Did you know that even long-time employees experience anxiety during job interviews? In a study by Harris Interactive and Everest College, 92% of adults in the US experience anxiety during interviews, with general anxiety at 17% as the most common fear.¹ Add to that the unexpected questions employers may ask, and you’re caught off-guard to tricky and often already familiar questions.
Let’s see the startling interview questions that may come up, and we’ll provide tips on how you can navigate these questions and leave a lasting impression on interviewers.
Excellence in Self-Awareness: The Key to Answering Challenging Questions
Former Google Vice President Claire Hughes Johnson had experienced conducting interviews for the company for up to 40 hours a week. This could be exhausting, but she found a way to make things easier. She looked for people who were self-aware as they were more motivated to learn and could relate better to the people they worked with.²
However, it was proven by the research of organizational psychologist and executive coach Tasha Eurich and her team that self-awareness is a rare but critical skill.³ Out of almost 5,000 participants, they found that only 10% to 15% are genuinely self-aware. Self-awareness fosters creativity and confidence, enhances effective communication, facilitates sound decision-making, and promotes stronger relationships.
While self-awareness is rare, you can still develop this skill to help you find the correct answers to complex interview questions. Dr. Eurich found that the key is to ask yourself “what” questions instead of “why.”³ This is because “why” questions, although they help you thoroughly understand yourself or a subject, can keep you lingering and may lead you to overthink. On the other hand, questions help you move forward by helping you identify your next steps through the facts you have at hand.
For example, if you and your colleague got into a misunderstanding and screamed at you, asking yourself why it happened may lead you to conclude that they hate you, you did terribly at work, or you simply didn’t do enough. However, asking what questions can help you identify specifically what went wrong in the task you did together and what actions you can take to correct it moving forward.
Be Prepared to Impress: 6 Unexpected Questions to Answer With Ease
Now that you’ve learned about self-awareness, let’s try applying it in answering six unconventional interview questions you may get asked during physical or virtual interviews.
1. “If you had powers, what would they be?”
Let’s start with what you probably have heard of already. This question can help an interviewer assess self-awareness. To best answer this question, you have to know your strengths and how you affect the people around you. The superpower you choose can be a technical or soft skill.
Once you have identified your strengths, try to relate your chosen superpower to the role you are applying for and how the company can benefit from it. Think quickly but creatively to present yourself to the interviewer properly. Remember to be genuine about your responses, even though this question requires you to think outside the box and try to align your answers to your strengths or characteristics.
2. “What is your definition of success?”
This question emphasizes your vision, purpose, or priorities related to the company’s goals or values. One of the keys to answering this question is to research the company’s values and goals prior to the interview. You can use this information to relate your answer to the role you’re applying for, how you see yourself thriving in the company in the next few years, and the company’s own success goals.
Identify what is most important to you in coming up with an answer. It could be achieving a goal, making a positive impact, or finding fulfillment. Provide specific examples of your previous successes or specific steps you took to achieve success.
Related Reading: Top 9 Questions to Ask About Employee Benefits and Compensation
3. “How are you and your best friend alike, and how are you different?”
This question allows interviewers to know how much their candidates value diversity. There’s no right or wrong answer to this. Still, you may impress interviewers by highlighting the differences between you and your best friend and how you benefit from those traits or skills, especially when there’s a need for collaboration.
If you mention how different you are from your best friend, your answer can also show interviewers that you may build a more diverse team if placed in a leadership position. This is because you are aware of the uniqueness of others and know that their traits can benefit everyone around them.⁴
4. “Is happiness a choice or a birthright?”
This question tells an interviewer about your perception of life, motivation, and character. Think carefully if you genuinely believe happiness is a choice or a birthright. You can base your answers on your beliefs and personal experiences. If you have specific examples of why you feel this way, then it would be best to mention them.
There’s no right or wrong answer to this. People who are ready to face challenges and are passionate may say that happiness is a choice. On the other hand, people who feel fulfilled may say that it’s their birthright.
5. “What is something that irritates or frustrates you?”
Interview questions are designed to be tricky because interviewers want to know the real you, both good and bad. The reason why interviewers ask this question is to understand how you handle situations. This includes coping with your frustrations and pet peeves. The question also gives them an insight into what rattles you, how easily you react to things, and how often this happens. Ultimately, it gives them an idea of what it would be like to work with you.
To correctly answer this question, give them one source of your irritation or frustration, followed by a sample situation you experienced. Next is to explain how you coped with what happened or how you solved the problem you encountered.
6. “What world problem do you think is most important, and how would you solve it?”
This interview question highlights what you care about while showcasing your creativity, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.
Be prepared to answer this question by identifying an advocacy you support or a problem you wish to solve. Think of a few realistic steps that you can take to help solve this issue. If there are people you think can help you fulfill this solution, identify who they are and what they can do.
Talking about others instead of yourself alone tells the interviewer that you are aware of the people around you and value collaboration.
ELEVATE YOUR JOB SEARCH WITH THE HELP OF ACS PROFESSIONAL STAFFING
Impress hiring managers by answering unconventional questions excellently. If all works out for you during the interview stage of your application, then you are a step closer to working in the role you’ve always wanted. Take that step further by applying through a staffing firm.
If you are looking for better opportunities in your industry, getting the help of ACS Professional Staffing can increase your chances of finding the best employer. Our meticulous team of experts can help you find the right environment where you can flourish and build sustainable relationships.
Contact us today to help you find a role in Engineering, Information Technology, and more.
1. Willson, Mark. “Study finds 92% of U.S. adults have job interview anxiety.” Anxiety.org, 26 Sep. 2023, www.anxiety.org/adults-anxiety-job-interviews.
2. Hughes Johnson, Claire. “LAND THE JOB I Was VP at Google for 10 Years. Here’s the No. 1 Skill I Looked for at Job Interviews—Very Few People Had It.” CNBC, 7 Mar. 2023, www.cnbc.com/2023/03/07/former-google-vp-shares-no-1-skill-she-looked-for-at-job-interviews-that-people-rarely-had.
3. Eurich, Tasha. “What Self-Awareness Really Is and How to Cultivate It.” Harvard Business Review, 4 Jan. 2018, hbr.org/2018/01/what-self-awareness-really-is-and-how-to-cultivate-it.
4. Horovitz, Bruce. “12 Unconventional Interview Questions That Recruiters Should Ask.” SHRM, 11 Jun. 2021, www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/12-unconventional-interview-questions-that-recruiters-should-ask.aspx.