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Dealing with Curveball Questions

15662436_mIn most interview situations you are likely to be met with some ‘curveball’ questions. These questions are mainly used by employers to test your ingenuity. They are designed to put you off pace and they are a good way of expressing your personality. Many interviewers also believe that this questioning style will help to filter out the best candidates.

Your professional CV is the tool you need to show employers your experience, skills and qualifications. But answering curveball questions effectively will allow you to demonstrate more than that. They can show that you think quickly on your feet, that you’re imaginative and that you’re confident.

Examples of ‘curveball’ questions:

  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • If you were a tree, what type of tree would you be?
  • If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
  • If you were trying to sell me this pen on my desk, how would you do it?
  • What is your favourite colour?
  • What word best describes you?
  • What is 5% of 4?

How to Prepare Your Response:

With these types of questions it is almost impossible to prepare a response. This is purely because you won’t know what question they are going to ask you until they ask it! Remember these questions are rare so don’t spend too much time worrying about them! But try and be different e.g. Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why? A: I would have superior vision so I could spot mistakes before they happen.
However, there are a few simple things you can do to prepare yourself:

  • Spend time reviewing your professional CV and pick up ideas and tips from previous job roles
  • If you have created a cover letter for this specific job then ensure you read it thoroughly. You should be able to refer to your cover letter instantly during an interview without needing to revisit it.
  • If you are going for a creative job, think about what creative curveballs they could throw at you. Likewise, if it’s a technical or arithmetic role think about what questions they are likely to ask.
  • When an interviewer does ask you something peculiar, do not be afraid to ask for the question to be repeated.
  • Take your time when answering the question – do not feel rushed.
  • Feel free to look away after an interviewer asks a question – it looks like you’re really thinking about it.
  • Compliment – if you are at all fazed by a question why not compliment the interviewer on their choice. “I’m glad you asked me that – that is a really interesting question.”

The important thing to remember is that these questions will not define you as an applicant. They may help you to progress further, especially if you build good rapport with the interviewer, but they are not the most important thing to prepare for. Not answering these questions effectively will not mean you are out of the running for a job (for some more advice on how to progress at interview read our interview tips).

If you get tongue-tied at any stage just build a good relationship and inform the employer you’ll have a good think and get back to them later!