Maybe you’ve been there. You’re in an interview and you feel confident about your performance, when the interviewer throws out a question you never saw coming. That question that leaves you wondering what the interviewer is looking for, or what the question has to do with anything anyways. (For me, in an interview for a retail position in college, the curveball came when an interviewer asked me to sell him his pen.)
So, what does the interviewer want to see anyways?
- Confidence. Are you willing to step outside your comfort zone to further the conversation? How hesitant are you?
- Ability to think on your feet. Business is full of situations where you deal with the unforeseen, especially in management or client service. How do you react when caught off guard? How smoothly do you recover?
- Authenticity. I’ll bang the drum for interview prep all day, but there is such a thing as being too prepped. These questions are a good way to determine if what an interviewer sees in you is authentic or the result of excellent coaching.
- Creativity. Can you think outside the box? Will you be an asset when it comes time to determine creative methods to tackle business issues? Are you able to truly brainstorm?
- Passion. In a recent Harvard Business blog post, Peter Bregman argues that interviewers should always ask, “What do you do in your spare time?” His assertion is that people who are truly passionate about what they do don’t leave their professional interests in the 9-to-5. Some questions may be trying to feel out whether your profession is a job or a calling.
- Your human side. Interviews can be stressful, and some people have a tendency to focus on their experience and professionalism and leave off the part about who they really are. If you’re going to be functioning as part of a team or handling clients, the ability to build rapport is crucial. Things like your sense of humor and interests turn you from a resume into a person, and help the interviewer picture how you’ll function in the team dynamic.
Since these curveball questions so often focus on who you are, your perspectives, your interests and your passions, it’d be impossible for me to truly coach you on what to say. Be confident, be willing to take a calculated risk with your answer, ask clarifying questions if you’re not sure of the expectation for the answer, and try to gear your answer to what you think the interviewer might be looking for. No matter what, keep in mind that this is a business situation. If your favorite movie or the last book you read aren’t titles you’d share with your grandmother, think twice.
Some sample curveball questions to ponder:
- If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?
- What is the last book you read?
- If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
- What is your favorite movie?
- If someone wrote a book about your life, what would be the title?
- If you won $100 million in the lottery, what would you do?
- What is your personal motto?
Best of luck!