Interview questions are like a box of chocolates – you never know what you are going to get. There you are, having aced the intro, competently evidenced your experience, presented yourself as an excellent fit for the role, and skillfully handled where you see yourself in five years time. Right now things are good.
Then out of left field, comes the curveball question; the unforeseen Crunchy Nut when you were expecting a Smooth Caramel. ‘So what is your favourite song from the 80’s?’
This type of weird question used to be the domain of recruiters for mega-cool global IT companies but now interviewers for a wide range of roles are throwing in a tricky pitch. All of a sudden you’re caught off guard and the bases are loaded. Would you:
a) Duck for cover and make a dash for the dressing room
b) Panic, take a few swipes at it but end up striking out
c) Stare down the interviewer and refuse to play ball
d) Step up to the plate and hit a home run with Should I Stay or Should I Go? (The Clash 1982)
The student who faced this one wasn’t even alive in the 80’s and told us she was rather taken aback. To her credit she managed to come up with a song but naturally wondered why she was asked it.
Usually there is no right answer to the curveball question. The interviewer is likely to be assessing whether you can think on your feet and how you react under pressure. They are interested in your thought processes and communication skills – how you arrive at your answer and articulate it. The key is to stay calm and positive, and take a few moments to consider what the interviewer is getting at. If you are asked to describe what superhero/animal/cereal you are, talk about your strengths and characteristics relevant to the job. An investment company asking you to value the interview room is looking for an answer demonstrating your analytical and problem solving skills. Provocative questions like ‘How would you get a gorilla in a caravan?’ are designed to test your creative thinking. It can be really hard to give a witty response on the spot (I can always think up the perfect comeback about an hour after I need it) but try to answer in the spirit of the question.
This video from careerplayer.com on tackling that nightmare curveball question comes straight from the interviewers themselves on why they ask, or don’t ask, curveball questions and how to handle them.
If you want to practice hitting those curveball questions get Foosle’s Curveball Generator to throw you a few. Batter up!