In general, when we talk about job interview questions, we are referring to questions that fall into one of the following categories:
- Experience Questions – What have you done, what do you know, etc.
- Situational Questions – How would you handle scenario X.
- Personal Questions – Do you consider yourself a people person?
Most questions fall into one of the above categories, because those are the most important aspects of being a great employee: Your personality, your behavior, and your knowledge/abilities. These are not the only types of questions. There are also what is sometimes referred to as “wild card questions” – questions that make no sense and have nothing to do with becoming a great employee.
Examples of Wild Card Questions
- If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
- If your fingers could talk, what would they say?
- If your car suddenly came to life and starting kicking puppies, what would you do?
Wild card question is any question where you first instinct is to ask “what the hell?” and feel an intense urge to think your interviewer is an idiot. Yet employers love asking these questions, because they are arguably more telling about your character than any standard interview question.
The purpose of asking these questions is as follows:
- It is nearly impossible to plan for a way to answer this question.
- A great answer shows a remarkable ability to think on your feet.
- Unexpected questions can make it easy to show your character (frowning or rolling your eyes).
The reality is that with most interview questions you can (and should) plan a number of different answers ahead of time in order to impress employers. Wild card questions, however, do not have a generic answer that you can turn to, and so employers use them to see if they can catch a glimpse of who you really are and how your brain works.
How to Answer
Answering these questions is sometimes difficult. Luckily, in general it is not the content of your answer that matters, but rather the way you answer it. Keep the following in mind.
- Don’t laugh or joke or show that you are not taking the question seriously. Remain calm as though it was any other interview question, because you are being tested on your professionalism and ability to take unexpected things in stride.
- Don’t act angry or confused or annoyed by the question either. Smile as you would normally smile when answering any interview question as though this is no different than others.
- Don’t try to completely BS your way through the answer. Try to come up with a thoughtful response, just as you would any interview question. The answer is not going to be as important, but as long as you can explain your answer, it will be considered acceptable.
Finally, as usual, make sure your answer reflects positively on you as an employee. For example, if you are asked what type of tree you would be, you would answer something along the lines of “I would be a Bristlecone Pine because they are reliable, resourceful, and able to withstand even the harshest terrain with grace.”
The goal is to make yourself sound like a great employee in an answer that is not related to work. You can throw in a joke if you can pull it off without blowing it (for example “They are sturdy, reliable, and they smell nice” but in general focus on an answer that speaks highly to your abilities.
Take Away Interview Tips
- Answer wild card questions as you would any interview question.
- Make your answers thoughtful.