These oddball questions are a challenge to answer since they're so unexpected. That's intentional on the interviewer's part.
Get insight into why interviewers might pose unexpected and odd questions, along with strategies to help you respond.
What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know
What prompts an interviewer to ask a bizarre question? There are a few factors at play.
For one thing, interviewers know that you're likely prepared for the interview, practicing responses to common interview questions alone (and potentially even with friends).
Interviewers want to see how you handle a question where you don't have a rehearsed answer.
By asking something weird—say, "Cats or dogs?" or "What's your go-to karaoke song and why?"—interviewers will catch you off guard, which can provide an opportunity to see how you perform under stress. Your response will also offer a peek at your thought process.
These questions are typically designed not to have a right or wrong answer. Weird interview questions are designed to be unexpected and not fit the mold of typical interview questions. But they do typically fall into a few different categories, such as:
- This or that: Some questions will ask you to choose between two things (for example, cats and dogs, pen or pencil, blue or yellow). Interviewers will get a peek into your preferences, character, and thought patterns with your responses.
- Imagine that...: These questions pose a scenario, and then ask you "What's next?" or "How would you handle it?" The scenarios are, of course, wacky. Your answer can reveal your personality as well as problem-solving skills.
- Logic stumpers: These brain teasers will reveal your thought process and logic-related skills. Interviewers may ask, "How many pennies exist in the world?" or "How much should you charge to shovel in Denver?"
- Moral quandaries: These questions will reveal your ethics. For instance, an interviewer might ask, "Would you commit X crime if no one would know?" or "What would you do if your boss asked you to lie?" While there's typically no "wrong" answer, tread a bit carefully here, since you could easily get caught up and propose something illegal or inappropriate.
How to Answer Wacky Interview Questions
You'll likely know when you get a weird interview question. You may feel a bit taken aback or even irritated.
Aim to answer at face value. It may help to think aloud a bit. That is, if someone says, "Pick a color, red or blue," or "Who's your favorite superhero?" you'll want to do more than say "Blue" or "Spiderman" in response. Talk about why you gravitate to the color or superhero.
With logic-based questions, keep in mind that it's more important that your logic is more reasonable than accurate.
Examples of Weird Interview Questions
Take a look at some strange interview questions:
- How many basketballs can fit on a bus?
- What two things, aside from food and water, would you want on a deserted island?
- How many pizzas are ordered every night in the United States?
- What would you do if you won the lottery?
- Blue or green?
- Which super power would you rather have: the ability to unlock every door or the ability to shift your shape?
- If you could rob a bank without anyone knowing, would you do it?
- How would you describe opera to someone who is deaf?
- Who's your favorite superhero?
- Where do you want to go for your next vacation?
Tips for Responding to Weird Interview Questions
If you are asked an interview question that seems bizarre, don’t panic. Below is a list of tips on how to handle a weird interview question.
- Stay Calm. If you are asked a question that stumps you, first take a deep breath. Maintain good posture, and look the interviewer in the eye. You want to appear calm and confident, even if you don’t feel that way.
- Buy Some Time. If you draw a blank, know that it is OK to take a little pause before answering. You can also buy some time with a comment such as, “that is a very interesting question; let me think about that for a moment.”
- Ask Questions. Most odd interview questions are intended to assess your critical thinking skills. Quite often, there is no “right” answer. Explaining your reasoning out loud as you respond to the question will demonstrate your thought process, even if you struggle to arrive at the answer. If you are at all confused, ask clarifying questions.
- Think about the Job. Remember that interview questions are designed to determine whether or not you have the skills required for the job. As you answer a question, think about answering in such a way that demonstrates a skill or quality you have that qualifies you for the job. For example, if the interviewer asks what color best represents you, you might say, “blue, because it is a calming color, and I am good at staying calm under pressure.”
- Follow-Up. If you could not answer the question by the end of the interview, include a response to the question in your thank you letter.
What Not to Say
- Avoid answering: You don't have to have a good plan when interviewers ask, "How would you get to China without any money?" but you need some kind of response. Saying, "I have no idea" is less effective than saying, "I'd reach out to all of my friends and borrow money to buy a plane ticket."
- Don't go too far: These questions are wacky, yes, but keep in mind interviewers may be using them to suss out your character and values. So, be true to yourself in responding, but skirt away from responses that imply you'd engage in unethical or illegal behavior.
- Don't take it too seriously: Give a real response, and take the question seriously. But don't forget to have a bit of fun with it, too. Remember, the interviewer is well aware that this question is unexpected and hard to respond to.
- Interviewers want to see unrehearsed responses. By posing unexpected questions, interviewers hope to see your thought process and personality.
- Talk it through. Unlike other interview questions, you won't have a polished answer in place for these unexpected questions, so don't be afraid to stumble through your thought process, even if it means giving a response that's less articulate than usual.
- Don't get flustered. Do your best to avoid seeming totally taken aback or annoyed by weird questions—instead, aim to have fun with it as best as you can!