Your phone rings. It’s your recruitment agent calling to say you’ve landed a job interview at that super-cool company in London you’ve always wanted to work for.
You spend the next week going over every possible question the hiring manager could ask you, preparing each answer with heavily-researched precision and carefully reciting your responses, facial expressions and body language in front of the mirror until you’re 100% sure you’ll nail this.
And then the day arrives. You don your smartest suit, arrive at the ideal 10-minutes-early mark, and deliver each answer like a pro, until out of nowhere, the interviewer drops the following line:
“Who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?”
What?! You’re thrown. Red and flustered, you mumble something about kryptonite and wonder how this suddenly went so wrong.
Difficult interview questions like this are not just bad luck. Hiring managers use them to determine how you handle unrehearsed situations and to reveal more about your personality.
We’ve put together a list of the strangest interview questions that interviewers have asked our candidates during past interviews, along with the best ways to answer them.
1. How many pairs of shoes are there in the UK?
If an interviewer asks you this, they want to test how logical you are.
You’re not expected to know the definitive answer but you should explain how you’re calculating it. So, if the average woman owns 21 pairs of shoes and the average man owns 12, and the UK population is 64 million, you’re looking at around 2,112,000000 pairs of shoes inside peoples’ closets.
You’ll want to do a thorough job here, so you’ll need to then take into consideration the amount of shoes that have yet to be bought. How many shops stock shoes throughout the UK? What are their average stock levels? How many shoes are being manufactured in UK factories right now? How many pairs of shoes are currently out for delivery?
The more factors you consider along the production and distribution line, the better, as this will show the interviewer that you understand how businesses function. And don’t forget to double-check your sums to demonstrate your attention to detail.
2. What would you rate your skillset out of 10? I’d give you a 2.
This one is about how you respond to criticism and how you approach self-improvement.
Tell the interviewer that you understand how they have come to that conclusion with the limited experience they have working with you but assure them that you can and will deliver in the role you are applying for.
Have you had to prove your capabilities to a doubting colleague or client in the past? This is your chance to tell the interviewer how you surpassed their expectations and the skills you hope to develop in your next role.
3. Where does your boss think you are right now?
Hint: The answer to this one is not “Oh, my boss thinks I’m stuck in bed with the flu.”
Hiring managers don’t want to employ people that will lie to them and they certainly don’t want to recruit anyone who thinks it’s ok to call in sick when they’re perfectly well.
Your best option is to tell the interviewer that you booked the day off work in anticipation for your interview. Expand on your answer here by letting the interviewer know that you value honesty and integrity in every working relationship.
4. Tell me what your biggest weakness is.
This question is common so it shouldn’t take you by surprise but it is difficult nonetheless.
“I’m a perfectionist” is the go-to answer for most candidates, and it makes employers glaze over in boredom, so avoid it.
Are you a people pleaser, self-critic or new to the industry? Tell the interviewer but follow it up with a swift recovery clause – after all, you’re easy to work with because you’re keen to please people, you always produce quality work due to your tough critique and you may be new to the industry but you’re a real fast learner.
5. Who would win a fight, Batman or Superman?
Do you prefer Eastenders to Coronation Street? If you were a dinosaur, which type would you be? Is a Jaffa Cake a cake or a biscuit?
These are all personality probes – so keep it professional but do take the opportunity to show some humour and connect with your potential future colleagues.
Oh, and for the record, the answer is Batman.