Whether you’re a recent college graduate just getting into the job search and interview season or a more seasoned professional heading back into the market, take some time to consider the best practices for impressing potential employers.
There are various interview questions you will be asked, and you’ve probably heard a lot of the common ones, such as, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” or “Name five words that best describe you.”
However, don’t be caught off guard by some of the tough and unusual question you may encounter during your interview. Take some of the following into consideration so you can be prepared when you face them:
1. If you could be an animal, what would you be and why?
You may be wondering if you accidentally applied for a job at the local zoo, but don’t be mistaken: this interview question comes up more often than you might expect. The interviewer is really looking for you to show off your personality traits. There’s no need to panic. Take apart the question and tackle it step by step. Think of an animal, its traits and personality, and which one best suits you.
I personally tend to answer with ‘dog: I love interacting with people, I talk a lot, and I tend to stick within a pack.’ Take time to explore the options as the possibilities are endless and it’s an awesome chance for you to impress your interviewer!
2. How would you deal with being the lone survivor in a zombie apocalypse?
Interviewers love to ask surprising, silly questions. They’re meant to put you on the spot as a way to reveal your thought process and ability under pressure. They give insight into your ability to analyze a question, come up with an answer, and blanket it in a fun reply, all in a short period of time.
Don’t be thrown off by questions like this, as they don’t have a right or wrong answer. Take time to rephrase the question and talk through the steps of your answer out loud. Add some silliness of your own to match the question, but make sure there’s substance in your response. And don’t ever answer with “I’m not sure.”
3. Describe (name of organization) to me as if I was just hearing about it for the first time.
This is one of those questions that can eliminate candidates that fail to do their due diligence. Always do your research on the company before you head to your interview. Read their mission/vision statement, know the CEO’s name, and spend a great deal of time on their ‘About Us’ page.
If you can’t describe the company back to your interviewer, you will come off as unprepared and uninterested in the position, company, and the industry itself. You should also always be prepared to answer questions along the lines of, “If you were hired tomorrow, what would you change to help this company?” or “What do you know about our competitors?” – the list is really endless here.
4. If I were to call your first listed reference, what would they say about you?
Here’s the thing to remember -- your references are your references for a reason: because you knew they would say good things about you! And your interviewer knows that just as much as you do. They just want to hear you talk a bit of your own hype.
Go for something simple here and stick to valuable personality traits and relatable skills such as, “She/He would probably say that I’m good in a crunch and very team oriented.” If you have performance reviews or recommendation letters from that person, read through them to prepare for this question. You want to match their story. Have an answer that relates to why this person is your reference for bonus points.
5. What are some of your hobbies?
Your interviewer wants to know that you have some sort of life besides work. Go for hobbies that make you seem involved or cultured. Don’t give bland, boring, or irrelevant answers such as ‘hanging out with my friends’ or ‘going shopping.’
Tell them how you enjoy cooking and try a new recipe a week. It can be about your obsession with baseball and advanced stats. Love curling up with a good book or playing soccer with a new pick-up team or your family? Great! Let them know. And don’t lie -- genuine interest in your hobbies demonstrates your ability to have depth, skill, and fun!
6. What was the last book you read for fun?
This question is almost always followed up by, “Who was it by?” or “What was it about?” So again, don’t lie. If your last book was 50 Shades of Grey or Harry Potter, then have a different book in mind -- one that lets you talk about a great literary story or a non-fiction topic. Haven’t read a book recently? Do it. That’s how you wind up not having to lie in answering this question, and you get to find and read a good book in the process.
7. What’s your biggest weakness?
Your biggest weakness should be an actual weakness. It should also be followed by the things you’ve done and are continuing to do to compensate. Make sure you keep it relevant - your interviewer doesn’t want to hear that you failed college courses or that you spend too much time playing video games. Instead, go for something along the lines of, “I used to have difficulty keeping my email inbox organized, but now I use a labeling system that’s kept me at 0 inbox for a few months now. I’m also using a task app to let me efficiently organize action items that come through email.”
8. Why should we hire you?
This question could set you apart from other candidates and put you at the top of the list. Do not make this question about you, but instead how you can benefit this potential employer. Be specific to the role. Why do you best fit? What experiences or passion make you the best candidate for this job description? Next, make it specific to the employer -- what is it about the team or the mission that aligns with you? All this allows you to recap your experience and your interest with the frame of how that material should appeal to the employer.
The list could go on forever. Your interviewer could ask five questions or thirty. It all depends on the company and the interviewer – but it’s always best to be prepared. The best thing you can do in an interview is be yourself. It’s been said that an interviewer knows in the first three minutes of an interview if they would like to hire the candidate or not. Be happy, friendly, and approachable. Dress with a style that matches the organization, have a firm handshake, and bring extra copies of your resume. Good luck!