Odd Interview Questions Decoded

April 9th, 2013 | Articles, Interviewing | 4 Comments »


As part of a recent trend, companies are beginning to use odd questions in their interview process, throwing job seekers for a loop. Now, you can decode the secrets behind these questions before you ever have the chance to get caught off guard.

During an interview, when you are blindsided with a baffling question (i.e. Which Beatle would you be? or How many stacked up MoonPies would it take to reach the moon?), your interviewer may not be experiencing a lapse in sanity. Big companies like Google, Amazon, and JetBlue are adding seemingly nonsensical questions to their standard interview questions with a method to their madness.

Peculiar questions can help break a job seeker’s well-crafted composure, revealing the core values, creativity, & psychology behind the prospective employee’s professional façade. Though preparing exact answers for these questions may be akin to predicting the next move of the Mad Hatter, you can at least prepare yourself to answer the subtext behind these types of questions.

How do you make a grilled cheese sandwich?

Translation: Can you communicate simple instructions to others?

Which historical figure would you love to go have dinner with?

Translation: What qualities do you value in others and in yourself?

How many packing peanuts would be needed to ship the Statue of Liberty to France?

Translation: Can you apply sharp critical thinking skills to seemingly daunting tasks?

If you had turned your cell phone to silent and it rang loudly during our interview, what would you tell me?

Translation: How do you navigate sticky situations?

If an ostrich on a moped stuck his head through that door, what would he say?

Translation: How insanely creative can you be?

When asked these types of questions, the trick is not to focus on whether your answer is wrong or right. The first step is to keep your cool. Saying that you don’t have an answer is the worst thing you can do because a failed attempt is always better than no attempt at all. Even if your answer is less than perfect, hiring managers will see you are willing to step beyond your comfort zone to engage new challenges.

Furthermore, you are not expected to rush into an answer. When throwing curve ball questions your way, most hiring managers are willing to accommodate a few clarifying questions and a brief moment to ponder your response. That way, when you do respond, you can provide an answer that communicates your connection with the company culture and your ability to think through any question.

As with any part of the interview, you need to keep a level head while answering odd questions, focusing on the underlying question’s intent. That way, you can use your knowledge to decode the question and show you can effectively go with the unpredictable.

by James Walsh

[photo credit]

4 Responses to “Odd Interview Questions Decoded”

  1. Kim Przybyl says:

    Love the interview questions and interpretations!

  2. jameswalsh says:

    Thanks Kim! Glad to see you enjoyed them.

  3. Tracy Black says:

    Being the highly creative engineer that I am I love this type of question. I want to thank the author for clarifying the meaning of the questions.

  4. Chad says:

    Answer to the ostrich question: “Did a pink goat with the head of George Washington just pass by?”