"Outside the Box" Interview Questions & Suggested Answers
You're likely to receive a number of "outside the box" questions in interviews, especially if your interviewer is the creative type or if you've given "boring" answers in your interview so far. The main mistake you can make here is taking yourself too seriously. With these questions, the interviewer is trying to get at what makes you "cool" and sets you apart from other people.
So try to have some fun with these.
1. What type of animal / vegetable would you be?
Some interviewees take this as a cue to tie your choice back to being a team player, hard worker, or such but that's not the best approach.
For "creativity"-type questions, interviewers want you to be... creative. So think about your real personality and say something that matches that.
Example: Maybe you'd be a "hedgehog" because it looks like you have "spikes" on the outside to an observer, but you're actually warm and fuzzy on the inside.
2. Let's say that in the future your name turns up as the front page headline of a newspaper one day - what would the story be about?
With this type of question you can show more "banker-like" traits such as ambition and hard work - but you shouldn't take it too seriously.
So maybe the headline states that you climbed Mt. Everest, sold your company in an IPO, or became a best-selling author - you want "ambition + creativity / coolness" for this type of question.
Hopefully the headline wasn't about your indictment for insider trading.
3. Tell me a joke.
"Q: What was the best part of Playboy's IPO?
A: The pitch book"
If you have a female interviewer or someone else who might get offended, then try the following corny but impossible to offend joke instead:
"A dog goes into an investment banking job interview, and the banker says to him, 'You've got the job, but only if you can do three things. First, you have to be able complete an LBO model in 30 minutes.' So the dog runs to a computer and astoundingly creates a full model in 30 minutes.
That's very nice! Next, you must be able to spread 10 comps manually in under an hour, Immediately, the dog sits down at the computer and completes everything in only 30 minutes.
That's perfect! Lastly, you must be bilingual.' So then the dog says, 'Meow!
4. What's your personal Beta?
"Beta" in the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) measures expected return and expected risk. Higher Beta means a higher potential return, but also more risk.
You probably want to say above 1.0, but not too much above it - you're much more ambitious than the average person, which causes you to try lots of new things and achieve quite a bit, so that inevitably carries some risk.
But you're not so reckless that you take careless risks - it's all about moderation. Don't go over 2.0.
Bankers like to think of themselves as "entrepreneurial" even though banking is extremely different from entrepreneurship, so you should take advantage of this line of thinking and indulge them.
5. What's the riskiest thing you've ever done?
Don't say "cocaine" or any other drug / porn-like / illegal activity (this should be common sense but you wouldn't believe the emails I get).
But you also can't say, "I sat next to the unpopular kid one day..." because that's not risky at all.
Try to discuss an internship or job experience you had that you never expected to get, or some type of extracurricular/leadership experience that was somewhat random and turned out to be great - and talk about how it was a calculated risk and that you got a lot out of the decision you made.
If you can point to something you had to be proactive to get, this is a good time to bring it up.
6. Let's say that you have $1 million, but you are NOT allowed to invest it or otherwise use it to create more money. What would you spend the capital on instead?
Don't say, "I would start my own business..." or "I would invest it in..." - many people completely ignore the actual question here.
It's best to tie this back to whatever your interests and passions are - so you might use the money to support volunteer work you've done, extended travel that you've always wanted to take, or maybe even to buy that race car you've always wanted.
Just make sure your answer is believable - if you have never worked at a non-profit or in a volunteer group in your life, don't suddenly try to be a saint. If you love cars, say you would think about buying a car you've always wanted... among other things.