Tips to prepare answers to job interview questions

There seems to be an unwritten belief that anyone who conducts job interviews uses certain basic interview questions. The fact is the job interview questions available and the recruiters and hiring managers that use them are as diverse as the job seekers they interview and, therefore, recruiters and hiring managers all to have different interview styles and questions for job interviews.

Yes, there are some generic interview questions that many people who conduct job interviews ask. Yes, there is some basic information that most interviewers want to know about candidates. However, there is no guarantee which interview questions an interviewer or hiring manager will ask when a job seeker goes to a job interview.

That being said, it is very important that job seekers organize themselves in advance of the job interview to be ready to handle whatever is thrown their way. And to do this means research and prep work.

Job Seekers Need to Study the Company

One of the best ways to prepare for a job interview is to find out more about the potential new employer ahead of time. This is not to be a show-off. It is merely to enable job seekers to have a better understanding of what they might be getting themselves into. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

Many company websites like contain information about the company mission, vision, and values, important elements of what a company is all about; so conducting pre-interview research on an organization may enable job seekers to gain a better understanding of the company culture.

In addition, most company websites share current news and press releases which can shed light on the status of the firm. Plus job seekers are likely to find a section about careers where other job openings, as well as company benefits programs, will be listed.

Finally, the most important reason for conducting company research prior to a job interview is to determine if there are any tidbits of information or hot news stories, on the company website or elsewhere, that may provide insight into potential problems or prompt job seekers to ask specific questions to assist them to determine if this is really the place they want to work.

Job Seekers Need to Study Their Own Work History

The second important part of job interview research is all about self-study. This means job seekers need to take the time to study their own background to ensure they have a thorough understanding of their own work history, skills, and achievements so that they are prepared to handle any questions that are asked in the job interview.

Now, this might seem like a no-brainer; however, it is amazing how many job seekers step into a job interview and, either because of nerves or a lack of preparation, immediately forget everything they’ve ever known about their own background and work experience. Not a good situation. The inability to respond to job interview questions in a cohesive and succinct manner is not likely to win a job offer.

The fact is that job seekers can never be too prepared for the job interview process. Now that doesn’t mean they should sound over-rehearsed, just knowledgeable and polished enough to get the job.

Dealing With Unusual, Strange or Stupid Interview Questions

It is a popular belief that all interviewers are not the same. They work for different organizations with unique corporate cultures and the candidates they seek need to be the right fit. They have their own interview style and method of screening and/or testing job seekers. And they have their own favorite interview questions.

Also, a candidate who may appear to be a wrong fit for one company may just as likely be perfect for another. There are just so many aspects of a job seeker’s background, experience, and skillsets to consider when conducting job interviews. And for these reasons sometimes the people who conduct the interviews will ask off-the-wall interview questions.

Purpose of Using Unique, Strange, or Stupid Interview Questions

Job interviews should be a true give-and-take process. The purpose of asking interview questions should be for organizations and job seekers to get to know each other through an exchange of information. It’s like a scene from the movie Sleepless in Seattle when the character Sam (Tom Hanks) says, “That’s what single people do, they try each other on and see if they fit.” Both job seekers and employers need to ask such questions to do the same thing.

Sometimes, in an effort to do this, the interviewer will ask questions outside the realm of what most would consider normal interview questions. Oftentimes these interview questions are designed to get a sense of how candidates respond in unusual, even uncomfortable, situations or to test their ability to be creative on the spot.

OfficeTeam, a national temporary service company, conducted a survey and found that unique interview questions ranged from the not so strange – “what was the last book you read?” – to the truly questionable – “what would I find in your refrigerator?”

Dealing with Unusual Interview Questions

While it’s difficult to predict exactly what unique interview question an employer might throw their way, there are definite steps that job seekers can take to prepare themselves just in case.

First, and always foremost, practicing how to answer interview questions is always helpful. Whether that means that jobs seekers conduct a mock interview with a close friend or family member, or choose to use another method for practice, becoming comfortable with the interview process is an important first step.

Next, job seekers need to thoroughly educate themselves on their own background, work experience and skill sets. As strange as this might sound, it is often surprising how many people get stuck with no answer to an interview question because they simply can’t recall information about their own past. Instead of leaving it to chance, it is better if job seekers refresh their memories beforehand.

Finally, keep in mind that the interview process is not about who can provide the fastest response to an interview question. Job seekers have every right to take their time, think each question through, catch their breath, ask clarifying questions or even request a moment to think about their answer before responding. They should be sure to use all the tools available at their fingertips.

Interviewing candidates for job openings is very much about the interviewer’s personal style. That style can say volumes about what type of employees an employer hires. So while it is important that job seekers prepare themselves for whatever interview questions – stupid or otherwise – interviewers may ask, consider what it tells the job seeker about the potential new employer.