Turns out that job seekers are not the only ones getting creative in the interview process. A new CareerBuilder survey of hiring managers revealed that they, too, are starting to veer from the traditional interview questions in order to get candidates to offer up even more unique glimpses into their personality.
According to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of applicants competing for every job opening in the U.S. is double the historic norm at seven candidates per opening. But companies aren’t just trying to fill a cubicle, they’re looking to find the person who can help the business prosper and reach specific goals in a tough economic environment.
Check out the questions that human resource managers and hiring managers said surprised job candidates the most and our take on how you can be better prepared for these off-the-wall questions.
Q: Do you believe in UFOS?
This is one of those typical questions that focuses on shock value and your best bet is to not let them get you off on a tangent about how you believe in a Star Trek universe vs. a Star Wars universe. Keep it business related and whatever you may say should be tied in to your qualifications for the position.
Your answer could be, “While I may not believe in UFOs, I do believe that in business, you have to have an attitude that anything is possible. Whether it’s pursuing a lofty revenue goal or a potential client who has turned you down 10 times, you have to believe the extraordinary can happen.”
I would not sing the song “E.T.” by Katy Perry, nor would I ask the hiring manager to recreate the video.
Q: Have you ever been the dumbest guy in the room?
Let’s be honest – everyone has. And don’t try to pretend you’re not or lie. Go with it. Respond with, “Certainly. Everyone has strengths and talents to offer, and you are not always going to be the best or the smartest. Recognizing this is the best way to work effectively in a team, allowing each member to contribute in their area of expertise, for the best cumulative result possible.”
Q: Can you drive in bad weather?
We’ll just go ahead and clear this up for you – they’re really asking if you can perform under pressure and in the middle of a ‘storm.’ But you can make your answer be relevant to their question and reflective of your ability to multi-task and handle work turmoil as well.
“Driving in bad weather is sometimes a necessity. It simply means you have to focus a little harder, be a little more cautious and exercise patience. It’s difficult, but not impossible, and you can always make it safely to your destination with a little calculated effort.”
Q: Do you bake or buy?
Answers that do not work:
“Neither. I ‘Shake N Bake.’”
“Both. I Slice N Bake.”
Instead, explain the advantages of buying and baking and why you’d chose to do on or the other in certain situations. If you bake, you might want to say you enjoy compiling ingredients to create something others will enjoy or benefit from. If you buy, you might want to say you are a good delegator and always seeking ways to be more efficient with your time and resources.
Q: If I gave you a brick, what would you do with it?
This is a question about vision and initiative. “If you gave me a brick, I’d go out in search of more bricks, of different sizes and colors, in order to build something spectacular.”
Do not end with, “And then I’d build a…Brick…HOUSE!”
Q: Are rules meant to be broken?
A good way to approach this is by saying, “Not necessarily.” I myself have said, “It depends.” Rules are there for a reason typically: they ensure accountability, checks and balances and keep things running smoothly. But, once you adhere to the boundaries that are in place, you shouldn’t be afraid to say that when the time comes for critical thinking and innovative solutions to persistent problems, sometimes the rules need to be flexible.
Q: Are you a pencil or a pen?
Do not ask for clarification as far as whether you’d be the traditional No.2 or a fancier mechanical pencil. Nor should you want to know if the pen is a ball-point or one of those gel pens that just write a million times better and anyone with common sense would choose one over a plain old Bic. (I’m sorry – you know where my brand loyalty lies.)
Instead, you could venture to say that as a pencil, the best work is always a process and you enjoy having the ability to draft and redraft, erase and rethink the task at hand until it’s perfect. As a pen you might say, you’re authoritative, bold and daring when appropriate.
Q: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
I know you’re tempted to make the awkward joke of “Hire me for this job,” but just don’t. The only laughter in the room will be pity-based.
Be clever when responding. Whether it’s the ability to fly, see into the future or leap over tall buildings in a single bound, you should always make a connection to your professional contributions. The superpower you choose need to relate back to an organization or how your skills would benefit others. For example, the ability to read someone’s mind can help you create better solutions for a client.
Q: What do you do when you see a spider in your house?
The employer is trying to get a feel for how you respond to situations. You can say you typically leave the spider alone because you don’t sweat the small stuff, or you can say that you ask someone else to take care of it because you delegate well while focusing on the bigger picture.
Now you dish: What’s the weirdest question you’ve been asked in an interview and how did you respond?