So you’re nearing the end of a job interview and so far, everything has been coming up roses. You’ve been able to show that you researched the company and its competitors and through your responses you’ve demonstrated that you clearly possess all of the requisite skills for the position. It seems like a job offer is imminent. But then your interviewer catches you totally off guard.
“What was the biggest failure of your career?” He asks, “and what would you do differently if you got a second chance?” Your palms begin to sweat. Your collar tightens. You didn’t have a chance to prepare for this one. How do your react?
That’s precisely what we employers are trying to judge. As someone who’s interviewed plethora of job applicants over the past twenty years, I’ve come to love curveball questions because they help me get a glimpse of a candidate’s true demeanor by forcing them to think on their feet. I’m not analyzing the answer you give so much as how you give it. With that said, here’s how you can answer these curveball interview questions like a pro.
When you’re presented with a curveball in an interview, the most important thing to remember is to stay calm. Even if the question stresses you out, don’t let your interviewer know that. If you need to, take a minute to breathe and gather your thoughts. Remember that a calm, collected response will always trump an immediate response in the eyes of your employer.
Don’t Psych Yourself Out
Most curveball questions that you’ll face in an interview will be open-ended. For instance, IBM is known for asking candidates to explain how they could weigh an elephant without using a scale. Far too often, candidates treat these questions as some sort of thinly-veiled psychological survey. They spend forever trying to figure out “the perfect response” to impress the interviewer when really, no such thing exists. Clever answers are appreciated, but this isn’t a psych test –so don’t feel obligated to treat it like one.
Consider Your Options
Take a moment to consider your options before picking an answer that seems correct to you. I tend to encourage my candidates to say the second thing that comes to mind. Why? Because it’s almost always better than your first idea but it’s still just as honest.
Stand by Your Answer
The key to mastering these curveball questions is to answer them confidently. Don’t second guess yourself when your interviewer asks you to explain why you think Batman is better than Superman. There has to be some logical path that brought you to this conclusion, so share it and stand by it.
Maybe Batman has cooler gear, or maybe he’s better because Bruce Wayne is a real human, just like us. It doesn’t really matter what you say – as long as you say it with conviction. Show your interviewer that you’re confident in yourself and you’ll score points.
Remember the “Three C’s”
Answering curveball questions is easy as long as you remember the “Three C’s” – calmness, confidence, and competence. If you can show your interviewer, through your response, that you possess all three of these traits, then you’ll ace any question that they can throw at you. So if you have an interview coming up, get some batting practice in now. Get your friends to ask you questions out of left field, and practice responding to them effectively. Prepare for the unexpected, and you’ll never be caught unaware.
Lance Trebesch is the CEO of TicketPrinting.com & Ticket River, which offer a variety of event products and ticketing services. After working for nineteen years in Silicon Valley, Lance found that the key to happiness is helping customers worldwide beautify and monetize their events with brilliant print products and event services. Listening to his customers and learning about how they plan their events – which range from concerts to fundraisers – has helped him gain insight and expertise that he is always eager to share.