Getting Asked Clown Questions in Your Interviews?

Getting Asked Clown Questions in Your Interviews?

You know when you get those really annoying interview questions that you just can’t stand?

“If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?”
“How many ping-pong balls can you fit inside the earth?”
“What do you think of garden gnomes?” (This is a question actually asked by Trader Joe’s. You’ve been warned.)

You smile nervously and give a tittering laugh as you wonder, “What’s the point of that question?” How should you answer a question that’s so off-the-wall?

I was reminded of the phrase uttered by Washington Nationals player Bryce Harper when he was asked a question he didn’t like:

“That’s a clown question, bro.”

Even Senator Harry Reid was able to use the phrase with great effect at a press conference:

And it was jokingly used earlier this year by the White House press secretary.

But should you really say that in an interview?

While some folks with influence have been able to pull it off, it probably wouldn’t work so well for job seekers.

Instead, try to look at how you can work your answer to your advantage. For example, say your interviewer asks, “If you were a musical instrument, what kind of musical instrument would you be?” Here are a couple possibilities for how you could answer:

“I would be one of the lower instruments, like a tuba or a bassoon. While those instruments aren’t featured like the trumpet or the flute, they round out the sound of a musical ensemble and add a lot of depth to the music. Their sound also serves to better bring out the instruments that play in the treble clef range, actually supporting their tones. That’s how I see myself — providing support for the team so my supervisor and other key players can shine!”


“I would be a synthesizer because it has the ability to sound like a variety of different instruments. Similarly, I am able to successfully function in roles beyond my title. I’ve never felt that my work ends with my job description; there are times when it’s important to take on work that is not normally done, and I have always been glad to put in the effort to meet customer needs. For example, when I was with ABC Company as the Coordinator of Widget Processing, I…”

By answering a seemingly unrelated interview question in this manner, you are providing additional information about your work philosophies, your accomplishments, your talents, your ability to reason, and so on. It adds to the richness of your career story.

And while you can’t completely anticipate these types of question, you can get a heads’ up on them from websites like Glassdoor.

So… how would you get an elephant into a refrigerator? (question courtesy of Horizon Group Properties)

Image courtesy of Antonio Thomas Koenigkem Oliveira

Melissa Cooley of The Job Quest, LLC unearths clients’ career examples to showcase the talents and results that make them must-hire candidates. Click here to learn more about partnering with Melissa on writing your résumé, preparing for your next interview, and more!

Melissa is a contributor to the book Nourish Your Career, has been quoted on,, and Quintessential Careers, has interviewed numerous times for The Voice of Job Seekers podcast, and has written guest posts for multiple job seeker blogs.

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