Careers advice

6 weird job interview questions that have actually been asked

But seriously, what do you think of garden gnomes?

Last updated: 16 October 2023

One of the most important things you can do when preparing for a job interview in Aotearoa New Zealand is practise your answers to the questions you might face.

Now, if you’re pushed for time, you’re going to want to check out our article on the most common job interview questions you’re likely to encounter. However, if you’re wanting to take the most comprehensive approach to preparing for your interview, it could also pay to look into some gnarly questions that quirky interviewers may also throw into the mix.

Sure, they may be less routine, but they’re also more likely to wrong-foot you if they do crop up.

Unusual job interview questions

1. What do you think of garden gnomes?

Yep, you read that right, this question has genuinely been asked in job interviews before. And, because job interviewers take inspiration from others, there’s a chance you could face it too.

So, what are interviewers hoping to achieve by asking this bizarre question? Well, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s no right answer to this (unless you’re applying to a company that manufactures garden gnomes, in which case we’d advise being very pro gnome). But, there are reasons why interviewers ask it.

Firstly, it can serve as an ice breaker. Job interviewers can be awkward and stale environments, so an interviewer might ask about garden gnomes to put a smile on your face. In addition, it can be used to get a gauge on your personality, and if you’ll fit into the company culture.

So, what should you do? Easy. Have fun with it. As long as you don’t react poorly or appear standoffish, there’s not too much you can do wrong here.

Got strong opinions on these little guys?

2. Are you a hunter or a gatherer?

Err, neither … I go to the supermarket. No, this question isn’t actually asking how you source your food. In reality, this is simply a broad behavioural interview question that gets to the heart of what kind of person you are..

Gatherers are people who spend time collecting facts and figures, they do careful research before making decisions and are often great at multitasking. Hunters are more assertive and up for trying things on the fly – they’re also sometimes thought to make natural leaders.

The option you go for will depend on the job you’re applying for, as some roles naturally call for hunters, while others require the more steady approach of a gatherer.

3. If you were given an elephant that you can’t give away or sell, what would you do?

Again, no right answer here, but this one is all about prioritisation and problem-solving. After all, an unexpected elephant represents a rather large problem.

Similar to the gnome question, it’s a good thing to show a sense of humour if you get asked something like this. There’s definitely no problem in having a laugh with this one, in fact, it’s actually a good idea. However, while you don’t want to get wrapped up in an intricate plan for dealing with this elephant, the interviewer will expect some sort of an answer.

A good one could be “crowdfunding in order to create a suitable habitat for the elephant to live in”. You can’t give the elephant away, so you can’t crowdfund to send it back to the wild, but this option is the next best thing. It shows organisation in order to raise the funds, as well as empathy for the animal.

Don't be afraid to have fun with some of these questions.

4. What animal do you most identify with?

This is a little bit like the “tell me about yourself” job interview question, but it gets you to focus specifically on your personality and habits, rather than, for example, your employment history.

You might already have an answer to this one up your sleeve – after all, it’s quite a fun thing to think about. But, whether you do or don’t have a response ready to go, make sure that you sense check it before rolling it out in front of an interviewer.

For example, while you might think an answer like “shark” might be a good one – powerful, ruthless etc. – these are also solitary animals that are known to fend for themselves above all else, so this doesn’t give off good team player vibes. Of course, just about all animals would have their downsides, so we aren’t saying you shouldn’t say “shark”, just be ready to back it up. Also, and we hope this goes without saying, don’t say sloth.

5. If you were marooned on a desert island, but all the essentials were taken care of, what 3 items would you bring with you?

This is a more fun way of asking, “what’s important to you?”, and, again, getting you to prioritise. Our advice for answering this question is to give one thing that’s purely material and demonstrates a hobby – a guitar, a surfboard or a camera, for example. This just gives an insight into your life and what you get up to outside of work. For the remaining two, go for something practical and, ideally, something that shows a desire to keep some connection without the outside world. Even if a desert island on your own sounds great (and we get that!), you probably want to show the interviewers that you want to maintain connection with your friends and family. So, maybe a satellite phone and a solar charger? Just a suggestion.

6. Why are manhole covers round?

Based on the other questions we’ve talked about, you might be thinking to yourself, “aha, I know what this is about, this is just another fun question to break the ice”. But no, we’ve tossed you another curveball to end this article.

This question is actually looking for a specific question, and we totally knew the right answer before researching for this article … we promise. The reason manhole covers are round is that it is impossible for the covers to fall through the manhole if they’re picked up and lifted out. If it was square, for example, it would be able to fall through on its diagonal.

Being able to answer this question shows your ability to problem solve and think logically and on your feet. Wheel out the correct answer, and you’ll be sure to impress. Handy for quiz nights too.


Al Hall
Al Hall

Al Hall is a regular contributor at Trade Me Jobs and Trade Me Property. He’s dedicated to helping people succeed in their aspirations to find their dream job and place to live.