• Experts share curveball questions that have been asked in interviews 
  • Used to determine how candidates react under pressure
  • Interviewee hopes to gauge real snapshot into the person’s life


You’ve researched the company, updated your CV and even stalked the CEO on Facebook – and then they go and ask you a question about traffic lights.

In order to scout out the top talent, businesses are now throwing curveball questions during the interview process. Asking about seemingly unrelated topics can help give a company a wider snapshot into the person and their life.

Penny de Valk Managing Director of people management business, Penna’s Talent Practice, told Daily Mail -FEMAIL: ‘Curveball questions can be used to put people on the spot and see how they react under pressure.

‘And how candidates answer these questions can provide the interviewer with a bit of insight into how their mind works.’

How many traffic lights are there in London? 

‘This is essentially a brainteaser to test how you would think through tough questions,’ said James Reed, author of Why You? 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear Again.

‘Reassure yourself that no one is going to have the correct answer to the question. It is highly impossible unless you have a comprehensive knowledge of UK traffic lights.

‘Take a breath to gather your thoughts and respond with: “I couldn’t give you an exact number, obviously, but I could make a guess by trying to estimate the number of traffic lights in a square mile based on my personal experience and then taking a shot at the total size of London in square miles”.’


How would you interject a fight between Batman and Superman?

Lee Biggins, founder of CV-Library, said this super hero question may be asked in order to demonstrate how the candidate handles conflict.

‘Try to keep it relevant to the job role – you’re not being asked how you would handle a scuffle in the pub on a Friday night,’ he said. ‘Focus on the positive attributes of both parties and how you could encourage them to work well together.’


What can you make from this piece of paper? 

‘This is an opportunity for the interviewer to see how creative you are, whilst working under pressure,’ said Penny de Valk. ‘If you manage to make an origami swan, fantastic! If, like most, you don’t have such skills – it’s the chance to see what you can create on the spot.

‘If you’re applying for a role where one of your main responsibilities is writing, for example a journalist, then you could say that you could make a multitude of stories from that one piece of paper without the help of origami.

‘It’s better to do this than spend half an hour folding it into intricate shapes and feeling totally out of your comfort zone.’


If we shrunk you to the size of a pencil and put you in a blender, how would you try to get out?

Careers writer Paul MacKenzie-Cummins said this question is designed to reveal whether a candidate is flustered by unexpected problems.

‘Candidates should bear in mind that there is no right or wrong answer to this – it’s all down to interpretation,’ he said. ‘However, candidates should try to answer the question as best as possible, as this reveals that they are willing to solve an issue they are unfamiliar with.’


What colour is your brain? 

‘Colours are commonly linked to describing a person’s mood,’ said James Reed. ‘The interviewee is trying to gage how you work and whether your personality would fit in well with their working environment.’

He added: ‘There are some dependable colours that represent positive attributes, but always stay loyal to who you are. If you are a passionate person, for example red, then be honest by saying that, always making sure that whatever colour you pick is described with positive undertones throughout.


 What do you think about garden gnomes?

‘Not all questions are serious; a question like this is most likely thrown out to see your sense of humour in an otherwise formal situation,’ said a spokesperson from recruitment company Pareto.

‘It is still prudent to air on the side of how it can be related to the role you have applied for, but try to take a not so serious approach to it. For example if you are applying for an engineering role, question whether the gnomes have the right tools to do the job in hand.’


What fruit would you be? 

The interviewer may be trying to understand how creative the candidate is with this seemingly strange question.

Penny de Valk said: ‘Would you choose a traditional trustworthy option, such as the humble apple? Or maybe show your travelling prowess by saying a durian fruit, as sampled during your travels of Borneo? It provides the interviewer with an insight into your levels of creativity.

‘Depending on the role you are going for this will affect your answer. If you are applying for creative designer role, the more unusual the fruit, and reason why you chose it, the better. If it’s an accountancy role, maybe you should go with a safer option. The important thing is that you are able to say why so that your personality shines through – that’s what the interviewer will be looking for.’


In a news story about your life, what would the headline be? 

‘The interviewer wants to gain insight into your general attitude and outlook on life,’ said Lee Biggins. ‘Be clear and to the point, summarising key highlights in one short sentence. The most important thing to focus on is ensuring your answer portrays a positive side of you. Future employers aren’t keen on negative staff.’

fcc70486a3f0f9bf128e7c052e904e5aTell me a story 

This ambiguous question is to test whether you are able to maintain your professionalism or whether you are the type of person that will digress into an inappropriate story, according to career experts.

James Reed said: ‘As hundreds of stories begin flooding into your brain, take a moment to think about which would be the most appropriate. This could be the perfect opportunity to tell your interviewer about a successful experience in the workplace. Keep the story concise and avoid rambling.’


For more information on how on what to expect in your interview, please call and speak to one of our consultants. 0151 709 3960.