Sometimes, you’re in a job interview and out of left field comes a question so bizarre that you have no idea how it could possibly apply to this job. Why do interviewers ask oddball interview questions? Almost always, it’s because they are trying to get at your true personality. They’re trying to surprise you into an answer that comes straight from the heart, because you haven’t (and couldn’t have) prepared or practiced for it.
If you get asked an oddball question, remember that it’s OK for you to stop and think a moment about your answer (not too long, but a moment). Don’t pop off with something that could end up hurting your chances at the job.
Here are three oddball interview questions with some ideas for how to answer them:
If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
Here is the Most Important Rule about any ‘what would you be’ question: Always choose QUALITIES about the thing (whatever it is) that apply to you and your fit for this job. Do not answer it by naming things that you like about it (i.e. “I would be an apple tree because apples are my favorite fruit.”)
It’s always a good idea, as part of your interview prep, to think about what qualities you have that would be good for someone in this job. If you’ve done that, it may be easier than you think to come up with an answer to a personality question like this on the fly.
What trees are ‘good’ trees? The oak tree is a tried-and-true answer—it’s strong and doesn’t bend in the wind (otherwise known as pressure from others). On the other hand, a palm tree could be a great answer because it’s so flexible it can stand up to hurricanes. If ‘productive’ is an adjective that applies to you, you could choose a fruit tree or a sugar maple tree (it produces maple syrup).
Trees NOT to choose: Cottonwood trees tend to be a nuisance because they release a lot of floating ‘cotton’ structures that carry seeds, so that may not be a wise choice. Neither is a sad, weak Weeping Willow. (I personally love both of those trees, but remember—it’s not the tree, it’s the quality the tree represents.)
If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
Always keep cultural perceptions in mind when you answer this question. For instance, some people think of cats as independent, but others see them as lazy and standoffish.
Animals with better PR are usually ones like:
- Horses (strong, smart, and able to work alone or on a team)
- Eagles (soar above other birds, able to see the big picture)
- Elephants (strong, intelligent, loyal, unstoppable)
- Monkeys (quick learners, agile, help others)
How many basketballs could you fit into a limousine?
This is more of a brainteaser question, designed to get you to demonstrate how you think and solve problems. This kind of question takes many forms:
- How would you move a mountain 1 foot over?
- What would you do if an airplane landed in our parking lot?
Whatever the question is, here’s what to do:
Start thinking through the answer out loud. They want to see how you think. Reason it out. Use a pen and paper to solve it if you need to (a productive person uses the resources necessary to solve a problem).
Say something like, “Well, a basketball is about one cubic foot, so I would find out the average cubic feet of the inside of a limousine and I’d have my answer.”
If they’d filled the limousine with marbles or tennis balls or jelly beans, you could say, “I could get a one foot cube, fill it with jelly beans, count those, and multiply that by the average cubic feet of a limousine.”
You don’t have to arrive at an exact right answer to deliver a good answer (I bet they don’t know how many basketballs you could fit into a limousine, either).
Remember, you may not get asked these exact questions. The goal is to help you think about how to think about these kinds of questions so that you know what to do if you are surprised by one in the interview.
Get the best answers to 101 job interview questions and crush your interview!
Best of luck.
About the author
Career Coach – Peggy McKee is an expert resource and a dedicated advocate for job seekers. Known as the Sales Recruiter from Career Confidential, her years of experience as a nationally-known recruiter for sales and marketing jobs give her a unique perspective and advantage in developing the tools and strategies that help job seekers stand head and shoulders above the competition. Peggy has been named #1 on the list of the Top 25 Most Influential Online Recruiters by HR Examiner, and has been quoted in articles from CNN, CAP TODAY, Yahoo! HotJobs, and the Denver Examiner.
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