We’ve all been there. You’re in an interview, expecting to be asked intelligent questions so you can show off your excellent preparation that you spent the past three days doing, and all-night rehearsing to deliver the perfect answer. But all of a sudden, you get a question so stupid that it throws you off guard and your confidence is blown out the window; you’re now left feeling frazzled about how to answer this silly question.
It’s important to remember that the interviewer is likely looking for someone who can solve problems, who has good interpersonal skills and the ability to get things done using good judgment and effectiveness.
With that in mind, here are some smart answers to stupid interview questions that may otherwise seem irrelevant.
1. ‘What don’t you like about your current job?’
Assuming that you are still employed by the company that are you are looking to leave, hiring managers are likely to ask this ridiculous question. Like you would actually tell them that your boss is sexist and you want to get out of there ASAP! Employers are trying to catch you out here to see if you would speak negatively about your employer, because if you can talk about them, it’s likely that you’ll do the same with any organization.
The key here is to choose an answer that will show your dedication to progress in your career. You could either go down the route of a career change. Or you could say something like, “I feel like the role is not challenging enough and I would like to progress. Unfortunately, my current company doesn’t allow much room for progression, which is why I am looking elsewhere to further develop my skills and take on new and exciting challenges.”
2. ‘What do you dread about your work?’
Who are we kidding? There’s something that everyone dreads about work, whether it’s the early morning rise, a micromanaging boss, an irritating colleague or office politics. Yet now isn’t the time to delve into your deepest and darkest thoughts with a potential employer. Hiring managers throw this curveball your way to see if you are indeed an honest person.
The best way to answer this question is to choose something that bothered you, but also to show what steps you took to overcome that feeling of dread and how you have turned it into a positive. You could say something like, “I used to dread our hour-long staff meetings that would keep me away from getting work done at my desk. I’ve learned to get involved and make short and quick statements within the meeting and have noticed that others have started to follow suit. It’s actually turned into a really productive meeting, with team-members bouncing ideas off each other. Even though people can occasionally be long-winded, I’ve discovered that I can gain valuable information about what’s going on in the rest of the company.”
3. 'What was your first love?'
Although this is a dumb way to ask about your passion, this is essentially what employers want to know. Don’t start going into any dramas about your personal life — this is strictly business!
The best way to answer this question is to give an example of when you discovered your passion. If you’re interviewing for a position at a fashion label, you could say something like, “I first realized that my true love lay in fashion when I was just a teen scrolling through copies of Vogue that my mum had stacked on the coffee table. Since then, I have kept cuttings in a scrapbook of looks and designers that I love. It’s quite amusing to see how styles from my childhood days have come full-circle, and I now have inspiration to design custom pieces from the dated scrapbooks.”
4. 'Are you planning on having children?'
Employers should know better than to ask a question like this as it’s leaning on the discrimination side, yet some still can’t resist being a little nosey. The aim of this question is to find out if you’re married and if you plan to have a family. They essentially want to see how dedicated you will be to your job.
If you don’t have children, you should say “not at the moment”, explain how you want to travel/develop your career/whatever your reason may be for not starting a family. If you do have children, make it clear that you have childcare, and it doesn’t affect your working life or your dedication to your career.
5. 'What does your partner do?'
Again, this is none of their business, especially at the interview stage. Yet employers want to understand a bit more of your work-life balance and to get a feel for your personal life. It may also be to determine if you have a family to support, which may lead to you requesting a pay-rise in a year or two.
There’s no harm in being honest. You can keep the answer as vague or detailed as you want it to be. Just make sure you’re comfortable in answering this question. If you aren’t, you can throw back a question like, “Are you asking there is a relocation opportunity?” By asking a question in return, it’ll help you figure out the reason for the question.
6. 'What’s the color of success?'
This is another hard-to-believe-they-ask-this question, yet it’s used in interviews to decide whether a candidate can think on their feet and use their imagination.
According to Forbes, you could say: “Green, the color of money, because it would mean our business is highly profitable. Or if you’re interviewing at a non-profit or marketing firm, you could say, red, because I want to make an impact.”
