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Just how wacky can those job interview questions get?

By Darrell Smith
The Sacramento Bee

You’ve studied the company and its mission, polished your elevator pitch and honed your answers to a razor’s edge. You’re ready to have the interview of your life.

Then a question comes out of left field: “You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?”

Um, periwinkle? Cornflower? Burnt sienna? Can you repeat the question?

The folks at job listings site Glassdoor.com feel your pain. They’ve compiled their annual list of Top 25 Oddball Questions, the year’s biggest stumpers, puzzlers and head-scratchers as uttered by hiring officers at companies across the country. (The crayon question? No. 16 on the list, courtesy of retailer Urban Outfitters.)

Glassdoor.com says the annual list is based on “tens of thousands of interview questions shared by job candidates over the past year” to help job seekers prepare for whatever an interviewer may throw at them.

And the pitches came from every direction: Xerox wanted to know why tennis balls are fuzzy.

New York-based consultancy McKinsey & Co. took the long view: “If you were 80 years old, what would you tell your children?”

Yahoo went the desert island route: “If you were on an island and could only bring three things, what would they be?”

And online shoes site Zappos.com loves a parade. Its question topped the list at No. 1: “If you could throw a parade of any caliber through the Zappos office, what type of parade would it be?”

But Glassdoor executives say there’s a lesson behind the offbeat questions.

“While job candidates should be prepared to take on challenging and oddball questions during the hiring process, they should also be ready for anything, which includes answering common interview questions like, ‘What are your strengths and weaknesses?’ ‘Why do you want to work here?’ and ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ ” said Allyson Willoughby, a Glassdoor senior vice president, in a statement announcing the list.

Being ready for anything means just that, Glassdoor says. And that takes practice, in front of a mirror or with friends and family members.

One of the best ways to get ready for a job interview, Glassdoor experts say, is to practice your responses to any and all interview questions – even the downright weird.

Glassdoor has an even longer list of the most common questions – 50 in all – from old saws about strengths and weaknesses, to whether you are willing to relocate, how you’ve handled a difficult situation and why there was a gap in your employment.

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