Answering the Unexpected Interview Question

No matter how much you prepare for an interview, there will be at least one or two questions that may be unexpected or completely off-the-wall. The best thing you can do is prepare for how you will handle the unexpected questions.

When Answering Questions You Don’t Know the Answer

Questions that you may not know how to answer include technical questions, specific experiences that you may not have experienced, or even definitions. These questions are asked by an interviewer to explore how knowledgeable or skilled you are.

1. Take Time to Answer

You don’t have to blurt out an answer right away. If you need time to gather your thoughts, you can simply say “well, that’s a great question. Let me think about that.” This allows you to calmly gather your thoughts and proceed with your answer.

2. Think Out Loud

The hiring manager isn’t asking you a question for you to spit out the first answer to come to your mind. They want to know how you think through problems. You can explain where your thoughts have been. For instance, if an interviewer asks about your process for a part of your job that you haven’t developed a process for yet, go through in basic detail about how you would approach the task.

3. Don’t Make Something Up

You should never lie or make something up on the spot. Even if the hiring manager doesn’t pick up on the fact that you are making something up, they will find out when you enter the role unprepared.

4. Have a Back-up Answer

Sometimes, there are questions that you just don’t know the answer to and no amount of stalling or thinking out loud can help change that. Your best solution is be prepared with a back-up plan that re-focuses to your enthusiasm for the position, your skill set, and your knowledge of the industry. You can even ask questions to better understand the question. A good backup answer could be “I’m not quite familiar with that concept, but I am actively learning more concepts to strengthen my skills. What can you tell me about it?”

When Answering Off-The-Wall Questions

An example of an off-the-wall question is “if you were a fast food company, which one would you be and why?” These type of questions are specifically asked to throw you off and see how you react to a challenge as well as see if you are a cultural fit in the organization.

1. Smile and Enjoy the Moment

When the interviewer gives you a bizarre question during an interview, smile! This isn’t a time to panic or worry. The hiring manager is looking to see if you are a cultural fit with this question, so relax and have some fun.

2. Buy Some Time

Just like a normal interview question that you might not know the answer right away, you may need to buy some time. You can even say, “Wow, I’ve never been asked a question like that before. Let me think.”

3. Answer Enthusiastically

Bizarre questions like “if you were an animal, what would you be?” are supposed to be fun, so answer with enthusiasm. There is no right or wrong answer. The key here is to answer enthusiastically and coherently. If you are naturally funny, pull out a funny response. Just make sure it’s appropriate.

4. Follow Up with a Question

Wrap up your answer with a follow-up to continue the conversation. Remember, an interview is not just for the hiring manager to ask questions. Try asking the hiring manager how other may have answered that question or what were the best responses they have heard.

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