You’re shrunk down to the size of a nickel and dropped into a blender. What do you do?
This interview question, made famous by the movie The Internship, and other riddles are often used to flesh out details other than your knowledge of science and/or math. Usually your reaction to the question and your attitude when trying to decide on an answer is what the interviewer is assessing.
Interviews are unnatural environments. Even though the purpose is to get to know a candidate, interviewees can focus too much on giving answers they think are correct or parrot back the answers they’ve been rehearsing. Greatest strengths? Got it. Where do I see myself in 3 years? No problem. How many tennis balls would it take to fill up a 747. Wait, what?
Don’t let an unexpected question throw you off your game in an interview! Your reaction to this challenge gives you to show character traits that are essential to being an awesome employee.
You can think on your feet
Whether the unique interview question is the first one out of the gate or thrown in after a few typical questions, it’s probably not what you were expecting. In fact, unless you’ve heard the riddle before, there’s really no way to prepare for answering one. Use this abrupt change of pace to prove your adaptability and composure and jump right into tackling the question.
How this applies to a job: Starting a new job is challenging. You won’t know how to handle everything thrown your way at the beginning, and being able to quickly problem solve is essential.
You are optimistic
Maintaining composure is a good start, but you also want to show your optimism. Even if the riddle gives you an extra dose of adrenaline, channel that into excitement to conquer the challenge. Getting irritated and pointing out the irrelevance of the question to the job is a great way to raise a red flag next to your name as someone with a bad attitude.
How this applies to a job: Attitudes are contagious, and no one wants to work with a negative person who will just bring the team down. Be known as the person who can rally the troops and who isn’t afraid to be the first mover when tackling a problem.
You are patient
Don’t let the great first impression you’ve made with your adaptability and optimism go to waste by blurting out the first answer that comes into your head. Now it’s time to think. Prove your resilience by pushing through the initial protests of “this is too hard!” that you might have, and dedicate an appropriate amount of time to solving the riddle.
How this applies to a job: Do you have the dedication to really dig into a hard project that might not see any tangible results in the near future, or are you the type of person who will give up and say “it can’t be done!”?
You know the importance of getting it done
Patience can reach a point of absurdity. If you’re faced with a riddle in a job interview, don’t let your competitiveness, need to be right, or perfectionist tendencies overpower your social intelligence. Your interviewers are on a schedule, and they likely don’t have the availability to listen to you theorize about different answers all day.
After you have shown yourself to be able to think on the spot, stay optimistic, and show patience, commit to your best answer and move on. Unless your answer is so far off the mark that it defies common logic (“It would take 2 tennis balls to fill up a 747”), not having the correct answer isn’t going to cost you the job.
How this applies to a job: If your boss gives you a tough project, are you going to waste a lot of time thinking about how to do it? If an important deadline is coming up, will you turn in a “good, not great” deliverable, or will you miss the deadline in pursuit of perfectionism?
Don’t let crazy interview questions knock you off your game. Instead, let the way you react strengthen your interview and solidify your reputation as an ideal candidate.
Finally, I have a riddle for you! Send your answers to sara[at]discoverpraxis[dot]com by Friday, June 15th, and I’ll select one correct answer to win a Praxis hat. Honor system: no Googling!
You have 9 rocks of equal size and shape, except one! One rock is slightly lighter, indiscernible by look or touch. You have a set of balance scales that you can use only twice. How do you use the scales to identify the lighter rock?