In the film Pursuit of Happyness, the protagonist shows up for an important job interview wearing a paint-stained T-shirt. The interviewer, obviously not impressed, asks, "What would you say if a guy showed up wearing a T-shirt, and I hired him?"
The main character—without missing a beat—responds, "I would say, he must have been wearing some really nice pants."
He got the job.
Often, companies ask interview questions that don't necessarily have a correct answer. They are designed to ascertain whether or not you have the ability to "think on your feet," and formulate reasonable responses without relying on the gaping jaw and "deer in the headlights" look that a less- desirable job candidate may adopt.
Here are five oddball interview questions job candidates have shared on Glassdoor.com, along with advice on how best to answer some of these unexpected queries:
1."Just entertain me for five minutes; I'm not going to talk."
Asked at an interview for Acosta Sales & Marketing
While this isn't technically a question, it is certainly a request some job seekers may find disconcerting. The trick is to make it appear like it's not. With this request, you have been given a golden opportunity to prove your ability to hold your interviewer's attention. Tell an interesting story. Talk about why you're the best candidate for the job. Talk about the career path that has led you here. The floor is yours. Take advantage of it.
2. "How do you get an elephant into a refrigerator?"
Asked at an interview for Horizon Group Properties
Some may simply answer, "First, I'd ask the hippo to scrunch over a little …"
Actually, one way to view this question is as a test to see if you tend to do simple things in an overly complicated way. The correct answer here is that you open the door, put the elephant in, and then shut it. Or, perhaps you're interviewing for a job that requires intense attention to detail, so you may want to show your analytic and critical thinking skills by assessing the situation beforehand. In this case, you may ask the interviewer, "Well, is this a baby elephant going into a super-sized fridge? Or, is it an adult elephant going into a mini-fridge? Do I have access to any tools in this process?"
3. "How many planes are currently flying over Kansas?"
Asked at an interview for Best Buy
Unless you have access to a highly secured site dealing in such information, you couldn't possibly know the exact number. Good news, neither does the interviewer. However, this question is designed to see how you deal with ambiguity, think through problems, explain your thinking, and handle stress.
So take your time, audibly take the listener through the steps you're using to come up with an answer, and remain calm and collected.
4. "How do you feel about those jokers at Congress?"
Asked at an interview for Consolidated Electrical Distributors
You may be tempted to unload your views here, but DON'T. This question may be a sly way to find out if talking politics on the job is your norm. Most companies have strict guidelines that prohibit discussing politics and religion. Simply and politely declining to discuss this issue is the best policy.
5. "Does life fascinate you?"
Asked at an interview for Ernst & Young
A simple yes or no will suffice here. There is no "why" or "how" indicated with this question. Attempting to answer a question that wasn't asked with a lengthy diatribe could indicate a lack of focus and the inability to confidently state a position.
In most cases, interviewers are aware that you're prepared to answer the standard, "Where do you see yourself in five years" type questions. However, queries such as the above sampling allow them to get a more complete picture of who you really are.
Relax, smile, and even chuckle if you must. Your answers to these oddball interview questions aren't nearly as important as your attitude when you answer them.
Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter is a Glassdoor career and workplace expert, chief career writer and partner with CareerTrend, and is one of only 28 Master Resume Writers (MRW) globally. Jacqui and her husband, "Sailor Rob," host a lively careers-focused blog at http://careertrend.net/blog. Jacqui is a power Twitter user (@ValueIntoWords), listed on several "Best People to Follow" lists for job seekers.