When you walk into an interview to meet your prospective employer for the first time, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Usually as long as you brought everything you’ll need, gave yourself a pre-interview pep talk, and studied what not to say, you think that you’re pretty much good to go—but that’s not always the case! From time to time, interviewers will ask you a question so outlandish that it renders you speechless. Here are a few examples of actual curveball questions that a prospective employer might throw your way, and some answers to knock their pitches right out of the park!
“If you were a fruit, what fruit would you be?”
Employers use this question as a personality test. When Penn State student Zach Berger was asked what kind of fruit he would be in an interview, he answered that he would be a banana. “Hard exterior, softie on the inside,” he explained. His answer was perfect because it showed employers that there was more to him than what met the eye upon their first interaction.
“If you were managing a social media account for monster trucks, what would your strategy be?”
This kind of wild card question is thrown into the mix to see whether interviewees are able to think on their feet. When she heard this question at an interview for a position as a consultant, recent Penn State graduate Ally Greer knew exactly what to say.
“It’s likely as a consultant to be working with things you’re not familiar with, so I just said that the first priority after taking on a new account is to learn as much as you can,” said Greer. “I said I’d throw myself into that community, read blogs, join groups, et cetera. I wouldn’t only learn about it by reading articles, but by reading the comments. Even if monster trucks aren’t my interest, they obviously interest a lot of other people, so there’s certainly going to be a community for me to throw myself into, even if it means doing things I personally might not do!” Her answer conveys to employers that she is flexible and adaptable, two qualities that interviewers are always interested in finding.
“How many McDonald’s restaurants are there in the United States?”
A question like this displays how you think about solving a large problem. At the time of her interview, recent Penn State graduate Melanie Versaw had no idea what answer to give. Her mind went entirely blank, and she told the interviewer bluntly that she had no idea, though she knew he’d misjudge the level of her analytical skills because of it. Now she understands her mistake. “It was a question about estimations verses actual calculations,” Melanie said, “and sometimes you can do both! I just focused too much on the actual calculations.”
Questions like this will usually be asked in jobs that require intense mathematical and logical skills, so the employer is more interested in the process you use to get to the answer than the answer itself. Take your time and verbally walk them through the steps you go through mentally to come to your final response so that they can see how your mind works to solve problems (for example, you might say “I think there are about X many McDonald’s in every major city, there are X major cities in the country, and then if each state has an additional X McDonald’s in non-major cities, based on that…”)! (Also, in case you were curious, there are 12,804 McDonald’s restaurants in America!)
“If you were a Microsoft Office program, which would you be?”
Your answer to this question demonstrates your familiarity with Microsoft Office as well as “the three C’s: confidence, capabilities, and creativity,” as Penn State student Jordan Kelley puts it. When asked this question in an interview, Jordan answered that he would like to be PowerPoint because he thinks he is talented at relaying information to others in a concise and appealing format. “I could have said Excel because I’m excellent, but I didn’t want to score unreasonably high on that first of the three C’s!” Jordan joked. “Plus, I’m not sure how soon I’m allowed to bring puns into the workplace.”
“If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?”
This question will help a prospective employer figure out your personality, since they don’t get to spend much time with you. “I probably could have said something like a lion or a bear, since they’re supposed to show that you’re strong and confident and all of that,” said Kait Polchock, a Penn State colleigette. “But I went with a giraffe because even though they’re not crazy intimidating or too forceful, they still tower above all of the rest. It’s all about the image that you put into their minds, and making sure that tells them how they should picture you, too.”
The most important thing to remember when an interviewer throws a curveball question your way is not to blurt out the very first thing that comes to mind. “It’s okay to take a second and think before answering!” Ally emphasizes. Employers only ask these crazy things as an attempt to figure out what kind of person you are, so pause for a moment to make sure that your answers reflect the real you!
What’s the craziest interview question you’ve had to field, collegiettes?