Make Your Next Interview Your Last (Part 1: Answering Zinger Questions)

Tired of being the runner-up when looking for work?

Is a lack of confidence or experience sabotaging your interview performance?

Then this series of posts on job interview tips is just for you. Over the next few months, the JobFuel Launch Team will be presenting our best advice on how to nail a job interview.

Today’s Topic? Answering “Gotcha” Questions

Hiring managers aren’t really out to get you in an interview, but sometimes their questions can sure make you feel that way. Why do they ask zinger questions? The reason is simple: They want to see how you think and respond under pressure. So if you’re asked an unusual – or downright bizarre – question like:

  • How many tennis balls can you fit inside a Volkswagen Beetle?
  • If you could be any flavor of ice cream what would you be – and why?
  • Which would you rather face in battle: a whale-sized dog, or a hundred dog-sized whales?

…don’t be the proverbial deer in the headlights! Do these things instead:

Relax.

You knew this question was coming, right? No need to press the panic button. Recognize a gotcha interview question for what it is, and don’t let it rattle you. Remember, the interviewer is asking this question to see how you react to a stressful situation. Keep your expression neutral, take a deep breath and get ready to shine.

Think.

When you’re in the hot seat, it’s natural to want to blurt out a response. Silence is awkward in a job interview, especially when it’s your turn to talk. But before you dive into your answer:

  • Determine what type of question it is – so you can gauge your response accordingly. Generally, zinger questions will test creative thinking, logical thinking or big-picture thinking. See if you can identify which category yours falls into, to formulate an appropriate answer. For example, if the question is designed to test logical thinking (like the tennis ball question above), the interviewer will pay more attention to your thought process than your actual answer – so explain the steps you’d use to find the solution.
  • Ask for clarification if you’re legitimately confused. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask your interviewer for a bit more information, especially if the question is bizarre. The interviewer will respect the fact that you didn’t dive headfirst into a response without first understanding what you were asked.
  • Buy yourself a little time. If you need time to think, don’t be afraid to say so. Saying something along the lines of, “That’s certainly a unique question; I’d like to take a few moments to think before I respond to it,” can buy you time to collect your thoughts.

Take the pressure off yourself.

At the end of the day, most gotcha questions don’t have right or wrong answers. They’re more about how you handle yourself under stress, as well as how you approach problem-solving. If you maintain your composure and use the tips in this post, you’ll handle tough questions with ease – and make your next interview your last.

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