When was the last time you were caught off guard during an interview by a question you couldn’t answer? If it’s been a while, you may want to brace yourself. An increasing number of companies are relying more on unconventional interview questions to weed out prospective candidates when trying to find the right fit. Employers ask “out of the box” questions to better gauge aspects of a candidate’s personality, problem-solving skills, or how they handle themselves under stressful situations. Therefore, it’s important that administrative professionals understand the importance of preparation for all types of interview questions.
Jamie Wells, an Associate with The Execu|Search Group’s Office Support & Human Resources divisions, often coaches candidates on the best ways to approach answering “out of the box” questions during interviews. “Whether you are a seasoned professional, or just starting out in your administrative career, you should always be prepared for questions that don’t fit the regular script,” says Jamie. To ensure you aren’t stumped the next time you’re asked a tricky interview question, consider the following examples of questions that are meant to catch you off guard:
- Can you explain how a tennis ball feels?
At first glance, this question could throw some candidates off as it doesn’t seem to address anything related to the job. However, after taking some time to first internalize the question, you should quickly realize that there’s no one correct way to explain how a tennis ball feels. In fact, interviewers will typically ask subjective questions like these to observe how prospective candidates think on their feet. “Although this question might seem unrelated to your skills or experience, how you respond can highlight certain professional strengths the interviewer is looking for in their next hire,” says Jamie. For example, a strong response could emphasize your attention to detail or level of creativity—two important skills to possess as an administrative professional. In addition, you can demonstrate strong communication skills based your ability to clearly and concisely articulate your description.
- How many ceiling tiles are there in this building?
If it’s your first time stepping foot into the building, how could an interviewer expect you to answer this question correctly? “Before you respond, give yourself some time to think about what the interviewer is trying to learn about you as a potential employee,” stresses Jamie. “Too often when a candidate is asked tricky questions like these, they sit quietly for a few minutes and just guess.” Operating in fast-paced environments, thinking on your feet, and making quick decisions are qualities that a strong administrative professional should possess, so an interviewer may use these questions to see how you think under pressure. Whether your answer is correct or not, your interviewer will take notice of your analytical skills and ability to make an educated guess given little information.
- Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
A question like this will not only help your interviewer assess your career goals, but it will also help them see if your plan involves working with their company in the future. While it can be tempting to go above and beyond in your response to impress the interviewer, it’s important that your answer depicts you as a strong candidate for today and growth opportunities. “Administrative professionals make the mistake of presenting lofty goals, which may not align with what the interviewer is looking to get out of their next new hire over the next 5 years,” highlights Jamie. “Simply stating you’d like to be in an environment where you’re valued and have the opportunity to proactively learn will show the interviewer that you’re most interested in building your professional skills with the right employer.” If your employer values their employees and encourages professional growth, a good response to this question will go a long way in increasing your odds of being hired!
Throughout the interview process, emphasizing your personality, drive, and communication skills will be essential to depicting yourself as a strong administrative professional. The more you practice answering tricky interview questions, the more prepared you will be the next time an interviewer tries to catch you off guard.