Are you afraid of nightmare interviews? These come in all shapes and sizes. Maybe your interviewer grills you for hours and hours or expects you to sit through five or six rounds of interviews with team after team. Or maybe your interviewer doesn’t crack a smile or provide any nonverbal feedback the entire time. Some job seekers have gone to interviews only to be kept waiting for hours to meet the potential employer.
A common (and perhaps not unfounded) fear among job seekers is the seemingly bizarre interview question that comes out of nowhere like an apparition.
For example, what if the interviewer asked: “What would you do in the event of a zombie apocalypse?” Instead of stiffening like a zombie and bemoaning all the “normal” interview questions you prepared to answer, think about the reason for the question. Ashley Morris, CEO of Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop explains why interviewers may ask this question and what they’re looking for when they ask it:
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Norwegian Cruise Line is known to ask those applying for marketing coordinator positions: “Do you believe in Bigfoot?” And what if the interviewer asked you: “Would you rather fight one giant monster or 100 small monsters?” Consider CEO of Konnect Public Relations, Sabina Gault’s, reasoning behind this scary question:
Keep these key facts in mind when formulating answers to interview questions that seem off the wall. Interviewers want to know:
Are you comfortable asking questions, and can you think critically? Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification regarding the question. For example, Joe DeProspero, vice president of finance at Dave & Buster’s, explains that the company values a candidate who understands how to probe critically and get at the root of the specifics of such a question.
He notes how these questions help the company, “see if someone can think critically, whether they are comfortable enough to ask probing questions and if they can think on their feet. During the hiring process, I am looking for candidates who ask important follow-up questions to my question, such as ‘Why would you want to know this?’”
DeProspero also explains: “Often times, in finance, what someone asks for is not necessarily what they need. by asking questions, we can help them to better understand if we recognize the underlying issue. Above all, I look for a candidate’s eagerness to answer the question, as this is the way they will approach every task given to them on the job.”
If you need to reply to a brain teaser: It’s OK to stop and think before you answer. It’s also fine to ask for clarification if there are any details you don’t understand. The interviewer is trying to learn how you would act as an employee. Try to answer the question in a way that showcases the skills you have for the job. If the position is mathematical, use math skills. If demonstrating your creative side is more important, go that route.
When you’re prepared and know what to expect, your interview doesn’t have to be as scary as a scene from “The Shining.”
Originally appeared on U.S. News & World Report.