How to answer those bizarre riddle interview questions


My niece Marley not too long ago had a job interview for a unusual Michigan-based retailer. In direction of the tip of the interview, the supervisor requested her: “If Batman and Lobster Boy received right into a combat, who would win?”

Her response? “Is the combat above or beneath water?”

She was employed on the spot.


I admit, I might have folded underneath that kind of query and doubtless chosen Batman for no different purpose than he’s Batman. However questions like this are extra commonplace as corporations strive to display screen for tradition add.

In his e book, How Do You Fight a Horse-Sized Duck? Secrets to Succeeding at Interview Mind Games and Getting the Job You Want, writer William Poundstone gives perception and assist. Poundstone admits he’s all the time been good at puzzles. After receiving a number of emails from pals who have been occurring job interviews and getting these riddle-like questions, he determined to write a e book on the subject, accumulating the weird questions and providing recommendation on how to answer them.

“There are lots of causes corporations ask these questions,” he says. “In tech, it’s virtually a convention to ask off-the-wall questions. That is additionally the case with startups which have a novel tradition. For instance, [eyeglass retailer] Warby Parker [managers] asks, ‘What’s the final costume you wore?’ They’re assuming you go to costume events, which, of their opinion, means you’re hip.”

Why Inventive Questions Are Efficient

Candidates generally assume that inventive questions are there to trick them, however the purpose is to get the particular person out of the standard interview mode. Everybody walks in with customary prepackaged solutions to questions like, “Discuss a time whenever you disagreed your supervisor.” Or “What’s one in every of your largest weaknesses?”

When the interviewer asks one thing out of left subject, they will see how effectively the candidate handles a problem. The additional benefit is that these questions can assist take away unconscious bias.

“There’s an terrible lot of subjectivity in interviewing,” says Poundstone. “It’s an train in affirmation bias. Interviewers make snap judgement about candidates after they are available in, and so they ask softball questions to affirm what they already suppose.”


The benefit to asking inventive questions is that they don’t all the time have a proper or fallacious answer, and so they can present a actuality test when correctly used, says Poundstone.

“The questions ought to take care of intangibles that aren’t on a résumé,” he says. “It’s checking to see if the particular person can suppose on their ft, which may point out how effectively they study on the job. One of the best ways to use them is to make them standardized, asking the identical query to every particular person so you’ve got some baseline for evaluating. If you happen to ask a unique query, you’re at risk of giving a better query to somebody you want.”

How to Answer Them

If you happen to’re the interviewee, these questions might be nerve-wracking. Poundstone says there are a number of hacks you need to use to answer them. Think about this query: A hammer and a nail price $1.10. The hammer prices a greenback greater than the nail. How a lot does the nail price?

The answer is 5 cents, though many people (myself included) might shortly say, “a dime.”

“When an answer instantly pops into your head, it’s virtually sure to be fallacious,” says Poundstone. “That reality offers you a lifeline.”

Poundstone likens these riddle questions to the rule, Measure twice, lower as soon as. As an alternative of sitting silently, pondering the answer in your head, he recommends working by means of the issue aloud.

“You possibly can say, ‘Effectively, the plain answer is 10 cents, however I do know the plain isn’t proper,’” he suggests. “If you happen to discuss your first impression with out giving it as an answer, you are taking management of the state of affairs. Then you may rule out the plain fallacious answer. Don’t be silent. Identical to a podcast, you don’t need useless air whilst you’re considering. The interviewer doesn’t know your sensible ideas.”

If the answer to the query is extra of an opinion, just like the one my niece tackled, ask questions of your individual to collect extra data … and purchase a bit time, Poundstone suggests.

“Slender down what the interviewer is getting at,” he says. “Additionally, strive to deliver it again to the job necessities, even when it feels frivolous. Take advantage of each alternative. Even a seemingly dumb query may very well be an opportunity to current your {qualifications}.”

Lastly, forewarned is forearmed, and a few of the questions that corporations ask can be found on-line. “Interviewers are conscious that the questions are on the market,” says Poundstone. “One I spoke to for the e book stated they’re not involved that individuals have already seen the query. In the event that they’ve gone to the difficulty, they’re motivated, which is the perfect factor you might be.”

The extra you recognize, the extra you’re feeling in command. Sort of like Batman.