Don't be alarmed by a quirky interview question. Instead, take it in stride.
If you're on the hunt for a new job, you've probably prepared for all the typical interview questions: “Can you tell me a little about yourself?” “What do you know about the company?” “Why should we hire you?” “What is your greatest weakness?”
However, you've probably never heard of this unusual question that the late Tony Hsieh, former CEO of Zappos, liked to ask job candidates: “On a scale of one to 10, how weird are you?” This curveball question will catch most candidates off guard, as it's so subjective and open-ended. Our career expert, Amanda Augustine, recently shared some tips with CNBC that will help you answer this particular question — and other unique interview questions just like it. Read the full article here.
Understand the interviewer's motivation
When you're asked “unusual” or “strange” interview questions, keep in mind that there may be very valid reasons to ask them, even if they feel terrifying in the moment. One of Zappos's 10 core values is to “create fun and weirdness.”
When it comes to hiring newcomers, Tony Hsieh wasn't just looking at the candidate's skills and experience, but also at whether they would be a good cultural fit for Zappos. “Our whole belief is that everyone is a little weird somehow,” he explained in a 2010 New York Times Interview. Even if you're the most skilled candidate in the pool, you're not likely to be selected if your personality doesn't match the core values and culture of Zappos.
Spend some time on the company's website before the interview
The way you deliver your answer to this unusual question is as important as your actual answer, and nothing guarantees better delivery than preparation! Review the company's corporate website thoroughly before your interview. Read about them, their clients, and their services. This will give you an idea of what distinguishes this company from their competition.
Another good place to do your homework is the company's social media accounts and on websites such as Glassdoor. The more understanding you have about the organization's tone and mission, the more you'll be able to tailor your answers in ways that are more relatable to them. As Augustine says:
“Once you have a better idea of what traits the company values in its employees, you can determine if this is a good match for you, and anticipate what questions they might ask to assess your cultural fit.”
So doing your research will ensure you don't make a fool of yourself.
Tap into social media and your network
Another way to be better prepared for curveball questions is to review the social accounts, especially the Linkedin page, of the hiring manager. This will give you a better understanding of the interviewer's personality, interests, and pet peeves. The few weeks before your interview are also a perfect time to tap into your professional network! If you know someone that knows the hiring company or industry well, set up an appointment with them to help you prepare for the interview. If your connections happen to know someone that's currently working in the company in question, that's even better! Talk to them to get a better sense of the company's work culture and the overall vibe in the workplace. This will certainly prepare you better to answer any unusual interview questions that come your way and give you an edge over other candidates.
Let your personality shine
Augustine recommends letting your personality shine and being true to yourself if you're asked Hsieh's (or others') unique interview questions. The interviewer clearly wants to know the real you behind the carefully scripted responses that candidates would have prepared prior to the interview. Don't be afraid to show your sense of humor, as it's important to give the interviewer a sense of what it's like to work with you.
That being said, please avoid off-color remarks and inappropriate jokes, as this isn't the time or place to show how edgy you can be. Augustine emphasizes that it's important to avoid being someone that you're not. If you'd only rate yourself “one” on the weirdness scale, be honest about it. This directness might not land you the job, but at least you get to know upfront that this organization would not be a good cultural fit for you. As Hsieh himself said, “If you're a 'one,' you probably are a little bit too straight-laced for the Zappos culture. If you're a 10, you might be too psychotic for us.”
At the end of the day, just make sure you answer the question and be yourself. Unusual or strange interview questions are there to help the hiring manager get to know you, so don't be afraid to shine.
When it comes to the interview, you want to make sure you impress. Not sure how to? Our TopInterview coaches can help!
This article has been updated to reflect the untimely passing of Tony Hsieh in 2020. While Mr. Hsieh is no longer asking quirky questions in Zappos interviews, we hope his drive to get to know job candidates will continue to inspire our readers.