How to Respond to Bad Interview Questions

Advice & News  |  by Leah Jackson

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Recently, HigherEdJobs followers shared with us some of the best and worst interview questions they’ve ever been asked.

After going through the good ones in a previous podcast, Kelly and Andy tackle the worst ones in this week’s HigherEdJobs podcast episode. The questions range from simply bizarre (such as ‘What color would you be if you were a crayon?’) to intrusive and illegal (such as questions about your family, age, and other personal matters).

The latter are what Andy and Kelly agree are major red flags candidates shouldn’t ignore.

Kelly advises asking yourself, “Is this the type of institution that I want to work for?” Both advise that uncomfortable questions about your personal life should make you stop and consider whether you really want the job if the hiring committee is willing to ask such questions.

As for responding to those questions in the moment, a simple “I don’t feel comfortable answering that question” will suffice.

“I would never encourage you to feel like you have to answer the question. You do not,” Andy says. Stand your ground if you are pressed.

So, what about the crazy questions that catch you off guard, like “What is your spirit animal?” or “How would you make a PB&J sandwich?”

These questions can be intimidating because you’re not sure exactly what answer the employer is looking for, but Kelly advises it’s best not to worry about that.

“Don’t answer based on what you think they want to hear,” she says. “Answer it based on who you are.”

Andy builds on that, reminding listeners that sometimes these questions present an opportunity to “come back to what your story is and come back to thematically where you want to convey yourself as a candidate.” In other words, if you’re asked a creative question, answer it creatively if it can support your story as a candidate. If not, just answer the question the best you can — succinctly and neutrally — so that hopefully you can move on.

What is the worst question you have ever been asked in an interview? Here are some others submitted by the HigherEdJobs community.

  • What extracurricular activities do your children participate in at school?
  • What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
  • What holidays do you expect to get off from work?

Listen to the entire episode here!

Disclaimer: HigherEdJobs encourages free discourse and expression of issues while striving for accurate presentation to our audience. A guest opinion serves as an avenue to address and explore important topics, for authors to impart their expertise to our higher education audience and to challenge readers to consider points of view that could be outside of their comfort zone. The viewpoints, beliefs, or opinions expressed in the above piece are those of the author(s) and don’t imply endorsement by HigherEdJobs.

By Jody Burum
Jody Burum Senior Career Counselor