7. 'Why should we hire you over other applicants?'
This is one of the most ridiculous questions; it’s not like you are best buds with your competition and know what their strengths and weaknesses are. The hiring manager is testing you with this question to see how much you want it and how you can “sell yourself”.
Ignore the other candidates and tell them what you can bring to the table. You could say something along the lines of, “From what I understand, you are looking for a candidate who can do X Y and Z, which sounds a lot like what I did at my previous company. I don’t personally know the other candidates, but I have the dedication and passion that’s right for this position and company.”
8. 'How would you describe yourself in three words?'
Although this is a common interview question, many candidates fall into the trap of giving a cliché answer like “driven”, “team-player”, “results-oriented”, “innovative” and “problem-solver”.
Here is your chance to give solid proof of why you are any of the above things. Andrew Pullman, head of HR at Dresdner Bank, said: “Think of something edgy — maybe something about how you push yourself and the people around you beyond what’s expected. Saying you are detail-oriented is also good, but follow it up with specific examples.”
9. 'You are stranded on a desert island and can only take three items with you. What would they be?'
You might be wondering if you’ve landed on a Tinder date, rather than a professional interview. Yet, some employers ask this question to get an insight into your personality.
Although you might be thinking ‘an unlimited supply of booze and Doritos’, refrain from giving that answer. Your potential boss wants to see that you are smart, have good judgement and can contribute to ideas. You could answer something like “A water purifier, an endless supply of matches and a good book”. Depending on the industry you’re applying for, you can tailor it to show your thought process and favorite items.
10. 'What would you like me to know about you that’s not on your résumé?'
You’re probably thinking — ‘Well, nothing. That’s why I didn’t put it on my résumé’. But as you’ve read this article, you’ll know how to give a brilliant answer.
Use something that your previous employers praised you about. It could be something like “I’ve been told that I’m always happy and I’m a positive person to be around, which has a great effect on the rest of the team and encourages them to work harder and do better, too.” Or “A previous manager once noted I like collaborating and working with others”. Whatever you choose, share a story about how your skills and attitude made a difference in the workplace.
11. 'How honest are you?'
Is this question for real? No one in their right mind will confess that they sometimes tell a little white lie or a load of big ones (hopefully, that’s not you). It's worth highlighting your high standards, as well as offering references and examples to back this up.
"I have high ethical standards that I adhere to. I believe that honesty is the best course of action. For example, I was once overpaid by my employer. I made my line manager aware, so that the situation could be rectified."
12. 'What was your salary at your last job?'
Are you squirming in your seat? You probably weren’t prepared to discuss money, and you don’t want to give an amount that’s too high and blow your chances of getting the job. On the other hand, you don’t want to sell yourself short either.
The good news is that you don’t actually have to answer this question — unless you do have a figure that you are aiming for. You could fire it back in their direction and say: “I’m currently looking for jobs with an annual salary of around X amount. Does that correspond with your salary range?”
13. 'What kind of animal would you be and why?'
This question will also leave you dumbfounded — unless you’re applying to be part of a circus act. But employers still ask this question to see how you portray yourself.
Although you’ve had enough and are considering exiting from the nearest door; bear through it (no pun intended). Choose an animal that is powerful; like a lion or a tiger, and explain how you are a strong leader.
14. 'What’s your favorite movie?'
This question has no relevance to your skills or the job itself. Being a good culture fit is just as important as possessing the right skills for the job. They just simply want to find out a little about your interests and if you have anything in common.
Simply be honest, but wise, with this one. Choose a movie that either has relevance to the industry or shows qualities that you can relate to. For example, if you’re applying for a role in fashion, publishing or marketing, a good example would be The Devil Wears Prada or The Intern.
15. 'How badly do you want this job?'
This isn’t your opportunity to get on your knees and beg. Answering this question can be tricky; you don’t want to come across as desperate, or not that interested either.
Say how confident you are that you would be an asset to the organization. You can voice your enthusiasm and passion for the company or position and reassert your eagerness to move forward in their hiring process.
