Many job interview questions have easy to understand motivations. Questions like “Why do you want to work here?” are testing how well you researched the company, whether you can come up with an intelligent answer rand, of course, why you want to work there. Very few questions have only one motive, but it is easy to discover the motives for most interview questions that you are asked.
Some questions, however, seem extremely unusual. So much so that it may be hard for you to understand why they would ask the question. Below are some examples of unusual interview questions, their motivations, and how you should go about answering them.
Question 1: How Many Coffee and Tea Shops Are There in Japan?
It is not uncommon, especially for IT jobs, to face a question that appears to be completely random and unrelated to your job. Questions like this may seem pointless, but they have some practical implication. Namely, they test your ability to think logically, and the respect you give to unexpected questions. Many applicants will laugh and roll their eyes and answer with “I have no idea.” If you want to impress the hiring manager, you need to show them you respect the question, and answer logically. Your actual answer doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you put thought into it.
“Let’s see. Japan has about 125 million people. I would estimate that 40% of all Japanese residents drink some variation of coffee or tea at these locations, so that would be 50 million people. About half of those are going to brew coffee and/or tea at home most of the time, so let’s cut it down to 25 million. I’d guess that a good business would receive about 1500 people a week on average. If we keep that as the survival rate, I’d guess there are roughly 16,000 coffee shops in Japan.”
That number is probably nowhere close to accurate, but because you showed an adequate thought process, you will still ace the question.
Question 2: Why Are Manhole Covers Round?
This question is very similar. It is designed to see if you take surprising questions seriously and if you can put logic behind your answer. It doesn’t matter what your answer is, provided you show the interviewer that your answer took thought.
“Most likely manhole covers are round so that they can be easily closed whenever the cover is lifted, since all angles of a circle are equal to all other angles. Also, manhole covers can be rolled when they are circles. The iron is fairly heavy, so squares, triangles, etc., would cause greater levels of inconvenience.”
Question 3: If You Were a Car, What Color Will You Be?
Notice a theme? Once again, this question is designed to see how well you think on your feet, and how much respect you give to the question. There is no right answer. There is, however, a right way and a wrong way to treat the question. Half-ass your answer and you will not get the job. Answer knowledgably and you are sure to ace it.
“If I were car, I would be blue – my color would not be inconspicuous, and you could easily spot me in a crowd or parking lot, but I would otherwise be a calm, gentle color, in contrast from other noticeable colors like red and orange.”
None of these questions expect you to know the right answer, which is why they are so tricky and unexpected, and why many applicants find them unbearable. Just know that if you are faced with a question that doesn’t make sense, the likelihood is that the answer doesn’t matter. All that matters is the respect you give the question and the thought process you use to come up with an answer.
Take Away Interview Tips
- Take every interview question seriously.