How to Prepare for Interview Questions That Have No Correct Answers

Most interview questions are pretty straightforward and easy to answer: how much experience you have in a given field, why you left your last job, or what are your strengths and weaknesses.

Then there are the open ended interview questions that are designed to make you squirm and think fast on your feet. These questions are purposefully open ended to see how you  respond when under pressure and/or challenged.

Hiring managers like to ask the oddball or baffling question to learn about you in a way a simple question would never do.

What he is looking for is to see how you react to a question for which there is no right or wrong answer. Do you muster together the facts from your past to provide a story that demonstrates a solution, or do you verbally meander on and on in a roundabout fashion?

More importantly, do you know when to stop talking?

Some open ended questions are easy enough to reply to if you pause for a second and think before you speak. Examples of these inquiries could be any of the following:

  1. Think of a day when you had too much to do, but it all needed to get done. How did you handle the scheduling of your day?

  2. What types of things make you angry? How do you respond to those situations?

  3. How would you deal with the poor quality work of a subordinate?

  4. Tell me about yourself.

  5. Why should we hire you?

These can be answered with confidence if you prepare in advance and have already memorized a list of your personal assets (like your people skills or your knowledge of your marketable qualities, for example). All you need to do is to breathe, focus, and relate a relevant story or anecdote and speak with confidence.

And know that for a question like tell me about yourself, you’re not required to tell them everything about you. Just tell them the information about yourself that makes you shine as the best candidate for the job!

But what about questions like the following ones?  No matter how prepared you are for an interview, you can not anticipate a staggeringly unexpected, bizarre or outrageous question like the following (which have all been asked by hiring managers according to glassdoor.com).

  1. Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or 100 duck sized horses?

  2. How would you sell hot cocoa in Florida?

  3. What would you do if you found a penguin in the freezer?

  4. How many basketballs would fit in this room?

  5. If you had $2000, how would you double it in 24 hours?

Yet, while these unorthodox questions may seem silly to you, they actually serve a purpose for the hiring manager.

As you can see, they are to designed to catch you off guard. But there is no wrong answer. Of course, there is no right one either. There are only responses which will show off your personality, your quick thinking skills, and how well you communicate.

So how do you answer them? Don’t worry if you think the answer you give is not the one you think they want to hear. Just go for it.

Here are a couple of tips to help you if you are thrown off your game and need to ponder momentarily to come up with something.

  • First of all, buy some time

Say something along the lines of, “Wow. That’s a fascinating  question. I was not expecting that.”

  • Ask for clarification

For example, on the basketball question, you might ask if the basketballs are inflated or deflated.

And then relax and answer it. All the hiring manager wants to know is how you think. Do you make a joke (to double my money, I would fold it in half) or do you answer in a serious, thoughtful way, such as, “If I found a penguin in the freezer, I would call animal control and hope that he makes it, because I’m an animal lover.”

  • Come back to it later

If you find yourself totally stumped on a question, it’s not a problem to say that you can’t think of an answer off the top of your head, but would like to come back to it later. If you can think of something later, go ahead and answer it. But if not, don’t stress over it.  Don’t let the fact that you didn’t answer it right away hang like a cloud over your head for the rest of the interview to where you lose concentration.  It’s usually not a make or break deal.

Don’t beat yourself up or agonize over it. Buy some time, ask for clarification, and come back to it later if need be. Prepare for the unexpected as much as you can. Control what you can and let go of the rest.

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