Interviewer: If you could have any super power, what would it be?
You: [Pretending to be slightly offended] What do you mean if I had a super power?! [Then playfully] Seriously though—because questions about having superpowers should be taken seriously—my super power would be the ability to avoid waiting in line. At the movies, the market, the bank. Everywhere. When I want a slice of pizza or a train ticket, I want it now!
Quirky interview questions should be met with equally quirky answers.
They’re trying to throw you off your game.
Don’t let them!
If you have a sense of humor and can pull off an answer such as the one above, great. It will show that you’re clever and might even be a joy to work with. If “funny” isn’t your thing, at least have fun while answering. Note that, unless your desired super power is to make your interviewer feel really uncomfortable, the one thing you shouldn’t do is sit there in silence, trying to think of all the different super heroes you know; in other words, trying to get the answer “right”. Instead, talk it through Who-Wants-to-be-a-Millionaire style! Smile…laugh…be puzzled. Just enjoy the process!
Years ago I interviewed at Google. Midway through, someone walked into the interview room, unannounced, and asked me to tell a joke. “Does it have to be clean?” I asked, knowing full-well I’d have a hard time coming up with a joke that was. “It’s your call,” came the response. So I began: “An elderly man goes to confession…” Then it hit me: my dad told me this joke! Am I really going to pin my chances for getting this job to something my dad thinks is funny? But it was too late to start over. So I sat up, animated, and nailed it! The fact is, it didn’t matter if my joke was funny…what mattered was that I didn’t falter. Not every idea introduced in the workplace is a winner, and not every joke is funny. That’s OK. What matters is that you get behind it. As it turned out, the best part of my interview came when we talked about my joke after the fact. They liked how I’d taken the task in stride. I’d won their respect on some level. And through the process, we figured out that we’d probably enjoy working together.
While it’s impossible to anticipate every odd question that could come your way, like every other facet of interview preparation, practice makes perfect. Get a good friend* to ask you a set of idiosyncratic questions—one or two a day—and answer them off the cuff. Don’t worry if your answers seem silly or pointless at first. That’s part of the process. What you’re learning is the art of improvisation. (Note: To master the craft, consider taking an improv class at a local comedy club. Amazing what some stage time can do for your interviewing and public speaking skills…not to mention your confidence level.)
So if your next interviewer asks you why a tennis ball is fuzzy, or whether or not you believe in Bigfoot, don’t be too concerned with the right answer (there may be none). This is merely a test to see how you think and react to the unexpected. Your best bet? Let the interviewer know you can readily toss back whatever he or she throws your way.
Fighting quirkiness with quirkiness at a job interview is a risk worth taking!
* Friends busy? Consider Resume Deli’s highly realistic, irritatingly challenging mock interview program. Includes extensive role play and feedback.