S4R News / 4th Feb 2016

New Year, New Job? Prepare for curveball questions

January may already be over, but there is still time to take up a New Year’s resolution. According to CareerBuilder, the top New Year’s resolution at work is to find a new job, with 21% of workers pledging to leave their employer in 2016.

However, with the New Year come new trends and challenges for job seekers, just one of which is the rise in the dreaded curveball question. Meant to test your creativity and keep you on your toes, answers to this type of question will not only show how well you respond to pressure, but also help the interviewer to understand what type of person you are. Whilst there are often no right or wrong answers, we have found a number of examples and tips to make sure you aren’t caught short.

Every CV has one lie in it. What’s yours?

Research has shown that as many as one in five jobseekers admit to lying on their CV, with the most common tactics involving exaggerating dates of past employment, falsifying qualifications and inflating job titles and salaries.

Even if you have been slightly ‘creative’ in your phrasing, your interviewer shouldn’t be the one to know it. To answer the question you could use a little humour to break the tension, and then reassure the employer that everything written is legitimate.

How do I rate as an interviewer?

Although potentially incredibly awkward, this question is aimed at testing your ability to handle superiors, give evaluations and be honest. In this tricky situation, never be negative. However, you should also be cautious of giving a perfect “10” because you could seem too easy to please. Simply praise whatever interview style the individual has been using, whether this be tough or methodical, for example.

If you were an animal what would you be?

For this quintessential interview question, the best answers are generally the ones that highlight qualities or skills necessary for the role, whilst also showing off who you are. One example is from Hootsuite chief executive, Ryan Holmes:

“During her interview I asked my current Executive Assistant what was her favourite animal. She told me it was a duck, because ducks are calm on the surface and hustling like crazy getting things done under the surface”.

Sell me this pen…

You’re sitting in a job interview ready to answer any question that is thrown at you about your qualifications and past experience, but then the interviewer picks up a pen and says, “Sell me this.” You would be wrong if you thought that this question was only asked of people who are applying for a job in sales, as forcing a candidate to think on their feet while under pressure will reveal a lot about how they are able to think and communicate.

The key to answering this question is to not take yourself too seriously; good answers are normally light-hearted and friendly. You should concentrate on asking the interviewer questions to talk them into expressing a need for the object (as of course it may not always be a pen). That way you can sell the object, not as a commodity, but as a solution to the interviewer’s problem.

Name five uses for a stapler without staples

What an interviewer typically means when asking this question is: How creative are you?

It’s always important to try to think of an answer that the interviewer may not have heard before as this will help you stand out from other candidates, but fundamentally it is down to how innovative you can be. This question is the perfect opportunity to use your imagination, so remember that your answer can be absolutely anything!

It’s important to know that there are no right or wrong answers to curveball questions, but creativity really is king. Your acceptance and willingness to embrace unusual questions will be looked upon favourably, whatever answer your eventually give.