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  • Stacey Baker

Conquering curve-balls: how to prepare for the strangest of interview questions

Half of employers are using random questions to test creativity and logical thinking, but can you prepare?

Answering questions like 'if you were an elephant what would you do with your trunk?' in an interview situation is tough.

We all know the feeling. There you are, in a job interview, steadfastly answering honest questions about your experience and previous employment history, when out of the blue a curveball question gets fired at you. How do you cut a cake in eight pieces with three strokes? How many bricks are there in the world? If you were an elephant what would you do with your trunk? These are just three curveball questions employers may use to put candidates to the test in a job interview. So how do you deal with these off the wall questions? And can you ever prepare for them?

Expect the unexpected

Tech companies have earned a reputation for unusual interview techniques, with firms like Google achieving almost mythical status for the oddness of their recruitment process. While not every potential employer is going to ask you to build San Francisco's Golden Gate bridge out of an A4 piece of paper, our research shows they are very likely to ask you a curveball question.

A recent survey of 500 employers found that more than half (56%) used curveball questions to uncover any number of skills. Male interviewers are more likely than females to throw a curveball.

Don't be thrown

Employers love curveball questions because they test creativity, logical thinking and the candidate's ability to think on their feet. While it might seem slightly terrifying to suddenly be asked to describe the sky without using colours in an interview, the important thing to remember is there is no right answer. No one actually knows how many bricks there are in the world. What the employer is looking for is to see how your thought process works and how you then articulate that. Embrace it.

Know what they're looking for and practice your return

There are three main types of curveball question, and they're designed to do different things – test your creative thinking, test your logical thinking and to test how you cope with life's big questions.

Even though there's no right answer to a curveball question, there's nothing wrong with a little ball return practice. It's unlikely you'll know in advance the exact question you'll be asked, unless your interviewer has no imagination and goes for the "if you were an animal, what animal would you be?" approach. But that doesn't mean you can't practice answering a curveball question ahead of time. Foosle's curveball question generator will throw unlimited weird and wonderful questions at you, to get you used to thinking on your feet.

Have a go before your next interview, because you never know where the next curveball is coming from.

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