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3 Strategies For Answering Curveball Interview Questions

As an interview coach, job seekers often ask me for the best strategies and techniques to prepare for infamous curveball questions. In this article, I share sample outside-the-box questions, strategies to effectively answer them, and missteps to avoid.

Sample Curveball Interview Questions

While curveball questions are inherently unexpected and difficult to predict, here are a few examples:

  • What do you like least about what’s advertised in the job posting?
  • Have you ever stolen office supplies from work?
  • What’s the last book you read?
  • If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
  • Why shouldn’t we hire you for this role?

Although it’s impossible to prepare for every possible interview question, there are strategies you can deploy to answer them with confidence and clarity.

How To Answer Curveball Questions: 3 Strategies

The following are 3 techniques to deploy the next time you’re asked a curveball question during a job interview.

1. Center yourself.

The last thing you want to do during an interview is speak off the cuff and appear disorganized or nervous. Consequently, you can slow down the interview and center yourself by leveraging one or more of these strategies:

  • Taking a deep breath (or two).
  • Repeating the interviewer’s question.
  • Asking for a moment to collect your thoughts before responding.

Simply put, don’t feel pressured to immediately respond to the interviewer’s question. Additionally, consider writing down the question so you can refer back to them if you go off track with your answer or get interrupted by the interviewer.

2. Approach the question the way you would in a work meeting.

Once you’ve centered yourself, approach the question the way you would in a work meeting. In other words, consider how you would answer a curveball question if it were asked by a manager, cross-functional partner, or client.

Depending on the setting and specific project, this might look like asking clarifying questions before providing a definitive answer or getting back to the person after the meeting (or in this case, the interview) once you’re able to gather additional info.

Take a few moments now to think about how you typically approach curveball questions at work. Then, ask yourself how those strategies can be adapted to your next interview. Remember that an interview isn’t just about having the right answer, but also an opportunity for the interviewer to see your working style and critical thinking abilities in action.

3. Pivot to your interview talking points. 

Lastly, remember your interview talking points (the handful of points you want to ensure you communicate at some point during an interview) and attempt to pivot your response toward them.

While you’re at it, attempt to connect your response back to the company and role you’re applying for. Your role as an interviewee is to articulate the relevance of your experience.

Missteps To Avoid When Answering Curveball Questions

Now, what mistakes should you avoid when responding to curveball questions?

For starters, it can feel tempting to immediately answer when asked a question in an interview, but giving yourself a few moments to gather your thoughts and strategize can make your response stand out and leave an impact.

Next, avoid the urge to stretch the truth or make something up entirely. It’s better to be honest and deliver a tangential example rather than invent a story on the spot.

Finally, don’t get wrapped up in trying to find the “perfect” answer. Because interviews ask curveball questions to see how you think on your feet, they recognize you probably won’t have a response prepared and rehearsed.

Final Thoughts

Curveball interview questions got their name for a reason. Take time to respond to the sample curveball questions above using the outlined strategies in this article, but also trust your intuition once you get in the interview room. You’ve got this!

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