'What animal are you most like?'

Three recruiters reveal the most bizarre questions trainees have been asked at interviews, and how to answer them.


As any jobseeker can tell you, achieving the perfect job interview is no easy feat, but that feat becomes even harder if an interviewer throws in some ‘curveball’ questions that, on the surface at least, seem to make no sense.

We ask three leading recruitment experts to share the funniest questions they have heard in interview situations – and what exactly the interviewer is looking for in a candidate’s response.

Nicholas Kirk, managing director, Page Group

Question: What animal are you most like – and why?
This question is an indirect way of asking you to describe what sort of person you are. Think about the organisation you are interviewing for – would they be looking for something versatile or would loyalty and working hard be their main priorities?
Question: How many hospitals are there in the UK?
With this sort of question the answer is not important. The interviewer wants you to demonstrate that you can think complex problems through logically.

You should talk about the process you would go through to find the right answer. Start with what facts you have and then work the problem through – for example, ‘I know the population of London is roughly eight million and if I searched online for “hospitals in London” and look at the number of hits as a proportion of the population in London, I could then access the UK population from census data and apply the same proportion to arrive at a final answer.’

Question: How would you get an elephant into a fridge?
The interviewer is looking for creativity in your answer here or a sense of humour. How you deal with the questions is usually the aim and can help to build rapport with the interviewer.

Try to relax and answer as if you were discussing the answer with a friend. Questions like these can throw you so take your time when answering; interviewers know you won’t have a rehearsed answer so won’t mind if you take a minute and think logically. Your mere acceptance to answer the question and desire to come up with a sound response might encourage the interviewer to think you are willing to tackle new problems.

Natalie Lightfoot, talent acquisition specialist, Morgan McKinley

Question: How would you go about finding a purple monkey?
This question is testing the candidate’s ability to ask effective questions and reason logically – ie how tall does the monkey have to be? Can it be a toy? Does it have to be real? Can you dye it? Does it have to be dead or alive?

Question: It is the end of the second week and people are gathering around the water cooler. What would the gossip be about you?  
This question is testing self-awareness – how do you want to be perceived by the company and how would you deal with confrontation?

Question: You are throwing a dinner party and are inviting five guests, who can be from the past or present. Who would you invite and why?  
This question is testing your analytical process, finding out about the real you and your interests. Be aware that you are showcasing your depth – ie if you mention you would bring the entire Big Brother cast, unless you are interviewing for a PR or reality journalist, you may get a few raised eyebrows. Have a broad range to show your interests in current affairs and history, but remain true to yourself.

Phil Sheridan, senior managing director, Robert Half UK

Consider these real-life responses from hiring managers who were asked to name the strangest things they had ever heard of happening in a job interview:

  • When asked by the hiring manager why she was leaving her current job, the applicant said: ‘My manager is a jerk. All managers are jerks.’
  • After answering the first few questions, the candidate picked up his mobile and called his mum to let them know the interview was going well.
  • The candidate halted the conversation about work hours and the office environment, saying she didn’t like being confined to a building but would consider taking the job if she could move her desk to the courtyard outside.
  • After arriving for an early morning interview, the candidate asked to use the hiring manager’s phone. She proceeded to fake a coughing fit as she called in sick to her boss.

While it is unlikely you will make mistakes like these, it helps to prepare before interviewing with a prospective employer. There are several tips to help you make a good first impression:

  • Before the interview, review the job description again and make sure you can describe how your skills and experience match the requirements of the position.
  • Dress appropriately. Even if you are interviewing with a company that has a casual dress code, it is better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed.
  • In all likelihood, the hiring manager will ask you a host of standard questions, such as ‘Why do you want to work for this firm?’ Practise responses to these queries so that you can provide clear and concise answers.
  • Be confident during the interview. Make eye contact with the interviewer and nod your head in agreement to show you are engaged.

"Questions like these can throw you so take your time when answering; interviewers know you won’t have a rehearsed answer so won’t mind if you take a minute and think logically"