There are plenty of tried and true ways to prep for an interview, but employers still have plenty of tricks up their sleeves to ensure a candidate isn’t too rehearsed. Often, those tricks come in the form of insanely difficult interview questions designed to throw an interviewee off their game.
Though it may seem unfair for an interviewer to ask a question that’s essentially unanswerable—such as “how many people in the world are sleeping at this exact moment?”—it’s important to remember that an interviewer is more interested in the process you use to answer it, rather than your answer itself. Interviewers who ask questions like these usually want to see that you’re a creative thinker, a problem solver, and always up to a challenge:
- “If you were asked to unload a 747 full of jelly beans, what would you do?” – asked at Bose.
- “Why is a tennis ball fuzzy?” – asked at Xerox.
- “How many piano tuners are there in the entire world?” – asked at Google.
- “How many square feet of pizza is eaten in the US each year?” – asked at Goldman Sachs.
- “A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here? – asked at Clark Construction Group.
So how do you answer such baffling questions? Firstly, take a moment to think; the interviewer certainly doesn’t expect you to have an answer immediately. Then talk out your reasoning as you come to your answer, which should effectively show the interviewer how you work. Whatever you do, never say “I don’t know,” as you’re essentially opting not to answer a question—which is rarely, if ever, acceptable on a job interview.
To read more, see our article on being prepared for out of the box interview questions, here.