Six unusual job interview questions asked by hiring managers
Even if you’re well-prepared for a job interview and have rehearsed your answers to common questions, sometimes a hiring manager will ask an unusual question to see how you can think and respond on your feet, as well as find out more about your soft skills and cultural fit.
Here are six real-life examples from Glassdoor of unusual questions people have been asked in job interviews and how to answer them if they come up for you:
- “If I was talking to your best friend, what is one thing they would say you need to work on?”
What they’re really asking: evaluate your weaknesses.
It’s common to be asked about your weaknesses during an interview, so it’s important to have a well thought out response ready.
In this case, they’re also making a subtler request, and that’s to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses from their perspective.
This kind of skill is essential in management roles where you will have to tactfully communicate with (and about) people regarding their strengths and weaknesses on a daily basis. So it’s not just the content of your answer, but also the delivery that’s being assessed. A measured, professional and empathetic approach will win you points here.
- “Name a brand that represents you as a person.”
What they’re really asking: What are your professional values?
Any question about values is trying to ascertain the affinities and priorities you have, particularly in a work context.
It may be tempting to name the company you’re interviewing for, but it might be more compelling to think of a different brand that shares similar values.
Start with your own values and those of the organisation you’re interviewing with – innovation, for example, sustainable practice, transparency, market leadership or trustworthiness – and then match brands to those values (remembering to steer clear of competitors).
This kind of question could well come up in an interview for a marketing role, where you can also demonstrate your understanding of how brands position themselves in the market, and communicate their identity and values to customers.
- “Throw your resume aside and tell me what makes you, you.”
What they’re really asking: What are your core values and achievements?
Now’s the chance to demonstrate your best attributes to a potential employer. The person you are at work is powered by your values, so employers want to get to know what makes you tick as well.
This doesn’t mean sharing every passion or goal you have, but selecting one or two things about you that make you interesting and unique, and that connect in a fundamental way to the role you’re applying for.
Perhaps you’re committed to improvement and take online courses to learn new skills. Maybe you’re tenacious and run marathons. Or you might be curious about the world and use your spare time to travel and explore.
Select a strong example of something that makes you unique and use it to demonstrate why you’d be successful in the role.
- “If you could take anyone on a road trip with you, who would you take and why?”
What they’re really asking: What sort of person are you and what types of people do you surround yourself with?
What’s a road trip if not an opportunity to learn and explore? The kinds of people who make good road trip companions are those who you can learn from and be energised by.
The answer to this question will reveal what areas you think you can improve in yourself and what kind of mentor would help you get there.
Think about someone who inspires you professionally and why they’d make a great mentor: they’re successful in their field, they did something nobody has done before, they improved a process or have a novel approach to problem solving.
The key to a question like this is selling the ‘why’: what you think you can learn from another person.
- “What do you do if you are approached by an employee who is complaining about a colleague who has horrible body odour?”
What they’re really asking: can you tell us about your interpersonal skills?
This question is all about your people management abilities. Difficult situations like this occasionally arise in work environments and managers in particular need to be able to handle challenging conversations with professionalism and sensitivity, and also comply with HR policies.
Take this opportunity to illustrate a time when you’ve had to have a challenging conversation in the workplace – whether it was with a colleague, manager, customer or employee – and how you resolved the issue with the individual person and also any other people who may have been impacted.
- “On a scale of 1 to 10, rate me as an interviewer.”
What they’re really asking: How good are you at giving feedback?
This question could be off-putting if you’re not prepared. The interviewer first wants to see how you react to curveballs, and then how you balance positive and negative feedback and your ability to convey both.
Start with what the interviewer did well, recall useful points of discussion (also showing you have good listening skills), and provide constructive suggestions for areas of improvement.
This is a good opportunity to demonstrate how you would provide feedback to stakeholders and staff, where you can think critically and deliver feedback in a constructive way.
Thinking about (and practising with a friend or relative) how you would answer these questions will prepare you well for tricky interview questions that are designed to test you and get to the heart of the ‘real’ person behind the resume.
If you can show that you’re a candidate who can think critically, communicate effectively and adapt to change – all highly sought-after soft skills - you’ll have a better chance of acing your next interview.