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How to Answer Oddball Interview Questions

        posted by , February 05, 2013

How many zebras are there in the United States?

Oddball questions are designed to test your ability to think on your feet. They might also be designed to test other abilities such as logical problem solving.

Oddball questions are fairly uncommon. Most organizations prefer behavioral and situational questions.

Some large technology companies have a culture of oddball questions in interviews. In recent years, oddball questions have been banned at several prominent organizations because they're not business focused.

Examples of Oddball Questions

How many golf balls fit in a school bus?
How would you test a bicycle?
How many times a day do a clock's hands overlap?
Design a new layout for a keyboard.
How many airplanes are there in the world?
Why are manhole covers round?
How would you explain your job to someone from the year 1600?

Oddball questions may have no right or wrong answer. They may be designed to see how well you respond to a challenge. In other cases, there is a single correct answer (e.g. a logical puzzle).

These 3 guidelines are designed to help you answer oddball questions.

1. Be a Good Sport

Some professionals get annoyed at oddball questions. They feel they're unprofessional.

Oddball questions test your flexibility in unexpected situations. If you get annoyed, you may come off as someone who is inflexible.

2. State Your Assumptions and Describe Your Logic

Remember how in high school math tests you could get partial marks by showing your work (even if your answer was wrong)?

If you're given a logical problem to solve, think out loud and show how you're solving the problem.

Oddball questions are often deliberately vague. Make whatever assumptions you wish to fill in the blanks.

Example: Stating Your Assumptions

Q: Design a new layout for a keyboard.

A: Let me make the assumption that the keyword is for a tablet device. I would make the most commonly used letters such as vowels bigger so they are easier to tap ....

3. Don't Overlook the Obvious

Often a witty off-the-cuff remark is a great answer to a oddball question.

Example: The Witty Answer

Q: Why are manhole covers round?

A: Because sewer pipes are cylindrical and manhole covers are often used to cap sewer pipes.

Q: How would you test a bicycle?

A: I'd drive it from New York to Los Angeles.

Fast witty remarks prove you can think on your feet. They also send the friendly message that you're tired of oddball questions and you'd like to get back to discussing the job.

This post is an installment in the ongoing series of posts called how to win your next job

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