April 08, 2011

The Interview: Be Prepared For ANYTHING

An article I saw the other day reminded me of the scariest aspect of interviews – the unknown. Granted, there are typical questions that you can and will be asked in interviews, but they really could ask you anything. I don’t mean to worry you, or make the interview process seem insurmountable. I actually chose to write about this because I think that interviews are more manageable when you are prepared for anything. If you accept that you will likely be thrown some curve balls, but go into the situation with confidence that you can handle anything they throw at you, your interview will go much more smoothly.

While not a strange question, my #1 least favorite interview question is “Tell me about yourself.” It’s not a favorite of mine because it’s SO open-ended and I don’t want to leave anything important out. The key for this one is to have something prepared – at least jot down a few important points about yourself – so that you don’t get tripped up on this one. It’s one of those questions that may seem like you don’t need to prepare for it (one topic you don’t need to research is yourself!), BUT it’s actually one of the most important to prepare since you have no reason not to be prepared on that one.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are questions that you can never prepare for – so also prepare for being unprepared. The following questions were never asked of me, but were actually asked on interviews, according to Fortune Magazine. Here are a few from companies that actually have jobs in the entertainment industry (and thus you might encounter).

  • "If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?" – AT&T

    The great thing about this question is that it doesn’t shock me, as I once worked for someone that had the staff Tweet about this exact topic. Seriously. Note to self: “Next time I apply for a job, research superheroes more.”

  • "If you had 5,623 participants in a tournament, how many games would need to be played to determine the winner?" – Amazon

    Ok, this just isn’t nice. The person interviewing for this job clearly wants to impress you and wants to answer that question correctly. Do you really have to give them a panic attack?

  • "How many smartphones are there in New York City?" – Google

    Only Google would know the answer to that question …

  • "You have three boxes. One contains only apples, one contains only oranges, and one contains both apples and oranges. The boxes have been incorrectly labeled so that no label accurately identifies the contents of any of the boxes. Opening just one box, and without looking inside, you take out one piece of fruit. By looking at the fruit, how can you immediately label all of the boxes correctly?" – Apple

    I would have wanted to stop listening after the second sentence.
As you can see, you can never prepare for EVERY specific question coming your way. Most, if not all, of those questions are meant to trip you up. They want to see how you handle difficult situations. So, still do your best to research and prepare for your interview – but go into the interview with the confidence that you can take on any question that may come your way. If you handle those tough questions with grace instead going into a tizzy trying to figure out the right answer, you will likely have answered the question “correctly.”

If you would like to read the full article that the unorthodox questions came from, including more crazy interview questions, click here.

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