You found an open position with a great company that’s just perfect for you. Your resume was sent to the hiring manager, who set up an immediate interview with you via Zoom. The interview was going extremely well since you were prepared and ready for any and all questions about your education, background, experiences and results from prior jobs. Then, out of the blue, came the question that caused you to freeze: “What are the first five things you would do if you landed on the planet Jupiter with the objective to set up a colony there?”
What do you do when asked a wacky question? There are some do’s and don’ts when asked an unpredictable question during an interview. But first, you need to understand that there is usually no right or wrong answer. The question is being asked to find out how you think, what logic you use, how creative you are, or what priorities are important to you. The hiring manager is looking to see how you handle pressure, deal with the unexpected and test your clarity of thought with the unknown. It does give the interviewer insight into how you think and in turn, approach problems in the future. It also provides you the opportunity to demonstrate quick thinking and adroit skills in how you find solutions to problems.
- Be prepared for a weird question and not be surprised when it comes.
- Quickly figure out what is the ultimate result to be achieved with the question? (For instance, with the Jupiter question, the priorities would be safety, air, food and water, shelter, and sustainability)
- Take your time to develop a rational and coherent response
- Make sure you show concern for your team and colleagues to achieve the task
- Walk the interviewer through your thinking
- Try to be concise with your answers. Brevity is better than rambling.
- Don’t say, “What does that have to do with the job?”, or “You’re kidding me!”
- After your answer, don’t look for feedback, like, “How well did I do?”, “Is that what you’re looking for?” Looking for approval shows a lack of confidence.
- After a strange question, don’t make a sour face, cross your arms across your chest or give off body language that says, “What a stupid question!”.
- Don’t get tangled up in complexity. Make it as simple as possible and have a bit of fun with it. It’s an opportunity to free-form with your problem-solving skills.
- Don’t dwell on this segment of the interview and have it ruin your remaining time with the interviewer. Focus on ending the interview on a high note.
Unusual questions can either be a curse or an advantage, depending upon how you react and respond. Prepare by practicing creative problem-solving steps that can be applied to most all situations: Define the outcome, issues and alternative solutions. If you can understand the desired outcome, the steps to achieve results are much easier.
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