Prepare for Unusal Interview Questions: Describe Yourself in One Word and What Do You Stink At?

I’ll never forget walking into my very first job interview to find the prospective employer buried in The New York Times.  Without looking up from behind his paper, the gruff reporter-turned-PR pro read a headline about the war in Vietnam and asked me to comment.  Such politically insensitive questions aren’t common place today, but tough-to-answer questions are becoming fairly routine.  

When you land an interview, don’t blow your chance to impress a prospective employer by failing to be prepared to answer any and all questions no matter how silly some might sound.  I recommend that you draw a T graph–put potential questions on the left side and jot down key phrases of possible answers on the right side.  This exercise will help you shape the best possible answers even if the ones asked aren’t exactly the same.  To get started, use the basic list of 100 potential interview questions from  Also check past posts on this blog, including the 12 most frequently asked questions

You also can find  out-of-the-ordinary questions every Sunday in the New York Times’ “Corner Office” column.  C-suite executives each week are asked “how do you hire” and they generally share their favorite interview questions.  In last Sunday’s column, Chris Barbin, chief executive of Appirio, an information technology company that focuses on cloud services, likes to ask applicants to describe themselves in one word. He also asks applicants to describe what they’re most proud of and what they “stink” at.

In addition to anticipating questions you’ll be asked, be sure to come armed with questions you will be expected to ask prospective employers.  An insightful question on your part can set you apart from other applicants.  In a past post, I listed five questions you should bring to a job interview.  U.S. News lists its 10 best interview questions.

4 thoughts on “Prepare for Unusal Interview Questions: Describe Yourself in One Word and What Do You Stink At?

  1. The last paragraph is key. I have found that the interviewer is much more intrigued if you have prepared questions for him or her than if you simply say no, you do not have any questions. By asking an insightful question, it shows you have done research on that particular organization and are invested in their success.

  2. I often see articles that recommend you ask something like “what is the hardest part about working here?” This has always surprised me, because it seems negative. What are your thoughts?

    1. You’re right–that’s a negative question that might suggest you don’t want to work hard. You might rephrase it to ask: “What are the major challenges you face as an organization?” That suggest you’re ready to jump in to help.

  3. Although many people do not enjoy the interview process I am definitely apart of the minority that do. When answering otherwise silly questions I have found that by taking a breather, remaining calm, and thinking about the question within it’s respected professional context is key. While interviewing with a hotel last year I was asked how I would answer a quest who was to ask for packing tape. After taking a second to think about the question within a hospitality context I answered that I would ask the guest needed shipping supplies, a box, or assistance with shipping. I am not sure if the answer was exactly what the interviewer was looking for but by remaining calm and providing a thoughtful response resonated with the potential employer.

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