Weird Interview Questions: The unexpected game-changers

139505882No matter what field a candidate is in, they’re likely to encounter odd questions at least once in a while. In information technology job interviews, the likelihood increases a bit more. Questions like“What kind of tree would you be?” or “What is the color of money?” are things IT candidates, particularly ones who do a lot of contracting, will probably be asked at least a few times over the course of their careers. While it’s easy to get tripped up or flustered by these questions, the best recruiters will make sure their candidates are prepared for them and pounce upon them as golden opportunities.

First of all, why is it important for your candidates to be able to calmly, and thoroughly, answer these questions? There are a few reasons why interviewers want candidates to be able to respond to questions that seem outlandish. One reason is that odd questions are good tests of a candidate’s ability to think on his or her feet. If you can handle a question you’re not expecting with grace and an articulate answer, you are probably able to handle unexpected situations at work well, too. In IT, particularly support positions, this kind of quality is highly valued.

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Besides gauging a candidates’ ability to deal with unexpected circumstances, another reason  interviewers ask bizarre questions is to get insight into a candidate’s thought process. Even if the question doesn’t seem based in reality (perhaps it’s some peculiar query like “How many light bulbs are there in this building?”), the way the candidate responds can say a lot about how they operate. For instance, a good answer to this question would include detailing a process for how to determine the number of light bulbs in the building. Answering these odd questions can be a good way for your candidates not only to demonstrate their ability to calmly deal with the unexpected, but also their rational in their thought processes.

Recruiters obviously benefit greatly from prepping candidates for the unanticipated questions they may get in interviews because it helps them make sure their candidates meet expectations. A less obvious benefit for recruiters who prep their candidates for odd interview questions: they can use the question to demonstrate that they’re a great cultural fit for the company. Especially when questions are more about personality, candidates can take the opportunity to highlight any personality traits that the company values. If the recruiter knows that company values creativity or flexibility, for example, choosing an answer that includes these qualities can make a strong positive impression on the interviewer. Thus these kinds of questions are not only worth prepping your candidates for, it’s arguably downright imperative that you do so. Depending on the answer your candidates give, these questions can become game-changers.

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Samantha Keefe is the interactive marketing manager for AVID Technical Resources, a Boston-based IT recruiting firm with offices all over the U.S. She can be reached at samantha.keefe (at) avidtr (dot) com.

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