How to answer curveball interview questions

By Chris Devonshire | 8th January 2024

Interviewers like to throw in curveball interview questions. Because it is a way to gauge how interviewees react and respond in situations outside of their comfort zone.

These interview questions present an opportunity to the interviewer. The opportunity is that interviewees can highlight their creativity and knack at handling challenging situations.

While there are arguably no right or wrong answers, we asked our experienced recruiters to highlight a few curveball interview questions that their job applicants have told them about post-interview. As a result, we’re paying it forward to help you prepare (as much as you can).

5 curveball interview questions

You’re acing the interview. It’s almost over and it is high fives and star jumps all round. Then, the interviewer says, I have one final question for you. Some might be related to technology; some might be completely out there.

Here are out top 5 and the first one is a doozy!

  1. How many windows are there in the UK?

What the actual? Don’t sweat it, we’ve got you. No one really knows how many there are, so take a deep breath because the interviewer doesn’t know either. This question is designed to test your ability to think logically under pressure. Surprise, it worked.

This interview question is suited to technology professionals. Because you’re logical thinkers. When facing a challenge, you consider the rules or logic that you then apply to creating the solution. This is no different. Therefore, start with identifying the parameters that define your answer. There are approximately 67m people in the UK. The average household size in the UK (according to ONS stats from 2020) is 2.4.

That takes us down to roughly 28m households. The second parameter is to acknowledge that you are focusing on residential homes only – eliminating the complexity of commercial, industrial or public services buildings. Remember, this is your question, therefore you set the tone.

With the average UK household having 5 rooms, this takes us nicely to an approximate number of 140m windows in the UK. You’re welcome.

  1. If you were an animal, what animal would it be?

We get it, your first reaction might be a lion. Resist that urge. Don’t let panic lead your answer. Think about traits that you value in an animal that demonstrate the skills needed to achieve success in the job you’re applying for. Can you lift twenty times your own body weight? We didn’t think so. You know who can? Ants.

Ants know that more can be achieved working together than alone. They get teamwork. Ants teach us the importance of planning ahead. They’re strategic because they are goal focused and identify the best way to increase productivity, efficiently. Ants teach us to ignore little diversion along the way. Stick a finger in front of an ant. Do it. They just walk around it. Size and location are no limit for ants. They are hardworking and disciplined self-starters who get the job done in the most efficient way.

No ego, just effort. We rest our case.

  1. How would you explain a technical process to a non-technical colleague?

Technology professionals are increasingly being asked to engage more with business stakeholders. Therefore, testing your communication skills. Think about it from their side. If you’re being explained something, you might feel talked down to. This is something you want to avoid, therefore find a common ground. This isn’t about showing how smart you are. It is about demonstrating the value of what you are doing to support business goals.

Incorporate story telling into your explanation – it’s a great way to grab someone’s attention and it makes what you are saying relatable. Therefore understandable. If you can, use visual context. Visualising concepts can be a much more effective form of communication because visual content is easier to learn. Finally, remember that you’re talking to a human.

Be engaging and show interest in what the do and how they add value to the business.

  1. If you had to describe your skills on a billboard, what would the billboard say.

This is a great question. It’s designed to make the interviewee think about condensing their skills succinctly to convey the value they add to achieving business outcomes. Succinct because there’s not a lot of space on a billboard. Yes, you’re no marketer but you do know the value you bring to the table. You know your ‘why’ – your purpose.

For example, Devonshire Hayes’ purpose – the reason we exist – is to empower people in technology to inspire innovation and create positive change. The way we do that is by partnering the best people and businesses in technology, to shape the future, together. Creating opportunities for people to exceed their career and company ambitions with passion, empathy and respect.

This isn’t a list of our skills; it’s how our work contributes to the success of businesses and individuals.

  1. Can you teach me something I don’t know?

This is a fun question. It’s a way for the interviewer to get to know your personally. Find out about your interests and what drives you outside of work. Yes, you still must think on your feet, but, for the interviewee, the question is a chance to demonstrate something about themselves that they might not have had the opportunity to showcase during the interview.

Talk about something personal that is appealing and interesting. When you explain what you can teach, take that a step further and explain why you would teach it. Think about how being able to do it makes you feel. Does it help you overcome challenges in life? Does it help you be a better team player? Does it help you stay focused?

Think about the positive outcomes to relay to the individual, why you do it and how it could be beneficial to them.

Top tip for curveball interview questions

The one top tip for interviewees that applies to all curveball interview questions, is to take a minute. Just sit on the question and think. As a result, you can regroup and present a considered answer.

If you’re considering a change in your technology job, speak to one of our experience technology recruiters to discuss your options. No hard sell, just an open conversation to help you make sense of your career.

Not ready to talk yet?

Explore our latest technology jobs to see what’s out there for you. Or follow us on LinkedIn for the latest IT jobs and career advice for you.

Good luck.

Chris Devonshire

Co-founder at Devonshire Hayes