Answering Off-the-Wall Interview Questions

(Guest post authored by Lewis C. Lin, CEO of Impact Interview.  Lewis will speak at the Mays Business School on Friday, August 24th.  Mark your calendars now!)

A popular, off-the-wall interview question is:

If you could be any animal, which one would it be?

Interview candidates absolutely dread this question.  It seems fun, casual, and harmless. But blurt out a short response like- “Giraffe, because I’m tall” or “Fox, because I like to plan” – and you’ll disappoint the interviewer.  To help you think through this problem, here are some tips to answer this questions, adapted from my (Lewis Lin’s) recently released book,  The Marketing Interview.

WHAT IS THE INTERVIEWER LOOKING FOR?

Most interviewers would explain that they ask off-the-wall questions to assess a candidate’s ability to think quickly, showcase their personality, and demonstrate their creativity.  A small handful might admit that they ask off-the-wall questions to lighten up the mood.

Thus, make it fun and make it creative. Present a dull and formal response at your own risk!

HOW TO APPROACH THE QUESTION

Treat this question as a personal brand question.  That is, what would you like to be known for?  Perhaps you want to be known as someone who is intelligent yet social.  In this case, your animal might be an elephant, an intelligent species that emphasizes social bonding and enrichment.  A social yet intelligent personal brand would be ideal for a business development role, where strategic skills and intelligence are prized.

How do you determine your personal brand?  You’ll find your personal brand intersecting between where your strengths lie and what the employer is looking for in an ideal candidate.  The last part is critical.  Your employer has a picture in their mind of what skills and traits and ideal candidate has.  To increase your chances of getting the job, synchronize your response with what they’re looking for.

A FEW MORE TIPS

Despite the seemingly inconsequential nature of off-the-wall interview questions, you are still being judged, so take the question seriously.  Details convey credibility.  So use the Rule of Three and have three reasons on why you chose a particular animal.

Lastly, it’s very difficult to come up with a creative answer to this question without thinking about your response first.  So pre-think this question and come up with your answer in advance.  And if you must, take a moment to collect your thoughts before answering.

Now, go conquer those interviews!

NOTE:  Save the date- August 24th!   Lewis Lin speak to graduate business students at the Mays Business School on Friday, August 24th in sessions on both the marketing interview and the product management interview.

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Lewis C. Lin,  Impact Interview, 677 120th Avenue NE, Suite 2A-241, Bellevue, Washington 98005