16. 'When you go on vacation, when do you pack your bags?'
Wait a minute. Is your potential employer sending you to work somewhere else? Not exactly. While it is a ridiculous question that is likely unrelated to your day-to-day job duties, the hiring manager is likely trying to figure out your organizational skills and time management. Do you plan, organize, and manage your time effectively? Or do you wait until the last minute, frantically trying to achieve the task at hand?
You could say, “I usually pack a couple of days before, after making sure I’ve checked everything off the list of items I need. That way, if I think of anything else to add, I have the time to sort it out.” This shows that you’re organized, follow a structure/list and are ready for any unexpected things to be thrown your way.
17. 'How do I rate as an interviewer?'
With this question, your mind is being bombarded with many questions of your own, namely if he or she is sharing a trick question with you. That said, it is likely that the employer or interviewer is trying to gauge your professionalism, assessment skills and even honesty. If you are asked this question, it will probably be lobbed toward the end of the interview. Ultimately, it is best to be both diplomatic and honest. You do not want to be obsequious, but you also do not want to be uncouth.
You could say something like, “Obviously, I’ve only known you for a short time, but I feel we have similar beliefs and thought processes when it comes to [name similarities]. Everyone is different, though, and I look forward to seeing how we might be able to work together in the future.” This is a nice, balanced answer. You’re calling out the things that are similar between you, while noting that everybody is different — and showing your belief that this is a good thing!
18. 'Are your parents disappointed with your career aspirations?'
Is this person your guidance counselor or something? Maybe the individual sitting opposite you is trying to determine if you are independent and can take responsibility for your actions. Or perhaps the human resources manager is looking to find out if you are realizing your dreams by doing something challenging and maintaining small odds of achieving success. Whatever the case, it is a straightforward question with a simple answer: yes or no — and, of course, why.
For example, you could go with something like, “My parents are extremely proud of my choices. I’ve made mistakes along the way, which they may have been disappointed with, but I learned from those mistakes, and it made me a stronger and more adaptable person.”
19. 'Which sports team do you support and why?'
Are you the biggest Boston Red Sox fan? Are you a cheese head from Wisconsin? Are you passionate about LeBron James? This is a bit of a ridiculous question to present when you consider that not everyone enjoys sports and that your role has nothing to do with sports. Still, if you are a sports fan and have an affinity for the Toronto Maple Leafs or Manchester United, you should entertain the person and enter into a long-winded answer for your reasoning. It could be as mundane as the team is from your hometown, or it could be as intricate as you appreciate the club's analytics department.
If you’re not into sports, you could say, “While I’m not into a particular sport, I appreciate the dedication and effort that athletes contribute to their passion, as well as the impact working as a team has on the outcome as a whole.” This shows the interviewer you’re interested in teamwork, as well as highlighting the fact that you’re dedicated to things you’re passionate about, too.
20. 'What Star Wars character best reflects you?'
Yes, you may not have liked the Star Wars franchise, but millions of people worldwide do — not that there's anything wrong with that! So, you might come across a Star Wars buff during the interview process who wants to lob related questions at you, especially if it is May the Fourth. But there is a method to this madness in the sense that the hiring manager is trying to gauge if you are a rogue like Han Solo, a whiny brat like Luke Skywalker, or a brave and loyal soldier like Chewbacca. If you have never seen one of these pictures, you could always joke that you think you are more comparable to Spock.
There’s no doubt that hiring managers will think of even more stupid questions to throw your way, the main thing is to remain confident, smile and take your time when answering oddball questions. Pullman says, “You’re trying to see the person, not the profile”, so go out there and make your personality shine!
It’s always worth researching some questions to ask the interviewer before heading to your interview. They’ll be expecting you to ask some questions, too! Just make sure to keep them professional and less random than some of the examples above. There’s a wealth of job interview tips out there to help you along the way, so get to work and you could be starting a new job before you know it!
Join the conversation! What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever been asked in an interview? Did it throw you through a loop? Let us know what happened in the comments!
This is an updated version of an article originally published on 14 November 2017 and contains contributions by Andrew Moran.