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Interview Q&A you haven't heard before to help you land your new job this year

6 unusual interview questions and sample answers

If you're currently searching for a new job, chances are you've prepared for standard interview questions about your interest in the role and your qualifications. But sometimes, prospective employers might ask candidates more unusual questions during an interview. Posing interview questions that you don't expect can give hiring managers an opportunity to see how you respond to pressure or challenges in real-time as you develop your answers.

These unexpected interview questions allow you to demonstrate your problem-solving and creative thinking skills to an interviewer, which can help distinguish you as a candidate. That's why we put together this guide to interview questions you haven't heard before to help you land your new job this year. Read on to discover six unusual interview questions, sample answers, and advice on how to answer the questions you may not have entirely prepared for.

6 unexpected interview questions with example answers

Consider these unique interview questions along with some sample answers you can use as a reference when preparing for your interview:

Tell me about yourself using a single word

If an interviewer asks you to describe yourself in one word, there's typically no right or wrong answer. The hiring manager likely wants to assess how you see yourself and how well you think on your feet. Try to think of a positive word that encapsulates some of your best qualifications, such as: 

  • Dependable
  • Creative
  • Organized
  • Empathetic
  • Communicative

How might you solve problems if you came from Mars? 

Asking a question like this might give a prospective employer an idea about how you adapt to different work environments or tasks. Although this question is a little silly, try to be serious in your response about how you might approach critical thinking if you'd grown up with a different perspective. Here's an example answer: 

"If I came from Mars and was trying to solve problems on Earth, I'd likely try to learn about how people here solve problems first so that I could understand our differences in perspective. I could then determine which of my unique problem-solving skills might be an asset to the people I wanted to help on Earth."

Do you consider yourself lucky? 

Posing this type of question can help prospective employers gauge your outlook or attitude toward life. While the perspectives that hiring managers look for in their candidates can vary, in general, they might prefer to hire candidates who have positive attitudes but can also look at situations realistically. This means that it could benefit you to express gratitude in your response while also acknowledging your hard work or perseverance. Consider this example response:

"I've been lucky in many ways, such as being born into a supportive family and having a stable living situation. At the same time, I've also worked hard to gain many of my wants and needs, like pursuing a career that I'm truly passionate about."

"Posing interview questions that you don't expect can give hiring managers an opportunity to see how you respond to pressure or challenges in real-time as you develop your answers."

What would you do if you found a winning lottery ticket worth $10 million? 

This type of unexpected interview question may allow a hiring manager to evaluate your motivation for applying for their open job. Prospective employers want to hire job candidates who feel engaged with the responsibilities they're performing for reasons other than, or in addition to, financial ones. Ideally, when answering this question, you can be honest about how you'd use the money while also stressing that you'd still be excited about this opportunity. You could say something like: 

"Aside from putting money away to cover normal expenses for a few years, I'd likely also use the money for traveling, setting up my kids' college funds, paying off our mortgage, and donating to charity. I would still be interested in this role because I believe it's important to find ways to meaningfully spend my time regardless of how much money I have, and I find working in my chosen industry fulfilling."

Tell me about a time you failed and what that experience taught you

If a hiring manager asks you about your experience with failure, they likely want to see how you recover and learn from your mistakes. In your response, after you explain what the error was, detail what you took away from the experience and how you applied those lessons in the future. Here's an example answer: 

"In my last job, I misunderstood some of the user requirements for a complex project and ended up creating some functions that weren't relevant to the end goal. Although I went back and fixed my mistake, I felt bad for wasting both company and my own time. Ultimately, however, this experience taught me a valuable lesson: It's always better to ask questions than to do something incorrectly. I now make it a point to ask clarifying questions when I feel unsure."

If you were a tree, what type of tree would you be and why? 

If a hiring manager asks you a question related to comparing yourself to a plant, animal, or object, they likely want to evaluate both your self-perception and your creative thinking skills. When you respond, focus less on the tree you'd become and prioritize revealing your professional skills in relation to that type of tree. Here's an example: 

"I think I'd be a sequoia tree because I consider myself someone who's always eager to evolve in both my professional and personal life."

Tips on how to answer an interview question you didn't expect 

Even if you prepare ahead of time for unusual interview questions, you may still find yourself caught off guard during an actual interview by questions that you didn't anticipate. Here's some advice about how to handle unexpected questions in the middle of an interview: 

Give yourself time to think 

If an employer just asked you a tricky or odd question, they likely don't expect you to reply immediately. Instead of feeling pressure to respond right away, allow yourself time to think about what the hiring manager is really trying to assess about you and how you can highlight your strengths while answering the question. 

Describe your thought process to the interviewer 

As you think through your response, consider explaining your thought process aloud to the hiring manager. This not only demonstrates to the prospective employer that you're seriously considering the question but may also help you think the answer through.

Ask follow-up questions

Feel free to ask the interviewer follow-up questions or clarify anything that you're unsure of. Since the prospective employer likely knows that you didn't prepare for this question, posing your own questions in response can show you're still engaged in the interview.

Have a conversation

If possible, see if you can have a conversation with the employer about the unexpected question rather than simply giving a response. For instance, if a hiring manager asks how you would respond if you won the lottery, you could use this as an opportunity to start a dialogue about some things you both value in your career or life in general.

Knowing how to think creatively or problem-solve during an interview can help you demonstrate your ability to perform well under pressure. This allows you to advance further in the application process and may ultimately help you get an exciting new role. Uploading a great resume is the first step in any job search.

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