How to prepare for curveball interview questions

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Curveball, out-of-the-box interview questions used to be the domain of innovative start-ups and creative companies.

Now, they crop up in all sorts of interview scenarios and as an interviewee you’re expected to show your sky-blue thinking, reasoning and creativity on the spot.

They can be hard to prepare for, as every interviewer asks questions differently but if you know the crux of what they’re asking, what part of the brain they’re testing and the types of answers that will satisfy them, you can more easily think on your feet.

There are three types of curveball interview questions you’re likely to get asked. Here’s how to prepare for them.

The critical thinking question

Example:  What feature do the following words have in common?

1. Armchair

2. Egg

3. Imagination

4. Over

5. Understand

Their goal: To test your analytical and critical thinking.

Your goal: To demonstrate that you can think through and solve problems without bias.

Key skills: You need to be able to show the interviewer that you can overcome obstacles and find solutions by connecting the dots with the information you’re provided with.

Answer: They all start with a vowel.

The practical question

Example: You have a candle, a box of nails and a match. How do you fix and light the candle onto the wall in a way so the candle wax won’t drip onto the table below?

Their goal: To test your practical thinking.

Your goal: To demonstrate how you translate ideas into real life scenarios.

Key skills: You need to be able to look at all the parts, problem solve and come up with a practical solution.

Answer: The solution is to empty the box of thumbtacks, put the candle into the box, use the thumbtacks to nail the box (with the candle in it) to the wall, and light the candle with the match.

The creative thinking question

Example: Someone falls out of a 30-story building, but lives. With luck and their landing pad not being factors, how could they have survived the fall?

Their goal: To test your creative thinking.

Your goal: To show how well you merge ideas to form new ones, and how you can think outside the box.

Key skills: Being able to not only problem solve, but look at the query from all angles and bringing new ideas into the mix.

Answer: The person fell out of the first-floor window. Someone who’s good at analytical thinking would start looking for solutions to a high fall, but the creative thinker will work with the information they’re given and conclude that the person must have fallen out of the first-floor window.

These are just a few examples of this type of thinking being tested in an interview scenario. Now you know how an interviewer may be looking for critical, practical and creative thinking – you can test yourself with a variety of questions.

What’s the hardest curveball question you’ve been asked? How did you answer it?

Jen Smith coaches entrepreneurs in social media.

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