5 Common Tricky Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 20 September 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.

Interviewers and hiring managers may ask you a variety of questions in an interview. As you interview for new jobs, you are likely to face some questions that seem vague or particularly challenging to answer. Understanding how to prepare for tricky interview questions, riddles and logic puzzles can help you stand out from other interviewing candidates. In this article, we provide you with a selection of these interview questions and sample answers to help you practice tackling them.

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In An Interview, Why Do Employers Ask Tricky Questions?

In an interview, prospective employers may ask tricky questions to understand the way you process information, communicate and make decisions under pressure. Tricky questions are those that may not pertain directly to the job or your work experience. They may include logic puzzles, hypothetical situations or discussions of your life and job search beyond the scope of the position for which you may be interviewing.

These questions serve an important purpose as they may help your employer understand your personality, identify and soft skills that may not always show up on a resume. Tricky questions can force you to abandon your rehearsed answers and think of original responses on the spot, which can sometimes say more about you than a well-rehearsed reply. Answering these questions calmly by giving due thought and calculation can greatly impress a hiring manager. Your response indicates how well you work and think under pressure and how refined your problem-solving and analytical skills are.

Related: How To Prepare For A Job Interview

How To Answer Tricky Interview Questions?

Preparing thoughtfully for your interview beforehand, can help you answer tricky interview questions confidently and correctly. Follow these steps to answer tricky or strange questions in an interview:

1. Study for your interview

Before an interview, it is good practice to research the company, industry and work culture, to understand if the job is a good fit for your talents and aspirations. Look to online resources or ask others who have interviewed with the company about the recruitment and interview process. Reviewing similar challenging questions ahead of time can help boost your confidence and enable you to maintain composure even when the interviewer asks you an unfamiliar or unexpected question.

2. Listen to questions carefully

An interviewer can word or phrase tricky interview questions in complex ways and the question itself may contain key pieces of information that are important to the answer or solution. Listen patiently to the interviewer's questions. Allow time for the speaker to finish the entire question before you start working on delivering a response. Before responding, repeat questions back as needed to show that you are paying attention. This can illustrate the fact that you have paid close attention to their words.

Related: Active Listening Skills: Definition And Examples

3. Ask questions when needed

Ask questions and clarify any doubts regarding a question. You can also ask questions to understand the interviewer's motivation and their reasoning or purpose for asking a particular question. If you feel that you have not understood a question completely or correctly, consider rewording or rephrasing the question and asking the interviewer. This helps to ensure that your response is appropriate and does justice to the intent of the question.

4. Talk about your thought process

If the interviewer asks you a question that contains a puzzle, you can be vocal about the thought process, calculations and logical reasoning you are employing to arrive at an answer. This allows the interviewer to evaluate your approach to problem-solving and your critical thinking abilities. In such a situation, you can impress the interviewer even if you are unable to arrive at a final, concrete and correct answer. For subjective questions, expanding on your thought process can show an interviewer what you consider important and unimportant in your answer.

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5. Maintain composure

In many cases, interviewers ask challenging questions not just to see whether you are able to tackle them, but also to observe how you tackle them. They may evaluate how calm and composed you are in a challenging situation. It is good practice to incorporate some humour into your answer and showcase humility when you face a tricky question you do not have a ready answer for. For example, if an interviewer asks you a particularly challenging trick question, you can simply nod, smile and say, “This is a challenging one. Can I take a minute to think about my answer?”.

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Sample Tricky Interview Questions And Answers

These are some sample tricky interview questions and answers to help you prepare:

1. Is there a specific reason why manhole covers are round?

An interviewer may ask you such questions to evaluate your logical and spatial reasoning ability. Consider what kind of information you can share to answer the question concisely and accurately. Your answer can indicate to an interviewer, your thought process that works behind tackling unexpected challenges.

Example: “A round shape for a manhole cover can ensure that it does not fall in through the hole at any point of time. Most other shapes would have this problem. For example, a square-shaped lid can fall in, if it is oriented diagonally. Additionally, a round or circular shape means that a person working with it can easily roll it around whenever they want to move it. A circle also can be fitted easily, as it has no corners which is required to be aligned with the frame for a perfect fit.”

2. What do you like to do at office parties?

An interviewer may ask you this question to understand where you fit in the company's work culture and environment. Your answer can help them gain clarity about your personality type and your general character. For example, if you have great interpersonal skills, you may want to handle all communications regarding the office party, sending out invites, maintaining logs, collecting RSVPs and coordinating efforts. If you are extroverted, you may try to engage in conversations with as many people as possible. If you are introverted, you may sit by the dinner table, enjoy a quiet meal and observe your coworkers.

Example: “In an office party, I believe I would take on the role of a Mike Controller or MC. I would have fun introducing people as they enter the space and calling people on stage to keep the fun, cheer and momentum going. I would also enjoy working with whoever is in charge of the music, by taking requests and suggestions from the crowd. Overall, I would be trying to make sure that everyone is having a great time at the party and not feeling left out or bored.”

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3. What is your dream job?

An obvious answer to this question is to name the job role that you are interviewing for, but you can put a little more thought into your answer to indicate that you are an ambitious person who would like to grow within the company you are interviewing with. Your answer can start with your current professional aspirations and illustrate the career progression you may have envisioned for yourself.

Example: “My dream job is to become a top-level administrator in the sales department. I want to enter the sales force of a successful company, to polish my skills as an executive. After gaining the required experience, I would definitely pursue managerial roles where I can coordinate and oversee the work of a team of talented sales professionals. Eventually, I would like to retire in a directorial position.”

Related: How to Prepare For The “What Is Your Dream Job?” Question

4. How would you compare this job to the other job roles you have interviewed for?

An interviewer may ask you this question to understand where you are in your job search process and how the current opportunity compares with your other professional pursuits. Your answer can illustrate your integrity and honesty. Try not to mention exact company names in your answer. Instead, you can provide details of job roles and provide information regarding the work culture of the company or companies in question. Refrain from making negative remarks about any company or person, as this can reflect badly on you.

Example: “I have been pursuing an executive job role in marketing for a while now. I have applied for similar positions in a few companies, some of which are your competitors. But, I am yet to determine which company or role would be the best fit for me. All things considered, I believe your company would be able to offer me the greatest scope for professional growth and development.”

5. If you were a tree, what species would you be and why?

Your interviewer may ask this question to get some unique insights into your personality and how you think. An interviewer can also frame this question as the flower, animal or bird that you would like to be. Provide a thoughtful response that reveals any one of your personality strengths.

Example: “I consider myself to be fairly strong yet flexible and able to withstand almost any storm. I feel I am most like a palm tree. Palm trees can also thrive in a variety of environments and seem like they could keep growing indefinitely, and I always strive for growth in my career.”

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