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Be prepared to answer these curveball interview questions

Be prepared to answer these curveball interview questions

Artwork by: Olga Aleksandrova

  • How do you deal with a curveball interview question? 
  • 1. Remain calm and don’t blurt out an answer
  • 2. Be transparent
  • 3. Read the room
  • 15 Common job interview curveball questions
  • 3 Curveball interview questions with example answers
  • 1. “Would you rather be perfect but late, or okay but on time?”
  • 2. "If you could have any superpower, what would it be?"
  • 3. “What’s your favorite website?”
  • Key takeaways

Ready for a curveball? In addition to your resume, interviewers want to see if you’re creative, can solve problems, and work well under pressure. This article will share tips and examples of curveball interview questions so you can handle any question that might come your way.

If you’ve done your due diligence when it comes to interview prep, you have probably spent a lot of time on it. Writing a killer resume and cover letter, crafting answers to common interview questions, and researching the company are part of the process. At this point, you probably think you're all set. But are you ready for a curveball?

A curveball interview question is meant to throw the recipient off-guard, to shine a light on a candidate’s critical thinking ability (and personality), and decide if you’re a good fit for the company. 

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • What are curveball interview questions?

  • 15 common job interview curveball questions

  • 3 example answers to common questions

Expert Tip

Curveball questions may seem like they come out of left field, but they serve a purpose. According to Heather Kernahan, general manager and EVP at tech communications firm Eastwick, "It's a mini simulation of how they'll respond during an unexpected work situation.”

How do you deal with a curveball interview question? 

Keep in mind that scenario based questions or these “trick” questions are not designed to intimidate you. Challenges can arise in any job situation, and potential employers want to see if you display grace under pressure.The important thing to remember is there is usually no "right answer." The interviewer is more interested in your logic and thought process, not necessarily a specific answer.

Here are three tips to follow:

1. Remain calm and don’t blurt out an answer

Don’t get flustered. The interviewer knows this question will catch you off guard, and they’re not expecting perfection. Say, “Wow, what a great question! Let me take a moment to ponder that.” And consider using the STAR method to provide a concise and professional answer.

2. Be transparent

Since the actual answer is less important than how you got there, explain your reasoning. If the question is, “What kind of bird would you be?” you could answer, “Well, I think I’d be a stork. I’m patient, but I don’t wait for opportunities to come to me. I’m calm, and I don’t rush around, but when I do make a move, I can surprise others with my resourcefulness and skills.”

3. Read the room

Curveball questions are, by design, unique and often tricky to deal with. Try “mirroring” the interviewer to set the right tone. For example, if the interviewer asks the question with a laugh or a smile, you can safely use some humor in your answer. If they seem serious, be more conservative when you respond.

15 Common job interview curveball questions

Questions like these can range from the common to the absurd. Even the most off-the-wall question can give the hiring manager an insight into how you operate. 

Some common questions are:

  1. What would you do if you were given a task you had no prior experience with?

  2. Would you prefer to be liked or feared?

  3. Tell me about a time when you had to convince someone to see things from your point of view. How did you handle it?

  4. If you could have a dinner party with any three guests, living or dead, who would you choose?

  5. What is the most difficult decision you have ever made in your life?

  6. What is your greatest failure?

  7. What would you do if you were in a situation where you had to compromise your principles to achieve a goal?

  8. What’s your favorite movie?

  9. How would you define success?

  10. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our country’s economy and how would you fix it?

  11. How would you sell me this stapler?

  12. What are three negative qualities your colleagues would say that you have?

  13. Finish this sentence: Most people I meet at work are…?

  14. How many golf balls do you think would fit in this office?

  15. You’ve been gifted a hippopotamus. You can’t sell it or regift it. What would you do with the hippo?

Find a connection between the job you’re interviewing for and your honest answer. It might seem silly, but even with these creative questions, you want to put yourself in the best light and demonstrate that you understand the assignment.

3 Curveball interview questions with example answers

Tailor your answers to your specific background, personality, and skill sets. Here are three examples of creative questions you could be asked in an interview, and an appropriate response:

1. “Would you rather be perfect but late, or okay but on time?”

This question is asking about your time management abilities and your attention to detail. You can tie your answer to your experience with meeting deadlines.


“I think being on time and meeting deadlines are very important, so the first choice is not an option for me. You can’t aim for perfection if you’re running late. Also, perfection is a vague goal. I might feel that an assignment is perfect, but my teammates might still have ideas on how to make it even better. Since the definition of perfection can vary, there's no advantage to putting in extra time on a project if I'm holding up others and preventing them from meeting their deadlines.”

2. "If you could have any superpower, what would it be?"

It’s a good idea to customize your answer to this question by deciding what qualities you want to highlight. Are you going to answer with “wealth, power, and world domination” or focus more on helping others, solving complex issues, or the ability to analyze a situation to solve a problem?


"If I could have any superpower, I think I'd choose the power of flight. It would be very interesting to see the world from literally a new perspective, which I think is very important. For example, in my current position as a sales manager, some clients complained about a lack of transparency in our pricing. I suggested to my boss that we create a survey and send it to any dissatisfied clients to find out what their issues were. We received a lot of valuable feedback and used it to update our pricing models. As a result, customer issues were reduced by almost 80%. It’s important to see something from another’s perspective to make things better for everyone involved.”

3. “What’s your favorite website?”

Hiring managers might use this question to get an idea of how you spend your off hours. Remember, employers don’t care about what dating websites you favor or your fascination with ducks. If you can demonstrate that you read industry-related sites, you will show that you are interested in business trends and expanding your professional knowledge.


“While I read The Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur Magazine, I really like watching TED Talks. I learn a lot, and I’m exposed to a variety of new ideas. This helps me in my career because I can see issues and problems from different perspectives and come up with more inventive and collaborative solutions.”

Curveball interview questions can be tough to deal with. But with preparation, practice, and grace under pressure, these questions can be a perfect opportunity to show a prospective employer that you’re a good match for them. 

Need help polishing your interview skills? Check out Career.io’s Interview Prep tool, which will provide you with expert advice, live recordings, and mock interviews to handle your interview with confidence.

Key takeaways

  1. Curveball questions are designed to throw you off guard, giving the interviewer an idea of how you might respond to stressful situations in the workplace.

  2. When answering this type of question, remain calm, take a moment to think, and relate your answer to the position you're interviewing for.

  3. Practice answers to some of the common questions, and show off your personality. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers. Just answers that show you in the best light.

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