How to Answer Tricky Interview Questions (With Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 7, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

During the interview process for some positions, you may experience questions that seem difficult to answer. The interviewers typically structure these questions to surprise you and see how well you can structure your thoughts when answering them. Understanding how to answer these tricky questions can help you distinguish yourself from other candidates and present yourself as the best candidate for the role. In this article, we discuss why employers ask tricky interview questions, outline how to answer them, and provide answers to some of these questions.

Why do employers ask tricky interview questions?

Hiring managers and interviewers ask tricky interview questions to assess how candidates make decisions, communicate, and process information under pressure. Tricky questions during an interview may not directly relate to your professional experience or the role you want. Instead, these questions may include hypothetical situations, logical puzzles, or discussions of your job search or life outside the scope of your desired role.

These questions also allow the hiring managers to identify your soft skills or learn more about your personality, apart from what you included on your resume or cover letter. They can also make you abandon your prepared answers and test your ability to create an original answer quickly. This may reveal more about you and demonstrate your intellectual prowess.

Related: 10 Weird Interview Questions (With Sample Answers and Tips)

How to answer tricky interview questions

Effectively preparing for your interviews can help you handle tricky questions confidently. Here are the steps to guide you as you prepare confident answers to tricky questions during your interview:

1. Study for the interview

Ensure you study extensively for the interview. For instance, you can research and review online resources or ask employees and other candidates who have attended interviews with the company to learn about the process. In addition, you can review similar tricky questions and answers to help you prepare for your interview. Although these questions may not be the same as the interviewer's, they may help you prepare answers and strategies to answer tricky questions.

Related: 17 Interview Tips to Help You Get the Job

2. Listen to the questions carefully

Listen attentively and patiently to the question to ensure your answer properly addresses it. Give the interviewer time to finish asking the whole question before providing an answer. In addition, you can repeat or rephrase the question to confirm your understanding of it and show that you were listening to the interviewer.

3. Ask questions if necessary

You can ask clarifying questions to help you learn the context and purpose of the question. For example, to ensure you understand the question properly, you can say, "are you asking...?" to ensure your answer is appropriate and addresses the question. In addition, asking questions can help you organize your ideas and assist you in phrasing your answers properly.

4. Explain your thought process

When responding to the question, ensure you clearly explain the logic or process that supports your answer, especially for puzzles. For instance, if the question has a definite answer, clearly explaining your thought process demonstrates your critical thinking skills and can justify your answer, even if it isn't incorrect. In addition, explaining your thought process for vague or subjective questions can help you communicate your perspective and demonstrate why you chose your answer.

5. Maintain your calm

Consider approaching tricky questions with good humour and a smile. You can use your body language to demonstrate that you're paying attention to the interviewer. For example, you can maintain eye contact or nod your head to acknowledge the question. You can also wait a minute and use this time to think about the question and ensure your answer is coherent and clear.

Related: How to Manage Nervousness in an Interview

Sample answers to tricky questions during an interview

Here are some sample answers to some tricky questions interviewers may ask during an interview :

Why are utility hole covers round?

Interviewers use this question to test a candidate's spatial logic and reasoning. It also shows potential employers how you approach an unexpected challenge or obstacle. Some specific points answer this question correctly. For instance, the correct answer shows the interviewer that you can assess three-dimensional objects.

Example: "A round cover for a utility hole is ideal because it can't fall through the hole. In contrast, a square utility hole cover may fall into the hole if an individual aligns it diagonally. It's also easier to place because it isn't necessary to align it with corners, and you can easily move a round cover by rolling it."

Related: 11 Interview Logic Questions to Expect (With Answers and Tips)

Where do you stand at the office holiday party?

This question helps the interviewer learn how the candidate's personality may fit in the company's overall work environment. In addition, your answer shows the hiring manager what position you may take on the team. For instance, an extrovert may be on the dance floor, while an introvert may be at the dinner table. Similarly, a leader may announce raffle winners, while a follower may be at the back of the food line. Ensure your answer highlights your social strengths.

Example: "I think I may be sharing candy canes and meeting the individuals at the party. In my previous job, I always made treats for the last day in the office before the holidays. I think treats are excellent conversation starters and ice breakers and also help communicate the holiday good feeling."

What is your dream job?

The tricky part of this question is that the obvious response is the role you're currently interviewing for, as choosing a different role may indicate that you're unserious about the current role. An ideal answer demonstrates your desire to grow in the company. In addition, ensure your answer provides insight into your long-term professional goals. Here's an example:

Example: "My dream role entails me growing from the position of a market agent to the marketing manager and getting the opportunity to supervise the department. I've honed my leadership and management skills by attending seminars to prepare me for advancement opportunities. I believe this company provides the best path to achieve my goals."

Related: How to Find Your Dream Job in 5 Steps (Including Tips)

You have a five-gallon pitcher and a three-gallon pitcher. How do you calculate four gallons?

For this question, there's a right and wrong answer. Interviewers use this question to test your analytical and critical thinking skills. It also helps them check your math skills and how fast you can think under pressure. You can approach the question like you're in a classroom. For instance, you may use tools like a pen and paper to visualize the question.

Example: "I can measure four gallons by filling up the three-gallon pitcher and emptying it into the five-gallon pitcher. Then, I fill the three-gallon pitcher a second time and use it to fill the five-gallon pitcher. The three-gallon pitcher has one gallon because the other jug is five gallons. Then, I pour out the content of the five-gallon pitcher, transfer the one gallon into it, refill the three-gallon pitcher, and add it to the one gallon in the five-gallon pitcher. This makes the total amount of liquid in the pitcher four gallons."

Related: 10 Strategic Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

In what ways does this role compare to others you are pursuing?

Interviewers ask this question to determine if you're applying to other roles and where the current role ranks on your list. It also tests your integrity and honesty. Ensure your answer is honest without revealing too many details, such as job titles and company names. Highlight a positive point about the current role for which you're interviewing. Here's an example answer:

Example: "I applied to several positions, but I haven't chosen which is the best fit for me. I'm particularly attracted to your team's cross-functional approach, and I believe my diverse skill set suits this approach."

If you were a tree, what species do you want to be? Why?

Interviewers ask this question to learn about the candidate's personality and gain insight into how they think. Instead of a tree, they may use an animal, flower, or bird. Ensure your answer is thoughtful and highlights one of your strengths.

Example: "I think a palm tree best represents my personality because they're flexible and fairly strong, allowing them to withstand almost any storm. Also, they thrive in various environments and seem to grow indefinitely, as I always strive for continuous growth in my career."

Related: 10 Brain Teaser Interview Questions (With Examples)

What's your personal theme song?

Interviewers and hiring managers ask this question to learn how candidates may approach their job. Your answer shows your personality on the job. For instance, you can answer with a popular song with lyrics that you enjoy.

Example: "Takin' Care of Business by Bachman Turner Overdrive is my personal theme song. I like to focus on getting results while enjoying my responsibilities. It makes it easy to use my enthusiasm throughout the day."

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