There is no denying that job interviews can be stressful and intimidating. In a way, they feel a bit like a blind date where you and the hiring manager are trying to determine if there is a “fit.” Of course, there is plenty of information available online about how to provide an answer to common questions, but you must also be prepared to be faced with strange questions—proverbial curveballs—and be able to think quickly, providing a response that is appreciated by the interviewer.

In creating this article, our team perused sites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and other resources held in esteem by job seekers. In this research, we were able to compile a list of some of the most difficult and unexpected questions that some interviewees were faced with—and will provide our advice on how you should best answer these queries if you find yourself faced with one on an upcoming interview.

1. A Situational Question

A job seeker was interviewing at Proctor & Gamble for the role of Production Technician. During the meeting, this question was posed:

“You are faced with working alongside a colleague who has an annoying habit that distracts you and makes the quality of your work suffer. How do you address and solve this situation?”

While this question might come at you as a surprise, the best way to approach it and answer it is to think about a situation where you might have encountered this in your past—even if it was a personal situation outside of work. Think of an anecdote that effectively shows you possess good judgment, poise, and diplomacy. For instance, maybe you were working on meeting a deadline and the person in the next cube over from yours insisted on listening to the news or a podcast while they worked. This, in turn, made you distracted and unable to concentrate. So, you decided to approach your colleague and convey the challenge you were experiencing. You discover that while the situation is distracting to you, it actually helps the other person stay focused. The two of you brainstorm together and come up with the idea of your work buddy wearing headphones when they stream the news.

Ultimately, it’s best to talk about a real situation that you had to deal with—and the more detail and insight you can provide the better. Providing a lot of information will help the person you are speaking to realize that you have the toolkit needed to deal with a challenging workplace problem with a cool head and by collaborating with other people.

Of course, if you are struggling to think of a situation from the past where you encountered such a problem, then be honest and tell the interviewer that while you are unable to pull from experience, you can provide them with insight about how you would react. For instance, if approached with a challenge that could be seen as confrontational or argumentative to the co-worker, express that you would speak calmly and with respect as you outline the issue you have with what they are doing. You would offer to discuss so the two of you could talk it out, develop a solution, and then create an action plan so that both of you feel comfortable and included in the workplace. Don’t forget to mention that you would be sure to thank your co-worker for taking your concerns seriously and ensure that they understand they can approach you if they experience a problem where their work is being hindered

2. A Technical Question

Uber was seeking to fill a Data Analyst position and asked the interviewee to discuss what coding languages they are most comfortable with. The interviewee replied that they knew several types of coding languages including C++, Visual Basic, JavaScript, SQL, and Python.

Then, the interviewer went on to ask for specific information about SQL by inquiring, “What are the different subsets of SQL?”

Now, this might be because the job requires a deep knowledge of this coding language, or it could be that the interviewer simply wants the interviewee to be able to show that they know what they are talking about.
In this regard, the correct answer would have the interviewee say, “The three subsets of SQL are DDL—Data Definition Language; DML—Data Manipulation Language; and DCL—Data Control Language.”

Of course, the interviewer might also insist for deeper and more in-depth descriptions of this information, so our advice would be to truly examine the job description before the interview and be prepared to address specific technical platforms and your ability to operate them if the hiring manager decides to do a deep dive to make sure you are telling the truth.

3. A Communication Question

A Bloomberg interviewer decided to throw a serious curveball at a prospective Data Analyst by asking, “How would you describe a vending machine to another person who has never used or seen one in real life?”

While that sounds like a crazy question to be presented with, we believe that what the interviewer wants to know is how the job seeker would interact and communicate with someone from a different background, skill set, or culture. So, in this case of a technical profession like a Data Analyst, the hiring manager wants to know if the person who is interviewing would be able to translate and convey complex information to someone non-technical. This is an important skill to have because the business world is increasingly diverse and global—and teams are constantly collaborating and interacting…and the way a sales team might operate is different from how the IT department functions. The hiring manager wants to know if you can speak multiple languages per see.

So, to answer the question, start by avoiding being condescending or flippant. Use easy, basic phrasing that everyone can understand and embrace. If you can, tell a story. For instance, a vending machine is a kind of like a little store where you can buy a bottle of soda, a snack, a candy bar, or something else entirely whenever the need arises. They are open 24/7 and you can find them in many places including office buildings, cafeterias, airports, and more.

Remain Positive and Upbeat…

In closing, being faced with an outlandish interview question can feel scary but remember to simply think on your feet. There isn’t always a right or wrong answer, but rather, a hiring manager wants to use this opportunity to understand who you are and what makes you unique. They want to learn how you react, respond, and handle something unexpected and unforeseen.

Also, know that non-verbal cues will also be examined. Do your best to remain cool and calm, and if you do need a moment to gather your thoughts before blurting out a response, ask for that courtesy. A hiring manager will appreciate seeing your problem-solve in real-time, as it is a good indicator of how you would react in the workplace once they offer you a job.

For more information on how to prepare for an interview, or any other employment and job seeking assistance and guidance, reach out to the team at Performance Staffing Solutions today.