When job seekers go for interviews, there are certain kinds of questions they typically expect. In most cases, interview questions tend to rotate around a person’s background (educational and professional), strengths and weaknesses, or technical knowledge/skills relevant to the job.
Whatever the case, the questions are often related to the job for which they are being interviewed – either directly or indirectly. However, there are certain cases in when interviewers ask questions which seem totally unrelated to the job. Such questions range from the weird to the downright hilarious.
In fact, some questions are so strange that most interviewees would be forgiven to think they are some cruel joke. To the interviewers, such questions are no joke. Most are designed to test an interviewee’s logical reasoning or problem solving ability. Others are intended to provide an insight into an interviewer’s personality.
Here are 10 of the strangest interview questions ever asked. There is a brief explanation of what the interviewers may ask some of them. For good measure, some have a few strange responses from interviewees.
“Have you ever stolen a pen from work?” This was asked to a candidate who was being interviewed to be a software architect.
Now, the relevance of this question can be looked at from two perspectives. On the one hand, it can seem like a test of the interviewee’s honesty. Not many people would admit to stealing anything during a job interview.
On the other hand, it seems a test of common sense. The idea of “stealing” implies two things: first, that it was illegal to take pens from the workplace. Secondly, that you knowingly took a pen with the intention of stealing it.
If you took a pen absent-mindedly (which can happen to anyone), then it wouldn’t count as stealing. If you took a pen (e.g. from someone’s desk) with the intention of returning it, but then forgot, it wouldn’t count as stealing.
So, the best way to answer this question is honestly. If, however, you admit to having “stolen” a pen, you’d better have a great explanation for the mitigating circumstances. Otherwise, who in their right state of mind would steal a pen?
“How many piano tuners are in Chicago?”
This question is aimed at testing your problem-solving skills. It doesn’t require you to give the correct answer. The interviewer is more interested in the approach you would use to determine the number of piano tuners. So, you have to work them through the process you would take to solve the problem.
“Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO) offers you a million dollars so that you can launch your best entrepreneurial idea. What idea would that be?”
This question is aimed at gauging the candidate’s creative thinking. As such, a good approach is to provide an entrepreneurial idea (in case you have one).
However, there is another perspective of looking at this. First of all, what if you don’t have an entrepreneurial idea? After all, you are being interviewed for a job, not an entrepreneurial funding opportunity.
Secondly, even if you have an entrepreneurial idea, is it smart to give it away to a bunch of strangers on an interview panel? What if they take the idea and run with it?
One candidate who was asked this question responded to it this: “I do have my best entrepreneurial idea. But then, before sharing it with you, we would have to first sign an NDA (a Non-Disclosure Agreement). I would also demand a non-refundable $50,000 in my bank account. So, do you have a cheaper question?”
“What is your favorite song? Can you please perform it?”
This question seems aimed at getting the candidate to reveal a little about themselves. Whether or not you end up performing the song is entirely up to you. In certain cases, it may be possible to wiggle yourself out of it.
One candidate who faced similar questions gladly answered the first part. When she it came to the performance, here is what she told the interviewers:
“I have no problem performing the song. Am just concerned about your ears. Does your insurance policy cover hearing-loss from listening to terrible singing?”
“Which song would best describe your work ethic?”
Just like the “favorite song” question, this song is aimed at unearthing a bit of the candidate’s personality. However, for this one, the song you select must be reflect a positive work ethic. For instance, you could select a song like “All Star” by Smash Mouth, and say “In whatever I do, my goal is to be the best I can be i.e. an all star”.
The best option for such a question is to be honest. Not all of us are thoughtful enough to think of songs in terms of our work ethic. Most of us just listen to songs. So, if you don’t have any song, then say so.
However, you shouldn’t become like a candidate who when asked this question, replied: “Dazed and Confused” by Jake Miller.
“How many quarters are needed to reach the height of the Empire State Building?”
This question is aimed at judging a candidate’s problem-solving skills. It doesn’t require the candidate to necessarily know the precise answer. All you need is to demonstrate the ability to arrive at a workable answer.
The best way to answer this question is to describe how you would determine the number of quarters. For instance, point out that it would depend on whether the quarters are stacked on top of one another or balanced end-to-end. Then show how to estimate the number of quarters basing on how they are placed.
These are just a few of the strange interview questions which job seekers have faced in front of interview panels. Others are:
“Who would win a fight between Spiderman and Batman?” This was asked to a medical simulationist at a top university.
“Describe the color yellow to someone who’s blind” This was asked to a candidate being interviewed for a flight attendant position.
“What is the weirdest thing you have ever done?”
“What’s your favorite Disney princess?”
In a nutshell, those are ten of the strangest interview questions ever asked. If you ever face such questions, the first thing is to keep a straight face. Don’t smirk, laugh or make any indication that you don’t take the questions seriously. You can bet that the interviewer is most certainly serious. So, answer them the best you can.
The best way to prepare for such questions is through role play. Find someone who can ask you the weirdest questions out of the blue. Basically, prepare yourself to on the fly. Also, once you get into the interview room, try to be as relaxed as possible. Your brain is at its finest when you’re at ease.