Many employers want to see you squirm a little during a job interview. They need to know how you’ll react when presented with an uncomfortable or unfamiliar situation. If you’re so well-prepared for the interview that everything is going perfectly, they’ll reach into their bag of tricks and throw something unexpected at you. It might be a nonsensical question such as “If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?” or a question that tests your knowledge with no relation to the position for which you’re applying. If you are hit with a question from out of left field, try the following tactics in your response:
– Stay calm. Recognize that the question is intended to rattle you, and don’t let that happen. Don’t feel the need to rush into giving an answer, either. It’s totally acceptable to take a moment to think about it.
– Don’t overdo it. You don’t need to knock these questions out of the park. Instead of jumping into an answer that seems witty, but might end up hitting a sour note, give an honest response that makes sense given the situation. Interviewers are almost always looking to evaluate how you form your response rather than the response itself.
– Compliment the question. Telling the interviewer “That’s a good question” or something similar buys you a few extra seconds to think and will get you talking again. Sometimes that’s all you need to recover from the shock of the question.
– Ask for a moment to think. You don’t want to abuse this tactic over the course of the interview, but using it once on a really tough question can help you a lot. And remember, just because you take a few extra seconds to think doesn’t mean you need to come up with the world’s best answer.
– Ask the interviewer to revisit the question later. They want to keep things moving along just as much as you do, and they may be happy to move on to questions that will tell them more about you.