pick it up, open the refrigerator, and place it inside
The finding-a-matching- pair-of-socks-in-a-dark-room question
This is a trick question, according to Top 25 Oddball Interview Questions of 2011, a Glassdoor.com article. To read the entire article, go to www.glassdoor.com/blog/top-25-oddball-interview-questions-2011.
If you examine this question closely, you’ll notice it doesn’t actually say you cannot turn on the light while you are in the dark room. So, the answer might be to simply turn on the light and find a matching pair of socks.
If you were a Mathematician, you could come up with a simple formula to resolve this problem, such as, grabbing any three socks, move to a well-lit room, and at least two of the socks would match, according to one comment about the article. After all, the question does not indicate that you have to stay in the dark room, either.
A third answer to this question is to tell the Interviewer you would take the Android Smartphone out of your front pocket (or purse) and turn on its flashlight app to find a matching pair of socks.
The what-color-is-your-brain question
Whatever answer you provide, it doesn’t matter as long as you attempt to respond in some way other than telling the Interviewer that you don’t have the first darned clue.
You might respond by saying “As long as I’m alive, my brain will be a lovely pinkish-color, with mauve overtones.” (I Googled some images of living human brains and that’s what they all looked like to me.)
The superhero/superpower question
Here are some answers I came up with:
- I’d like to be Superman because capes never seem to go out of style. As to the superpower, I’d like to fly all around the world. I could go anywhere I want, whenever I want. Think of the extra time I’d have; I wouldn’t have to waste it hanging around an airport. More importantly, think of all the money I’d save on airline tickets!
- I’d like to be The Hulk because I like his green, shredded outfit. The superpower I’d want to have is super strength. It would be great to be able to lift my car over my head next time I get my oil changed. Think of the looks I’d get from my mechanic …
- I’d like to be Batman because I wear a lot of black anyway. Unfortunately, Batman is one of the few superheroes who does not have superpowers. But he does use many cool technological gadgets to fight crime. I would like a chance to use those gadgets and maybe drive the Batmobile around once-in-a-while.
The eliminate-the-state-of-your-choice question
More responses from my friends:
- I’d get rid of Florida because it already has “rid” in its name.
- I’d eliminate California to force moviemakers to make their films in other states, thereby creating a lot more jobs across America.
- I’d eliminate Rhode Island. It’s a small state, who’d miss it?
The kitchen utensil question
Make sure you really understand this question before you answer it. Some people neglect to pay attention to the actual question. Instead, they provide answers about being a toaster or some other kitchen appliance when the real question is about a kitchen utensil. Perhaps that’s another thing the Interviewer is trying to determine – how well you pay attention to details.
Here are a few responses I came up with:
- I’m consider myself a real cut-up, so I’d be a knife
- I’d be a spatula, it would give me an excuse to do lots of flipping
- I’d be a whisk because sometimes I like to mix things up a bit
- I’d be a wooden spoon because I’m sturdy. I know my owner would keep me tucked away in a drawer for a long time and never throw me away like my half-melted, plastic brethren.
One more piece of advice about how to handle absurd interview questions: always bring a notebook and pen along with you to every interview. That way you can write down any lengthy questions that may seem confusing. Writing the question down may also buy you a little extra time to come up with a good answer and you’ll impress the Interviewer by showing that you came prepared.