“What are some of your most proud achievements?” - Easy.“How many ping pong balls would fit inside Marina Bay Sands?” - Uhhh.. what?
No matter how much research or preparation you do, going into an interview can be a daunting experience, whether it’s your first, or your 100th. One of the biggest reasons for this is the feeling that you will be asked a question that catches you completely off guard.
As many of these tricky questions have an underlying goal for the interviewer, we have outlined the most common ones below.
How many ping pong balls would fit inside Marina Bay Sands?Underlying goal: Problem-solving skills
These types of oddball questions are inherently designed to surprise the interviewee, but responding isn’t as hard as you might think. You need to understand that the interviewer doesn’t really want to know the actual answer, they want to see how you approach the task. You likely won’t even need to give a concrete number, but you will need to explain how you would come up with an answer. Break down the question as much as possible and explain your steps.
One answer could be estimating the size of the ping pong ball and figuring out how many would line up in one square meter. After an online search for the size of Marina Bay Sands, you can get an estimate.
If you were an animal, what would you be?Underlying goal: Personality gauge
As irrelevant to the job this question may seem, interviewers are actually trying to find out your personality traits. Do your research on what the job entails and pick an animal with traits that you would feel would benefit the job.
For example, if you are applying for a sales job, an eagle would make a good fit as they have an overview of the landscape, are fairly independent and natural hunters. However, an eagle wouldn’t fit for a job in communications, as the traits needed for this role are collaboration and approachability.
Could you tell me about your weaknesses?Underlying goal: Job fit
Doughnuts may be your actual greatest weakness, but interviewers don’t want to hear about delicious baked pastries. It’s recommended that you would avoid mentioning weaknesses that make you look bad. Instead, highlight generic areas of improvement that you have been actively working on, including results that show you are working towards improving your weakness.
An even better way to answer this is to veer away from weaknesses altogether. Instead of being worried about weaknesses, say that you are now working on making your strengths even stronger.
What were some of the biggest challenges you have faced?Underlying goal: Performance under pressure
Everyone has been faced with hurdles in their life, but it’s not the difficulty itself that’s important, it’s how you dealt with it. Emphasise how you tackled the challenge, the learnings you got from this situation, and what you would do next time.
Sharing examples from your previous work or internship experience would be ideal for this question.
Can you explain the gap in your employment?Underlying goal: Hireability
Whether you are a fresh graduate searching for your first job, or left your current job to find a new one, interviewers may want to know why there is a gap in your CV. At the end of the day, they want to know why you haven’t already been snatched up by another employer and could be wondering about your hireability. It can be an intrusive question, so it’s best to iterate that you are taking your time to find a strong career match and not just jumping into the first job you are offered.
If the gap has been quite long, don’t focus on explaining why, but instead highlight positive activities you have accomplished in the meantime, including volunteering or taking online courses to upskill yourself.