Monday, June 3, 2013

Why all the Strange Questions? Creative Thinking & The Interview Process

In the past few years, employers have started asking some rather off-the-wall interview questions, many of which are being published on Internet sites such as  While at first they may seem silly, there is a point to these queries:  companies are looking for innovative employees and creative thinkers.  Too many candidates come to an interview with well-prepared and rehearsed answers to the “standard” questions, and posing an unusual question will often break through this fa├žade and reveal more about the person sitting across the table.   The answers to questions such as “How many cows are in Canada?” and “What kitchen utensil would you be?” can offer insights into a person’s creativity, psychology, reasoning skills, and ability to think “outside-the-box.”

Understanding the sub-text of these questions can help you prepare for whatever oddball question an interviewer may send your way.  When faced with one of these, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “What’s the real question here?”

• How do you make an omelet?
Sub-text:  Can you explain something to others in a clear manner?

• How many piano tuners are in Chicago?
Sub-text:  Can you use creative, critical thinking when faced with a challenging problem?

• If you set your cell phone to silent and it just rang loudly, what would you say to me?
Sub-text:  How well do you handle sticky situations?

•  If you were shrunk to the size of a walnut and put in a box, how would you get out?
Sub-text:  Can you show me that you are creative problem-solver?

The point of these questions is to learn more about candidates, not to confound them.  So, take a deep breath, take some time to think about your answer, ask a clarifying question if necessary, and show the interviewer that you are interesting, creative, and have a sense of humor about the process.