Unusual Interview Questions and How to Answer Them: Part I

Published: Feb 21, 2024

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During a job interview, it’s important to stay on your toes. In this two-part series, we’re going to go over some interesting, quirky, and truly perplexing interview questions. Keep in mind that these are just examples, and questions like these can appear in many forms. The key here is learning to think differently, and how to react on the fly without getting tripped up. Mixing questions like these into your practice interviews will enhance your mental agility, and before you know it, you’ll be interviewing like a pro.

"What are your values?"        

This is a fairly common question that’s intended to gauge whether you’re a good fit for the company’s culture. Along with this, the interviewer might be trying to determine your level of commitment, and whether or not you’re in it for the long haul. If the job you’re applying for is a leadership role, this question can also reveal a lot about your leadership style and your ability to influence others.

When applying for a job, take note of the company’s mission and values. Do they align with your own? It’s important to be honest with yourself when it comes to your values. If you’re trying to force yourself to align with a company’s values, the interviewer will detect this deception right away, and there’s a good chance you won’t be selected for the job.

“Tell me about a time you were not successful and why.”

This question might trip you up if you’re not expecting it. Here, the interviewer wants to determine whether you’re able to overcome setbacks effectively, while also measuring your honesty, self-awareness, and ability to learn from mistakes. The best kinds of answers to this question include a positive outcome in which you demonstrated resilience and determination in learning from a situation where you weren’t successful.

When preparing for an interview familiarize yourself with speaking about your accomplishments, but make sure you pick an example or two of a time where something didn’t go quite as planned. If you’re caught off guard with no examples, the interviewer might see you as being dishonest or lacking in self-awareness. Remember, we all make mistakes—it’s how we learn from them that counts.

“What new skills have you learned in your job over the past six months and how have you recently applied them?"

On the surface, this question is all about your skills and how they can be applied to the role at hand, but it’s also a stealthy way for the interviewer to measure your ability to learn and retain new information, as well as your drive to expand and improve your knowledge and skillset. When answering this question, it’s important to mention skills that align with the job description, while also providing examples of times when you applied said skills.

A great way to keep track of your skills and examples of times when you successfully applied them is by keeping personal records. Life can get busy, and it’s very easy to forget past situations or take them for granted. By tracking your accomplishments, you’ll have the ability to perfectly recall specific examples that can be used to answer questions like this. If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of tracking your accomplishments at work, check out our previous blog.

"Thinking about a prior job, can you describe a time when you worked on a team you would define as particularly diverse? How did you approach the teamwork aspect?"

There are several layers to a question like this. For starters, the interviewer wants to determine whether you understand inclusivity in the workplace, and if you can appreciate the value of diverse perspectives. In addition to this, they’re measuring your ability to collaborate effectively, your adaptability, and your communication skills.

A question like this is a breeze if you use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method. Here, you would provide an example from your past experiences while mentioning any challenges you faced, along with your approach to working with your team and the result of your efforts. Throughout your career, take note of any particularly diverse, effective teams you work with, as this question might become more commonplace in the near future.

“How many bricks are on your college campus?”

Interviewers may ask this question to measure a candidate’s critical thinking and communication skills, attention to detail, and their ability to think creatively and analytically. Along with this, the interviewer wants to see if they can catch you off guard. Once again, there isn’t a “wrong or right” answer here, but questions like these can reveal a lot about how a person makes estimations based on the information available to them.

Picture the front of one of the buildings on campus—how many bricks do you think there are? How many other buildings are there, and do they vary greatly in size? Putting some thought into your answer will demonstrate that you’re using logic and reasoning to come up with an estimation. The key here is to work through your reasoning out loud, so the interviewer can see your thought process in action. Of course, no one expects you to know how many bricks were actually used in the construction of your college campus, but you don’t want to provide a silly, thoughtless answer either.

If you thought those last two were strange, just wait until you see what we’ve got in store next time. While you may never encounter some of these questions during your career, it’s important to be prepared for anything when going on a job interview. By conducting a little research, you may be able to detect which companies are more likely to ask questions like these so you can prepare accordingly.