The One Interview Question You Need to Prepare For

You may not be applying for a job at Google with the out-of-leftfield interview questions that entails, but there’s still one surprisingly simple question that can trip up the most confident of candidates. Are you prepared?

How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?”; “How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?”; “In a country in which people only want boys, every family continues to have children until they have a boy. If they have a girl, they have another child. If they have a boy, they stop. What is the proportion of boys to girls in the country?”

Those are just three of the infamous interview questions asked by Google in its recruitment processes. They are quirky and unique enough to match the culture of Google. How would you respond?
However, let’s be realistic: in all likelihood, you’re not going for a job at Google. Yet it’s still surprisingly easy to be tripped up by unexpected but very simple interview questions. “Tell me about your biggest weakness” is perhaps the most obvious. How can you turn a negative into a positive without coming across as being full of yourself?

But far more challenging is “tell us something unique about yourself?” It sounds simple enough, but without sounding trite or trivial, this can really be an interview killer. What’s truly worthy of mention in a job interview? You like cooking…well, so does 90% of the New Zealand population. You like travelling. The same applies. It’s so far from unique: it’s a yawn. You enjoy cross-hatch sewing. Interesting, but do you really want to reveal that in an interview?

So what can you do? How can you navigate this expected but still tricky question? Here are some tips:

Start your response with: “I’m extremely passionate about…” Your actual passion matters less than the fact that you care deeply about something. That passion should present itself on your face, in your voice, in your body language. Recruiters like passion.

Alternatively, start with: “My family would say I’m XYZ” This provides a nice ‘out’ – you’re paraphrasing someone else, so you can reveal a bit more about your personality without coming across as being self-centred or egotistical.

If you’re brave, give this a go: “The compliment I receive most is…” Again, you’re drawing on what other people say about you, so you are once removed. It’s not you saying these wonderful words: you’re someone people can rely on; you always see the bright side of a situation; you make people smile. However, the message comes through loud and clear to the interviewer: if someone else thinks so highly of this candidate, perhaps there’s something in it?

Ok, pull this one out to give people a laugh: “If they were to write a book about my life they’d call it X”. It shows you’re reflective, hopefully funny, and with a bit of luck, memorable. Remember, your objective is always to stand out from the pack.

Finally, don’t forget the power of being succinct. Literally. Perhaps pull out this gem: “If I were to describe myself in just a few words I’d say…” Hopefully your response will reveal a bit about your core strengths and your personality.