Career University

How to be prepared for those strange interview questions

The Growing Up Guide Interview Career Job Questions University Advice

Interview’s aren’t the easiest of things to do, especially if you’ve never really had one before.

Due to the ever changing requirements of my workplace and the manufacturing industry I’m often recruiting more staff.

Having spent hours sifting through CVs and taking interviews I thought it would be fitting for me to pass on some advice.

As recruiters we have around an hour to learn about you and how you would fit into our workplace, so during the interview we may ask something a bit strange that you weren’t expecting or may not even be prepared for.

It sounds daunting but I’m going to explain why we ask some of the things we do in interviews and how we would ideally like you to respond – hopefully it will help you land your dream job.

Remember though, every interview is different, it depends on the style of the interviewer and the industry for which you are applying. This is not a guide on how to ace every interview ever, but some friendly advice on the common questions in interviews.

What is your greatest weakness?

Why: A massively common interview question, but still one that people tend not to be prepared for.

Answer this question in a positive way, you are describing a weakness but you don’t want to undersell yourself to a potential employer.

Describe ways in which you are working to develop your weakness or ways you could do this in the new job role.

Don’t be afraid to mention things you have already improved. But be careful not to mention anything that may be required for this new position, you don’t want any qualifications or skills to be questioned.

My answer: I tend to get nervous when I have to address a large audience, I don’t have a huge amount of public speaking experience.

I’m working to improve this by presenting more to groups and slowly increasing the size and importance of the topics I am presenting. With my current employer I have recently completed a presentation skills training course.

Why do you want to work for this company?

Why: Without a doubt you will be asked this, or some variety of this question such as why in this department? Why accounting etc.

This question basically sifts through those that are genuinely interested in the company and the role, and those who are just after a pay check.

I’m expecting to hear from you some research about the company and the industry, but try not to recite the company website back to me!

My answer: It is difficult for me to put an exact answer to this one, my advice is as above, do your research and look into the market of the company you are applying for, understand the companies market position.

If the company is not at the top of the market try and research into their strategies to become this, what kind of environment is it, do they invest in their employees career development? All good things to mention to the interviewer.

 If you could have any super power what would it be?

Why: I have been asked this at every interview I have ever sat, it perplexed me and I always panicked, then I did some research.  This question is definitely in the top 50 for most interviewers, perhaps more with the inexperienced ones!

This question is not supposed to catch you out or discover any dirty superhero fantasy you may have, it is to make you think and explain your choice.

What the interviewer is expecting is a thought out response that you can rationalise. They want to see you thinking on your feet and then demonstrating that you have the language to explain your thinking and perhaps debate a bit afterwards.

There are a lot of similar questions to this one that may pop up; they are all used in the same way and similar responses are required.

My answer: I would like to have the power of teleportation.  In my current job I have to travel a lot. I live in a part of the UK that is over 3 hours away from the major airports, a 2 hour wait at the airport, a whopping 5 hours wasted before I even get on the flight. Then there is the time in the air and the hour to get my baggage and get through passport control.

I could be spending this time being productive and would save so much money in travel costs and less of an impact on the environment.

 How many basketballs would fit into this room?

Why: If you are applying in a mathematical/scientific field, you are likely to come across a question similar to this one.  By now you’ve probably hit panic mode, relax and think, don’t be afraid to take your time and look around.

This is a question without a definite answer, again like before you have to be able to debate and reason your answer, you can also ask the interviewer questions for more information.

Such questions you could ask: Are the balls inflated or deflated? With us still in the room or outside of it? Some interviewers may give you the dimensions of the room, some may expect you to work it out.

Depending on the position and the level, a more sophisticated answer may be expected. The interviewer may ask you to state how you could improve the estimations made or about dense packing arrangements to fit more basketballs into the room.

This question again has many forms; you could be asked how many smarties can fit into this glass? How much water is stored in this building? The method to answer is still the same, explain your workings and interact with your interviewer.

My Answer: (Using the room I am sitting in now for my estimation) The ceiling in this room is very low, not much taller than me, knowing my height I am estimating that the room is 2 meters tall.  There are 3 desk pods, along the length of the room, each of these pods is approx. 4 meters, so that’s a 12 meter length.  There are 2 desk pods and a small walk way along the width of the room, giving approx. 9 meters width.

I am estimating the size of the basketball to be a cubic shape. The basketball is round however when several basketballs are stored together they will sit in an array with gaps. I estimate that the basketball is around a foot in diameter (30 cm).

The floor space is 12m x 9m = 108 meter squared. Divide this by 30cm (0.3 m) gives 360 basketballs.  The room is 2m tall dividing this by 0.3m gives 6.6 basketballs.  The total number of basketballs is 360 x 6.6 = 2400 basketballs would currently fit in my office.

It is almost impossible to be 100% prepared for an interview; you will never have 2 the same. I’ve had an interview where I had to sit an hour long exam, I wasn’t informed of this beforehand (sneaky company!) – but they were impressed that I had my calculator on me!

Always do your research and understand exactly what role it is that you are applying for.





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