While most recruiters ask straightforward questions to establish your expertise, career history and if you’re a good fit for the team, some ask curve-ball questions tough enough to fluster even the most prepared job seekers.
How can you tackle these bizarre interview questions without showing how they intimidate you?
And, if a recruiter asks a peculiar question, is that a sign of an astute employer or the mark of a sadistic tyrant you should walk away from?
Quackers! Can you get your ducks in a row when it comes to tough interview questions – or do you crack under pressure?
James Innes, founder of the James Innes Group and author of several best-selling career books says: ‘An identifying feature of tough interview questions is that they will either address a negative issue or they will be phrased in such a manner as to lead you into giving what seems to be a negative response.
‘The key to all answers is to identify how you can turn this potentially negative situation into a positive one – which really isn’t too difficult when you know how.’
These include ones like: ‘Would you rather fight a horse-sized duck or 100 duck sized horses?’
Below, we offer six solutions and tips to deal with wacky and more complex questions that can strike fear into the heart of most interview candidates.
14 Tough interview questions
How would you answer these 14 genuine interview questions?
None of them really have ‘correct’ responses, but employers use them to flummox you and see how you cope with the pressure.
Answer them, read our seven tips underneath and come back to see if you would respond differently.
1. Why is water tasteless?
2. If you were an elephant, what would you do with your trunk?
3. Would you rather fight a horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?
4. Do you like to sing in the bath?
5. How many ways can you get a needle out of a haystack?
6. What do you do when there is no answer?
7. What would you do if the sun died out?
8. If there was a monkey hanging from a chandelier, how would you get it down?
9. It’s your first day on the job and you have a few hours to kill before orientation. What do you do with your time?
10. How many tube stations are there in London?
11. Can you sell me this pen right now?
12. How many watch repair shops are there in London?
13. A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?
14. If you could have dinner with five people of your choice – dead or alive – who would you choose?
Source: James Innes, Hays Recruitment, Tiger Recruitment and Michael Page , TopCV
1. Ask about their reasoning
Experts are divided about the reasons for these types of questions. Innes says that some interviewers like to ask questions which can only be defined as tough, mean or downright nasty.
But Nick Kirk, UK managing director of Michael Page, believes that in most cases employers use these kinds of questions to challenge the interviewer’s ability to respond on the spot.
Kirk says: ‘Candidates who are able to seamlessly think on their feet, or come up with creative responses, often make for successful employees.’
A few awkward questions Innes has come across in his career include: Would you rather fight a horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses? and what would you do when there is no answer?
Innes says young candidates in particular should expect to be asked such silly questions.
‘Some of the big tech or big investment banking and consulting companies or even just some of the biggest companies in the world where they know that young graduates will be falling over themselves to get their foot in the door.
‘These are the kinds of organisation who have ‘pioneered’ such questions.’
While some of these questions may seem rather ridiculous or bordering on the inappropriate, Innes doesn’t recommend walking out of the interview.
He suggests turning the tables instead: ‘You could respond by questioning the validity of the question and seeing how they respond to that!’
2. Don’t panic!
Preparation is key. Innes explains: ‘If you’re aware that you might get asked a particular question or type of question and you’ve taken the time to think it through beforehand then you’ve won more than half the battle.
He adds: ‘Another identifying feature of many tough interview questions is how direct they are.