How to Answer: “If You Were a Tree…” 

While probably close to 20 interview questions show up in 80% of the interviews that take place, occasionally you’ll get an unusual, ‘odd duck’ interview question. I’m not personally a fan of such questions, but some interviewers have them in their quiver and may ask you one or more of them. Here are a few examples: 

  • If you were a fruit, what kind of fruit would you be and why? (Also substitute animal, tree, etc.) 
  • At a holiday office party, where would you be standing? 
  • Why are utility manhole covers round? 
  • How many rat exterminators are there in New York City? 
  • What is your personal theme song? 

The Purpose of ‘Odd-Duck’ Questions

Indeed’s Career Guide has a good description of why an interviewer might ask one of these questions: “Prospective employers ask tricky interview questions to understand the way you process information, communicate and make decisions under pressure. Tricky questions are those that may not pertain directly to the job or your work experience. They may include logic puzzles, hypothetical situations or discussions of your life and job search beyond the scope of the position for which you’re currently interviewing.  

These questions serve an important purpose as they may help your employer understand your personality or identify soft skills that don’t always show up on a resume. Mind trick questions force you to abandon your rehearsed answers and think of original responses on the spot, which can sometimes say more about you than a well-rehearsed reply.” 

Of course, the Bible doesn’t have the answers for these unusual questions, but as usual, some Scriptural principles can be applied. For example, in Luke 12:12 we’re told, “For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” While this Scripture pertains more directly to defending our faith, the overall context of this passage is aimed at not worrying. Proverbs 3:5-6 further hits our tendency toward anxiousness with “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding; In all your ways, submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.”  

How To Prepare for the Unknown

In addition to this Biblical counsel, here’s some advice to apply to your preparation. 

  1. Advance knowledge – Through networking, websites like Glassdoor.com, and other online resources, get a gauge on the odds of whether some of these unusual questions will be asked. Of course, googling for good answers to these questions might be useful, but don’t just give one-word answers from Google. Remember why the interviewer is asking the question. 🙂 
  1. Better safe than sorry – Assume some of these questions might be asked. How will you respond to them? I’d encourage you to sketch out a few answers. As with most questions, you don’t need to get too involved in them (i.e. algebraic formula to calculate the number of rat exterminators in NYC), but you’ll need to be specific, genuine, and logical with your answer. 
  1. Practice out loud – As I’ve counseled elsewhere in this blog series, even if you think you’ve got the answer locked in nicely with your brain, practice saying your response out loud. Inevitably what you think you want to say and what you actually say will be different unless you practice. 
  1. Listen carefully to the question – Don’t assume you know the question being asked. Allow the interviewer to fully outline the question. Ask clarifying questions if needed. Ensure you understand what is being requested. 
  1. Be clear with your logic – None of these questions have an absolute correct answer. Remember the purpose of the question – to see how you think under pressure. For some questions, the answer may be how you would research an answer. Allow the interviewer to hear the context and logic flow of how you make assumptions as you answer the question. 
  1. Don’t panic – Stay calm. Use some “arrow prayers.” 🙂 Know that our brains don’t always respond the way we would intend. If you don’t answer the question in a manner you’re pleased with, I’d suggest later in the interview to circle back to it to fill in a blank or two.   

Responding to interview questions doesn’t have to create fear and anxiety. Pray. Prepare. Practice. Learn. 

Then rinse and repeat! Go get ‘em! Blessings! 


Dave Sparkman currently serves as the volunteer Crossroads Career board chair and local ministry leader. He is also the founder and managing director of Spark Your Culture, a corporate culture consulting firm. Prior to that he worked at UnitedHealth Group, a Fortune #5 public company, serving in the role of Chief Culture Officer. His unemployment experience came from the implosion of Arthur Andersen, where he served as the West Region Managing Partner, People.

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