Hiring managers usually have a set of questions they ask in interviews to help them understand whether the job seeker is qualified for the role and a good fit for the company culture. However, since these questions are similar across organizations, candidates get used to these interview formats and offer prepared responses.

That’s why there has been a recent trend of hiring managers asking oddball questions during interviews. The belief is that it helps them circumvent the usual round of questions while gaining clarity on the candidate's skills and attributes.

What are oddball interview questions?

Oddball questions are strange questions that interviewers ask to catch the candidate off-guard. They help the hiring manager assess how the candidate responds when asked a question for which they are not prepared. These oddball questions sometimes might even serve as an icebreaker.

Here are some examples of oddball interview questions:

  • You are given an elephant you can’t sell or give away; what would you do with it?

  • If you were a plant, what kind of plant would you be and why?

  • Would you be a hunter or a gatherer if you had a choice?

  • Which superpower would you choose - flying or being invisible?

  • If someone gave you a brick, what’s the first thing you would do with it? (Asked to an investment banker)

  • Describe yourself in an Excel formula (Asked to a finance professional)

  • What is your secret superpower? (Asked to a financial advisory professional)

  • What animal are you? (Asked to a candidate for the Commonwealth Bank)

Why do interviewers ask oddball questions?

Interviewers believe that the responses candidates give to strange questions can give insights into their personality. How candidates handle surprising questions can reveal a lot about their ability to handle obstacles; for example, are they quick-witted or calm and logical in their response, or do they panic and trip themselves up at the unexpected turn of events?

Hiring managers also believe they can gauge the candidate’s seriousness about the new role by asking, “What will you do if you win the lottery today?” Their answer supposedly determines whether money or passion drives them in their career.

What do candidates think of oddball questions?

Candidates have taken to online forums to post about the oddball interview questions they have been asked. The online chatter around these questions often deems them useless. There is also no empirical evidence supporting the hypothesis that oddball questions uncover a candidate’s personal attributes. 

According to a recently published study in the Journal of Business and Psychology, asking oddball questions during interviews can have contradictory outcomes. While the interviewees surveyed thought the questions were meaningless, they found this interview method fun and likable. The researchers also found that applicants with a greater sense of humor had more positive reactions to such questions. The study concluded, however, that given the limited benefits, using such questions in interviews is a questionable practice. 

What types of interview questions should hiring managers ask instead?

Instead of asking candidates strange, left-field questions that don’t reveal much about their fit for the job, hiring managers can rely on other types of interview questions to gain insight into the candidate’s qualifications and personality.

Behavioral interview

A behavioral interview is based on the logic that your past actions determine your future performance. 

In a behavioral interview, hiring managers ask candidates to provide examples from their past to illustrate how they deployed a specific trait or used their knowledge within a working environment. Essentially, candidates have to prove they possess certain attributes by giving real-life examples of those traits in action in a past role.

While a traditional interview involves a series of straightforward questions, a behavioral interview requires candidates to demonstrate their skills through a narration of past experiences.

Questions asked in behavioral interviews include:

  • Tell us about a time you set a goal and achieved it.

  • What is the biggest risk you have taken in your career and why?

  • Describe an unpopular decision you made in a past role and why you made that decision despite its unpopularity.

  • How do you handle a situation that keeps creating interruptions in your schedule?

  • How do you work under pressure? Give an example.

  • How do you handle a difficult co-worker? Give an example.

Brain teaser interview

A challenging brain teaser interview is a unique method of testing candidates’ problem-solving and lateral thinking skills, particularly as it relates to technical candidates. Candidates need to think deeply before offering up a solution to brain teaser questions as the answers are not easy to devise. This helps us to understand how a candidate can conceptualize a larger problem and distill it down to an executable solution.

If your organization requires employees to think critically, analyze and solve problems, and make creative decisions, a brain teaser interview is an apt way to assess these skills.

Case study interview

In a case study interview, a candidate is given a client-related problem and asked to provide the best possible solution within a specific timeframe. Such interviews help the company gauge the candidate’s resourcefulness, lateral and logical thinking, and confidence in dealing with problems on the fly.

The Importance of a Structured Interview

Regardless of the type of interview that you utilize or even if you include an oddball question or two, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of a Structured Interview. Structured interviews improve the likelihood of hiring a high quality candidate, are objective and eliminate any bias (whether unconscious bias or not),  and are focused on long term planning and success.  They are a key component of FloCareer's Interview Strategy.

How do you prepare to be a good interviewer?

To prepare for the interview, first spend time analyzing the candidate's resumé. Note down questions you would like to ask about their educational background, experience in a particular organization, or career goals. 

Before the interview, list the specific skills and qualities the ideal candidate for this role should have. This will help you determine the interview questions you’d like to ask the candidate. You can also ask the candidate to demonstrate these skills as part of the recruitment process. For instance, candidates for a Content Writing position can showcase their research and writing skills by writing a 500 word article. Similarly, Social Media Manager applicants can conceptualize and present a mock digital marketing campaign and Graphic Design applicants can demonstrate their aesthetics by creating a design for a faux client brief. 

A brain teaser interview will be an appropriate choice if the job requires in-depth analysis. On the other hand, if the job requires a candidate who can work under pressure, opt for a behavioral interview to learn more about the candidate’s past experiences with work pressure.

These types of interviews will give you more valuable insight about the candidate than oddball questions. They will also help you filter out candidates who look good on a resume and come prepared for generic interviews in favor of candidates with the actual skills and attributes you desire.  

How can FloCareer help you find the best candidates?

FloCareer offers several data-driven talent assessment tools. If you receive a high volume of applications, our JD to CV Match tool will help you shortlist candidates quickly and efficiently. Our Live Interview Platform is designed to conduct video interviews for remote candidates, which reduces both time and money spent while keeping a record of the interaction to revisit later. Schedule a demo to learn more about how our recruitment tools can simplify your hiring process.