Job interview googlies: How to deal with tricky interview questions

picture of an interview

Sometimes, you’re just going to get a difficult interview question. Often, it’s because an interviewer wants to catch you out.

A question such as, “if you were a pizza deliveryman, how would you benefit from scissors?” (asked at Apple) lets interviewers see how you think on your feet, and deal with unexpected challenges.

Sometimes, it’s just because the interviewer is bored and trying to outsmart you. Either way, it’s important to remember this: these questions aren’t the crucial ones. It’s rare someone loses a job on the weakness of their answer to a deliberately tricky question, but it is a chance for you to stand out.

Think about when these tricky interview questions crop up. It’s often at the end of your half-hour, when the interview is coming to a close. What’s important is not to let something like, “Why is a tennis ball fuzzy?” (asked at Xerox) derail you: don’t undo the hard work you’ve put in to explaining who you are and what your job history is by stumbling over a googly.

And, most of all, don’t answer with a long, “Uhhhh….” If you don’t know the answer to a logic puzzle or technical question, say so — or gently bring the conversation back to you. An answer of, “that’s not really my area of expertise, but as you can see from my CV, I have plenty of others that I’d be happy to talk to you about” might be an obvious deflection, but it helps you wrestle back a bit more control in the interview. Ultimately, they are going for the best candidate, both on paper and based on their personality, and proving you are cool under pressure could make all the difference.