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10 Curveball Questions They’ll Ask You in an Interview

13 Mar

As you iron your pants and tuck in your shirts, you need to thinking about what you’ll be asked during an interview. Don’t get stumped if an interviewer throws out a wild card. Take a look at 10 interview questions with advice from career counselors on how you should answer.

1. “Do you have any questions?”

Answer: Asked at the end of the interview, this question may seem simple. It’s not. Kevin Pratt, director of the Gonzaga University Alumni Mentor Program, advised that students ask the employer how they’ll be able to make an impact at the company and how they can make a difference. “These types of questions show a different level of initiative. They’re more authentic,” Pratt said.

2. “How does the internet work?”

Answer: University of California-Berkeley Program Counselor Santina Pitcher offered a question more directed to tech industry positions, but that can be applied to any field. “Engineering students, get ready for tech questions like ‘How does the internet work?’ which seems easy but it’s not,” Pitcher said. The gold is not in the answer, but the process. Students should understand the basics and how components work together in any situation, whether it be for a tech or even an office job. You should know how everything comes to fruition at the end of a task.

3. “Tell me about a time you did something with little to no instruction and how you handled it.”

Answer: Pitzer College’s Career Ambassador Allisyn Ruttle suggested students draw on professional or extracurricular experience. “Think about a time when you had to lead a group through a problem. Or even a problem with a friend group, how did you get through that? We think on our feet more than we think we do.” Students should go into an interview loaded with past leadership experiences.

4. “How do you work on a team?”

Answer: In preparing for industry-specific questions, don’t forget to be ready for the sly behavioral question. Jodi Chowen, director of University Career Services at Brigham Young University, said, “Tech students are all pumped up on coding skills, generalists are often surprised with specific problem-heavy questions. A student needs to be ready to do both things in an interview. Come in with your ‘star stories’ and those times that you really shined in a previous position.” Employers expect problem solving, analytical and teamwork skills, and overall confidence in what you bring to the table. Your answer should show how and why you would be a valuable team player at the company.

5. “What is your salary preference?”

Answer: Adonica De Vault, associate director of Career Development at Lewis and Clark College, said students should find the correct salary range for the job— according to the geographical area— before the interview. “First you need to look at the description the employer has written on this position. Is it similar to what is typical in the state you are planning to work in? Google salary compensations that states put out yearly and work out how much the position gets paid on average.” Job salaries range from state to state, so keep in mind fishermen might make more in Alaska than Kansas.

6. What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in the past year?

Answer: This is the type of question that students should look at as a risk. Marla Pontrelli, associate director and industry specialist at Pepperdine University, said, “Choose a situation that resulted in some kind of positive change or growth and describe how that event might lead you to seek challenges outside your comfort zone.” Present the interviewer with a situation that caught you off guard. Describe how you took initiative and handled it like a pro.

7. Do you enjoy your mind?

Answer: A difficult question to grasp and answer, for sure. The question basically asks which parts of your mind do you admire? What is it about your thought process that you think is special?  Over at the Emory University Career Center, Assistant Director Shawn Martin suggested interviewees realize that “yes or no” is not the important part of the answer for this question. “The objective for the employer is to find out how this individual analytically thinks and how they communicate,” Martin said. If you answer yes, say what about your mind is an asset. Try to correlate the best parts of your mind to the position to which you’re applying. A mind is a horrible thing to waste— and an even worse thing to waste during an interview.

8. Tell me a Joke.

Answer: Knock, knock jokes, anyone? Mark Presnell, executive director at Northwestern University’s Career Advancement, said students are often surprised when an interviewer prompts a little humor at the end of the interview. “The best answers are strong, funny, clean and no disparaging reference to any groups of people,” Presnell said. He even suggested tossing out a corny “dad joke.” Tell a joke you genuinely enjoy, while remaining interview-appropriate. It gives the interviewer an idea of the kind of person with whom he will be sharing his workplace.

9. What is your favorite novel?

Answer: Read any good books lately? Boston College Career Center’s Allison Riley advised to skip the stereotypical answers (sorry, Shakespeare) and choose a book that genuinely affected your life. “First think of the novels that have meant a great deal to you in terms of how they altered your perspective on life. Showing an employer how something surprised you and opened your horizons is always a good thing.” You might want to hit the library if you don’t already have a favorite.

10. “Tell me about yourself.”

Answer: University of Puget Sound Employer Relations Manager Sue Dahlin urged students to not be fooled by “the easiest question of all.” Communications Coordinator Kris Hay added, “Be prepared to tell a compelling story about your skills and experiences that clearly demonstrates how you will add value to the organization—that’s how you’ll knock the ball out of the park.” Think of your interview as a classier version of Tinder. Explain yourself, be honest and really emphasize whatever makes you, you.

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