Strange Interview Questions (and How to Answer Them)

By Kaitlin Hurtado on May 28, 2017

Interviews for a job or internship can be daunting. You’re going to be putting the best version of yourself out there for your interviewer to see.

You can spend hours preparing yourself for one: looking up interview questions, researching the company, reflecting on your best qualities to sell in the interview, coming up with ideas on how you can contribute to the company. There are plenty of practice interview questions on various internet sources to help you prepare for your interview: your three best qualities, one thing you need to improve, name one situation where you led a team successfully, etc.

However, interviewers also throw some curveballs during the interview — questions that do not necessarily relate to the job but are telling of your personality, creativity, and problem-solving skills as you have to give an answer on the spot and hopefully impress them.

Here are a few “strange” interview questions, and some ideas on how to answer them.

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1) How can you use a pencil, other than as a writing instrument? 

Personally, I remember being asked this in an interview and completely blanking out on the answer. I ended up saying that you could use a pencil to keep hair tied up if you did not have a clip or a hair tie on hand, which my interviewer said was a good and practical use of a pencil. I remember looking up alternate uses on the ride home, wanting to know if there were “better” answers – there, of course, was this well-crafted answer.

This question’s purpose, like many other oddball questions, is to test your creativity on the spot. Potential employers want to see how you can approach something that has already been put in place and put your own take on it. They want to see what you can bring to the company and if you already have the potential in you to bring positive change to the company.

2) Take a common, everyday object and try to sell it to your interviewer

This particular question can change interview to interview. Generally, your interviewer will get an everyday ballpoint pen and ask you to try to sell it to them using your own selling points and advertisement. Or, they can ask you to take something that you have on you (chapstick, a wallet, glasses case, etc.) and try to sell it to them. Either way, your response to this interview question can be very telling, especially if the position you are interviewing for involves marketing, advertising, or customer service.

This interview question tests your creativity —you’re suddenly faced with the task of trying to sell an object that you regularly wouldn’t give much thought to whenever you use it. It also can give the interviewer a look at how you would act with a potential customer — your customer service, trying to adapt your selling routine to a specific customer, etc.

For example, if you happen to be trying to sell lipstick, there are plenty of selling points other than using it as a lip color. You can use it for color anywhere — blush, eyeshadow, temporary body paint. You can use it as an emergency writing utensil. You can use it as a survival item when you’re lost on a trail or forest — mark nearby trees or landmarks to mark where you have already been and avoid circling around the same area. You can hollow out the lipstick container and use it as storage for small trinkets like bobby pins in your bag.

3) Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses? 

This interview question is bizarre to both hear and imagine and like any bizarre interview question, it can also tell your interviewer plenty about you.

The interview question tests your logic and reasoning. In some cases, you may ask if you are alone, if you have any weapons or protection, etc. Asking more questions shows your interviewer that you are willing to ask questions when you aren’t sure of something (which many people are hesitant to do). This question also tests your task management when you answer on how you plan to fight either choice.

Is it a matter of endurance to fight one horse-sized duck? You can reason that fighting just one opponent is easier and safer because you have more control, rather than fighting a hundred different opponents. You’ll be tackling one problem rather than drawing out the 100 small problems.

On the other hand, does great planning help you defeat 100 duck-sized horses? If you can reason and explain a plan to solve each and every little problem, your answer will definitely highlight your task management skills to your interviewer.

By Kaitlin Hurtado

Uloop Writer
Hello! I'm Kaitlin, a second year Literary Journalism major at UC Irvine. I'm a writer on Uloop's national team and a campus editor for UCI.

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