What do you do if you get an impossible question to answer in a job interview? Stay positive and see it as a chance to think in a fresh new way!
Examples of impossible interview questions
- How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Scotland?
- How would you design an evacuation plan for Birmingham?
These questions are enough to make your head explode! What do they have in common?
Firstly, they’re similar to questions Google HQ used to ask their applicants in job interviews.
Secondly, these questions ask you to take a calm and logical approach to a difficult (okay, impossible) problem.
There is no way you could know these answers in advance. The interviewer is not testing your knowledge. They are curious about your attitude to solving problems.
What is Problem solving?
Problem solving is a life skill that you can get better at with time, especially with free Young Professional training. Pick any job in the world, from hairdressing to aerospace engineering, and you’ll need to know how to fix problems in the right way!
Let’s talk about an unusual situation in a job interview – where the interviewer asks you an ‘impossible’ question right out of the blue.
Q. What’s the one simple trick to dealing with impossible interview questions?
A. Remember why the interviewer is asking them in the first place.
How would people cope if the sky was always green? How do you sell an invisible watch? These are impossible questions, so is the interviewer just being mean if they ask you something like this? No!
Remember: the interviewer just wants to see how you react to tricky problems and new challenges.
- Do you laugh? Smile? Relax? Treat it as a fun game? Ask questions to find out more? These will all make the interviewer feel happy that you can cope with the unexpected.
- Or do you panic, sweat, and run a mile? Every job has tricky problems, and if you don’t have a positive attitude, the interviewer may get worried that you will struggle to learn new things.
It’s not about getting the answer correct. You’ll impress the interview by showing you can think your way round a challenge.
Why would an interviewer ask you an impossible question?
It’s not being mean. Interviewers want to see if you can…
- Approach the challenge with a positive attitude.
- Stay calm and logical.
- Break the problem down into small chunks.
Approach any problem with these three simple steps, and you can show your future employer that you’ll never get fazed by challenges that might come up in the job.
What to do if you’re asked an impossible question in an interview
- Take a deep breath.
- Give yourself a moment to get slow and calm.
- Say your thoughts out loud. It’s useful for the interviewer and for you too.
- Walk the interviewer through to how you’d get a solution to the problem, using the 1-2-3 steps above.
- Remember it’s fine to ask questions to get a better picture of what the problem involves.
You’ve got this!
Example answers to impossible interview questions
The great thing about impossible interview questions is that there is no official right answer – just a good attitude.
Here are some answers to the tricky questions above, to help you get a feel for the problem solving involved.
Q: How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Scotland?
Example answer: About £5 per window (plus my train/plane travel)
Problem solving tip: You can break the big problem down into a smaller problem. You don’t have to immediately jump to working out how many windows there are in Scotland. You can say what you would charge per window.
Q: How would you design an evacuation plan for Birmingham?
Example answer: You could start by asking what exact kind of disaster you were planning for. Space aliens? Zombie plague? There’s a big difference.
Problem solving tip: When faced with a big problem, you can always ask useful questions to find out more. This is true in life as well as job interviews.
Will you ever get asked impossible questions in an interview?
You might do. You can check online company review sites and make sure you read all the information sent to you before an interview and the info available on the company website to be as prepared as possible.
Technical/creative jobs: Sometimes you’ll get impossible interview questions for technical jobs, where problem solving is a big part of what you do. Sometimes you’ll get them for creative jobs, to give you a chance to show you can think creatively.
Organisations can sometimes ask a slight variant of these questions to see how you react to some more wacky problems. For example:
- What would you do if you found a Penguin in the freezer?
- Would you rather fight 1 horse sized duck or 100 duck sized horses
Again, these questions are designed for you to talk through your reasoning and thinking. There is very rarely a ‘right’ answer. They are looking for your calm collected response and most importantly a little bit of your personality too!
Problem Solving Challenge:
Just for fun, we’re going to leave you with some real-life puzzlers that have been asked in job interviews.
Remember, there’s no official right answer. Just have fun and try breaking the problem down into little pieces. Think about what your first question would be to clarify the challenge if it was a problem you had to solve for real.
Good luck 😉
- How would you sell an invisible pen?
- How many goals will be scored in the Premier League this year?
Never forget that problem solving is a life skill. You can grow it over time. Onwards and upwards!