We all know you’re supposed to have carefully crafted and well-rehearsed responses for the ‘typical’ questions you’ll get during a job interview. And that’s ok, questions like “why do you want this position?” and “what are your goals?” are pretty standard and you should have a clear sense of how to respond based on your background and the position you’re seeking.
But what about those other questions – the ones you’re not sure if they’re a trick question or if there’s a certain way, you’re supposed to answer that will get you hired. You know, the ones like "Why should we hire you over other candidates?" “what’s your biggest weakness?” and “what is your spirit animal?” Those are the ones that sometimes make people want to come up with a creative or snarky response that may not go over well.
In fact, the common advice from career counselors is don’t do it, especially not for the ‘’why should we hire you’ question.
“It's not a good idea to give an out-of-box response. It's too risky,” advises Monster career expert Vicki Salemi. “Ultimately, companies are looking for the right fit. You won't necessarily know the full extent of their culture going into the interview which is why it can completely backfire. The employer may instantly think you're not a good fit. This tactic can certainly make you a memorable candidate, but not necessarily in a good way. I don't recommend it.
That’s not to say it can never work, especially if you already know their culture, but Salemi says it’s better to play it straight. “One of the best ways to answer this question is to outline the top skills you excel at which match the top skills they're seeking for the role. Tie them back to the job and the culture. Mention that you're the right fit for their organization. Essentially, you want to make it easy for them to say yes to your candidacy.”
An example would be: "I'm a self-starter. I thrive on exceeding quarterly sales goals. Last year I landed $2M revenue in new clients that relied on my persistence, communication and relationship building skills. And I think I'd fit in really well here. I'm a people person. It seems that's what this team is all about."
Remember that your qualifications are what landed you the interview so ask yourself “what do I bring to the table that no one else has?” Once you’ve thought through and crafted your response, practice saying it out loud, so you sound confident and sure of yourself.
Experts also suggest learning as much as you can about the company, researching them on LinkedIn and other sites, and reading up on any relevant news or funding rounds. That way you can show how your qualifications and personality fit into what’s going on at the company.
Now, about those other “unique” questions like “what animal are you?” Some hiring experts think it’s about time they’re retired for good and wouldn’t blame you for wanting to respond with a snarky answer but please don’t. Not unless you really don’t want the job.
Instead, like any other interview question, you need to be prepared. Understanding the reason for the question might help you develop a proper response. There’s no right or wrong answer here, the interviewer is trying to get a sense of who you are as a person and whether you’re able to think quickly.
The advice here is that it’s ok to be creative and think outside the box, just make sure your answer is tied back to how well you would do the job. Explain the traits or qualities of the animal giving real-life examples of how it would pertain to the job.
For instance, here are some example responses from FutureofWorking.com.
“I would be a dolphin because I love communicating with others and working as a team.”
Dolphins are extremely intelligent animals, and they play well with others. A dolphin is also a popular answer to this question, and it works especially well when interviewing for a position that will require a lot of teamwork. It may not be the best answer if you’re applying for a leadership role.
“A horse is the type of animal I would be because I’m focused, and able to work independently or in a group.”
Horses are very graceful creatures and choosing a horse as your animal is a great way to show you’re a hard worker. Horses can work well on their own, or in a group, so if you’re interviewing for a role that requires some independent work, this answer is a great way to show that you’re flexible and capable of getting your work done in different environments.
If you’ve ever responded to one of these questions with a crazy answer or in an especially creative way and got the job, we’d love to hear from you! Tell us about it.