Oddball interview questions for executive jobs: To ask or not to ask

Recently, Glassdoor compiled a list of some of the most “oddball” questions candidates were asked at interviews. We have had headhunters tell us, that sometimes interview questions for executive jobs also tend to turn into oddball questions – because some do not prepare well enough for basic questions, that can turn tricky.

Oddball interview questions for executive jobs

Some of these Glassdoor questions included:

“How lucky are you and why?”
“How honest are you?”
“Have you ever been on a boat?”
“Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer?”
“If you were 80 years old, what would you tell your children?”

Candidates for management jobs would probably not expect to be asked such questions, making them appear “out of syllabus” from the conventional interview preparedness drill. But throwing a candidate completely off-guard is a great way for recruiters to “get to know the real person” they are hiring – by breaking the ice and getting people to relax and drop their defenses.

Interview questions for executive jobs: Expect the unexpected

A recent survey by CensusWide of 500 employers found that more than half (56%) used curveball questions to uncover any number of skills. A CareerBuilder survey of hiring managers revealed that they are starting to veer from the traditional interview questions in order to get candidates to offer up even more unique glimpses into their personality.

While a resume uncovers some very objective details about prospective candidates, like which subject they studied in college or where they worked before, unusual questions which are out of context reveal much more about their real personas.

They show a recruiter how a candidate thinks on his/her feet, handles unexpected problems, and whether he/she is a good fit for the organization’s culture – something that matters most in a work scenario. This makes them far more telling than any straight-forward questions could ever be.

The questions are designed to illicit atypical responses. For instance, asking someone what three things they would bring to a deserted island helps figure out if a person is pragmatic or fantasy-oriented. Oddball questions typically fall under the categories of problem solving, thought process, and cultural fit.

While problem-solving questions are designed to see how quickly, accurately, and creatively a person solves a problem; thought-process questions are designed to see how a person thinks; and cultural-fit questions are employed to see if a candidate would fit well within a company.

Personal interview questions for executive jobs: Where to draw the line?

A lot of time, interviewers can tread a “personal space” with their prospective employers by asking intrusive questions like “Are you married?” This could be perceived by some as interfering in one’s personal affairs. The question is whether it’s okay for recruiters to ask these questions or not.

Questions about age, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, familial status, disability, and pregnancy are prohibited by anti-discrimination federal, state, and local laws in the U.S. However, some argue that personal questions such as “How many children do you have, or plan to have?” may be necessary to ask depending on the requirements of one’s job (frequent travel, for example).

Laying down recruitment policies or training interviewers to be more sensitive are some measures that progressive companies have adopted off late.

So what should you do in case you are stumped by a “strange” interview question? Often it’s not about the “right” answer – rather it’s about how well one maintains one’s composure, and the logic one uses to arrive at the answer. We offer some tips and advice.

How to handle oddball interview questions for executive jobs

  1. Firstly, don’t question the interviewer. It will only make you seem contrary or difficult by questioning why they are asking the question.
  2. Take a minute to think about your answer and gather your thoughts.
  3. Consider why the interviewer might be asking the question. This might help inform the type of answer you want to give.
  4. Demonstrate your thought process when you answer. The interviewer is probably just trying to assess how creatively you can come up with a good answer, or how quickly you can solve a problem. Just try to give the best answer possible.
  5. Strategize. Use your background knowledge of the company and think about why the question is being asked, and use a lot of detail and specifics in your answer. It also never hurts to throw in a little humor and smile.

Susan Riehle, author of “Make Me an Offer I Can’t Refuse—the ‘Gangster’ Rules for Your Working Life” believes that there really is only one interview question. No matter what form the question takes, what the interviewer is really asking is “Why should I hire you and not the next guy through that door?” “Answer in a way that says something about you,” she advises.

Career coach Susan Hosage warns that while “quirky questions can yield bizarre answers, since applicants aren’t prepared, they often relinquish information that may not contribute positively to their candidacy”. She recommends that all questions, even quirky ones, be answered in a way that “highlights the skills, knowledge, abilities, and attributes” that one can bring to the job.

We wish you all the best for all your high level interview questions for executive jobs that you’re eyeing!

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