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Dealing With Wacky Interview Questions

Karina Oluwo

12 February 2020

by Karina Oluwo

( Words)

Just when you think you’ve prepared in every way possible for your graduate position, the employer throws in a question to flummox you. Employers know that graduates do loads of practice for their interviews, and practice their responses until they are word perfect. Is that giving a true reflection on the candidate’s ability? Recruiters like to mix things up a bit and try something a bit unexpected to see how you react. Tactics are changing all of the time, but some of the more common questions are the following.

How many bricks are there in Buckingham Palace?

Obviously nobody’s going to know the exact answer, or the answer to similar questions about how many slices of pizza are eaten in the UK each year or how many people in London are using Facebook at any one time. The answer isn’t the point of these questions. Employers partly want to put you on the spot, and partly see your reasoning. So perhaps you might say that you’d work it out by measuring the dimensions of the palace, taking into account internal walls and courtyards. Then you’d work out the dimensions of a brick, and divide one into the other. The key is not to flap, try to work it through logically and don’t just blurt out the first number you can think of.

If you were a crayon, what colour would you be?

Again, the employer doesn’t care if you think of yourself as a zingy orange or sophisticated blue. The way to approach this question is to highlight a quality you know they are looking for, and pick a colour to match it. So if you see yourself as calm and organised, you might state that and say you’re blue or a pale green. If the job requires lots of creativity, you might say that as you’re always full of ideas and energy, you’d be yellow or red.

Can you tell us a joke?

This question is one of the most common and is designed to push you out of your comfort zone and see how well you think on the spot. The best answer is something short and non-offensive, or the type of joke which children tell. One of our favourites is: How do you catch a rabbit? Hide behind a tree and make a sound like a carrot. It’s simple, short and easy to remember. Don’t start telling long, rambling stores and steer away from bad language or any sort of joke which relies on insults as its punchline.

How many ways could you use this piece of paper?

This is a test of creativity. The employers don’t want you to say that you could write on it, they want as many ideas as you can come up with in the allotted time. It doesn’t matter how crazy your ideas seem, just keep them coming. Say you’d fold the paper up and make a hat, or a boat to sail in the pond. Once you come up with a few ideas you’ll find they start to flow more easily.


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If you want to have a read of similar articles on interview techniques and tips, check out:

Interview Research - How Much Is Too Much?

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Group Exercises in Graduate Interview Stages - What Are They Looking For?

Where to next? Find out about all our internal graduate jobs.