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How To Handle Curveball Interview Questions

How To Handle Curveball Interview Questions


What’s the one piece of advice given over and over to interviewees? Prepare. Research the company, research the role, take time to analyze what’s going to be required of you, and take time to assess your own abilities.

That’s the advice that Direct Line Group Careers gives to its applicants on their insurance jobs site. So, what do you do when you take this sound advice, but mid-way through a promising interview situation you’re thrown a question that you couldn’t possibly have prepared for?

Tough interview questions are becoming more popular for interviewers to gauge how adept a candidate is at thinking on their feet. Without their prepared answers to fall back on, how an interviewee reacts to a question that seems utterly random can be revealing.

The good news? If you’re applying for a role that you have a lot of passion for, in an area where you’re naturally talented or well-practiced (without necessarily having direct working experience), these questions are a great way to show off your abilities. The bad news? There’s not much you can do to practice for a question that’s deliberately obscure. But that’s not to say it’s completely impossible—after all, the purpose of any interview is to see how good a fit you are for the role and the company.

So, however wacky the question is, the recruiter will probably be hoping for you to consider the context in which it’s being asked when it comes to your answer. That means if you’ve researched the role you’re applying for and know what is going to be expected of you, chances are you’ll have a good idea of the type of logic and thought process they’re looking for when you make your reply.

Below are a few genuine curveball questions that have been asked in interview situations; while none of them have a necessarily right or wrong response, they’ll often fit into fields of purpose. One way to prepare for curveball interview questions is to get used to looking for what the intention is behind the weirdness!

Curveball Interview Questions

  • “Name five uses of a stapler without staples.”
  • “What do you think of garden gnomes?”

What they’re really asking:Are you creative? Can you see the bigger picture, or are you focused on the detail? Are you happy to improvise, and are you a good communicator?

  • “Given 20 light bulbs (which break at a certain height), and a building with 100 floors, how do you determine the height at which the bulb breaks?”
  • “Out of 25 horses, pick the fastest three horses. In each race, only five horses can run at the same time. What is the minimum number of races required?”

What they’re really asking: Are you logical? Do you have a good knowledge of probability and equations? Can you figure out an effective method for solving problems and assess its viability?

  • “How would you weigh an elephant?”
  • “If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out?”

What they’re really asking: How creative are you when it comes to problem-solving? Do you have an eye for important details? How do you improvise under pressure?

What Are All The Questions Really Asking?

Job candidate interviews for an open positionBigstock

They’re all challenges: challenges to normal interview structure, challenges to your ability to think on your feet, and logical challenges that reveal your thought process. Most importantly, don’t see a curveball question as an attempt to trip you up: see it as an opportunity to show that you relish a challenge.

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This article was originally published at an earlier date.

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