How to prepare for, and answer, left field interview questions

Now Available - our 2020 Salary Guide
Friday, March 29, 2019

Interviews can be sweat-inducing enough at their simplest, so when a left field, tricky or downright bizarre question is thrown into the mix – it’s no wonder that most find themselves in a panic. When faced with a big interview, how can you make sure that you’re cool, calm and collected, especially for those out of the blue questions?

  • Preparation is key

For any interview, we recommend spending time going through your CV with a fine-toothed comb and writing down any examples for work or achievements referenced – including how you got the end result. Jot down as much as you can about your career to date, milestones and small moments alike, taking particular care on areas that relate to the job description or company.

Being asked about your strengths and weaknesses is popular practice, yet few answer it well. First of all, interviewers aren’t looking for a single word or sentence answer, they expect detail. For example, if you’re going to answer: “I’m a perfectionist.”, make sure to also give an example of when it’s hindered you and what you’ll do to improve, such as:

I can be a perfectionist. In the past this has meant I’ve found it difficult to submit work if I’m not 100% happy with it. I’m learning to let go of my standards in areas that are not crucial to business success so that I can finalise work quicker and still to a high standard.

  • Expect the unexpected

It’s easy enough to prepare for the usual tricky questions, but when the interviewer has taken a leaf out of Google’s book and starts to ask questions to determine your personality, intelligence and ability to think on your feet, how can you stay calm?

Examples of unexpected interview questions include: How long would it take for you to make an impact if you started today? How honest are you? If you were a fruit or a pizza topping, what would you be? But of course, the idea of them being unexpected is exactly that, and you’re not always able to prepare. Questions like these are designed to tell the interviewer more about your personality and how you work – so having an idea of these things before you step into the company offices will give you the best head start.

  • Remember: Take a breath and follow up!

If, following your interview, your answer to a difficult question is causing you to wake up in a cold sweat, provide a well-thought out alternative in a thank you letter. This not only shows you appreciate the interviewers time, but also that you’re willing to continue developing ideas.

Ultimately, interviewers are human too and aren’t immune to nerves when under pressure themselves. So, when you’re asked a question that seems impossible to answer, take a deep breath, make sure you understand what they are asking or request they repeat the question, think back to your prep and answer as best you can.