Curveball Interview Questions

Discussion in 'Naval Academy - USNA' started by Ben_m_usna2020, Nov 11, 2015.

  1. Ben_m_usna2020

    Ben_m_usna2020 Member

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    Hi all,

    Like many others in the process right now, I am getting ready for one of my MOC interviews soon, and I was hoping to start a discussion about any curveball kind of questions that we candidates might get thrown at us.
    Looking through previous threads I've found a few, such as:
    "Why do you want to go to the Academy instead of going ROTC or enlisting?"
    "Are you prepared to kill someone for your country?"
    "Can you describe a time when you made a bad decision?" (I thought of this one as different than the typical 'describe a failure of yours' question)
    and
    "Why should the American Taxpayer spend $400,000 to send you to an Academy?"

    So, are there any such unexpected questions that you have been asked/asked/seen someone asked?
     
  2. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

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    "What are two of your worst character flaws, and how do you work on them?"

    Fellow USNA Battalion Officers and I used to interview mids for Brigade leadership positions, a similar screening to applicant interviews. It was amusing, but sad, to see mids struggle to think of one negative thing about themselves. One even said he had no flaws or weaknesses he could think of.

    If you google "tough job interview questions," you will find many parallels in the corporate job world. After all, these pre-SA interviews are also job interviews. Short-term, for the job of being a mid or cadet, long-term, to make an early determination of potential for commissioned service.

    Also:
    "Tell me about an experience where you, as a leader, failed, and how did you recover."

    "Give me an example of a technique for building trust with those you lead."

    "Tell me about a tough experience and what you learned from it."

    "Why should I choose you from all the other candidates/what makes you stand out?"

    "If you are not offered a nomination, what is your plan?"

    "Is there anything else I should know about you, that we haven't talked about?"
     
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  3. WannabeGonnabe

    WannabeGonnabe Member

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    I got, "What are you most proud of?"
     
  4. LongAgoPlebe

    LongAgoPlebe Member

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    With respect to everyone preparing for MOC interviews, I think you're going about it the wrong way. TL;DR version: It's not the question that matters, it's your ability to engage with the question through your values and knowledge.

    These types of questions aren't limited to MOCs or even the SAs. We ask them at my college, to scholarship applicants. When FBI, CIA, and Google (etc.) come to campus for interviews, they ask students these kinds of questions. I know this because my students tell me the questions they've got, and because I've asked some of them myself.

    What the asker is looking for is not a profound answer. To be honest with you, in young people so inexperienced in life, I can smell the rehearsed answer a mile away - you guys just don't know enough to fake sincerity yet! :cool: What we are looking for are these things: 1) how well you listened to the question and responded to what was actually asked (not merely what you wanted to talk about - frankly we can turn on the TV news for that); 2) whether you paused to think before you responded; and perhaps the biggest factor: 3) whether you clearly and thoughtfully articulated your response, based either on your own values, or based on facts, depending on the type of question. These kinds questions require that you prepare by taking really honest self-inventory, and that you be willing to express your values thoughtfully. Orthodoxy is a big turn-off because it implies black-and-white, unsophisticated thinking ("you should always be honest" "no one should ever steal" "murder is always wrong" "The U.S. is always right" etc.). We're looking for complex, nuanced thinkers - even at the ages of 17 or 18 - people who are humble, and know they don't have all or even some of the answers. We also recognize that by definition, 17- and 18-year-olds are inexperienced. One of the best responses we ever got to a question of "When might it all right to harm someone else?" was from a young man who said (essentially) "I don't know, but this is how I would think about it." He got the full ride, graduated, and is now with a national intelligence organization.

    If you put some serious, deliberate thought into what matters to you, whether it matters moderately or a lot, and why, and you can express yourself clearly and not ramble, then you will be WAY ahead of many of your peers. (I have a very large "N" with that - trust me!)
     
  5. time2

    time2 Member

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    MOC interviews sometimes ask 'off the wall questions' to see if the candidate has been highly coached or is trying to simply answer the question how they THINK the interview committee expects you to answer. One example is 'What kitchen utensil best describes your personality'. Obviously, you can't be 'coached' on a right answer and they want to see your thought process.

    There are lots of older threads that discuss this topic.
     
  6. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

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    Hear, hear! Well-stated.
     
  7. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    I didn't think any of these questions was particularly a curveball - since many of them appear quite often.

    Something I have thought more of the odd-ball type would be:

    What is your opinion of women in the Army (Navy, AF, etc)?
    How does a kid answer THAT? Why would an adult ask that of a 17 year old? What if the applicant is female? Or even stickier: a male?

    Do your parents object to your plan to attend USNA? (USMA, USAFA,...) and if so, how will you defend your decision to pursue this route?

    What about you is so special that we would nominate YOU for a Service Academy?

    Those are all questions asked of applicants and I thought the kids would have to think pretty quick on their feet to answer those without digging a hole.
     
  8. WannabeGonnabe

    WannabeGonnabe Member

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    This may not be entirely interview related but I thought it really improved my experience.

    TALK TO THE OTHER CANDIDATES!

    When I walked into the waiting area for my first MOC interview, it was dead silent with 4 or so other candidates. We all were pretty nervous.

    But I got a conversation started-asked where everyone was from, where they're applying, "teased" a fellow swimmer from a rival high school. Everyone was a lot calmer and more relaxed after that. I met a candidate who was actually going through the process for his second time and another who knew a friend of mine. When someone went in or came out we all said, "Good luck!"

    Besides helping distract me from anxious jitters, everyone I met was friendly and polite and I'd be honored to serve next to them and I really wish them the best in their application. With this atmosphere, I felt like I was able to be more genuine and relaxed going into my interview.
     
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  9. midmom19

    midmom19 Member

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    Another suggestion...come up with a question to ask them. They will usually ask at the end of the interview if you have any questions and even if they don't ask one anyway. Give them something to "remember" YOU by. My DS (class of 2019) asked " is there any reason you would NOT choose me?" He asked to learn knowledge of any deficits he might have and to make himself standout and be remembered. Like in closing a successful job interview you have to "ask" for the job:)
     
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  10. FalconsRock

    FalconsRock Parent

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    Good question...what was their response?
     
  11. MaximusFL

    MaximusFL Member

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    I've heard of MOC asking if applicants have girlfriends/boyfriends and how they affect it?

    I received an early appointment and USNA told me to continue seeking nominations. I was straight up asked "why you?"
     
  12. Sydney C.

    Sydney C. Member

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    I think these are all terrific responses to help the OP prepare for his/her interview.

    Be prepared for the unexpected...even if it doesn't happen. When DS went through it there were those, who he knew, that were going to just play on the strength of their resumes...which were impressive. Don't know how that played out for them but when my kid got in there they said "OK, on paper you look impeccable....now let's find out what else you've got".

    Think it through now....you'll be fine. Good luck!
     
  13. MemberLG

    MemberLG Member

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    I would add that candidate's answers could lead to "curve ball" question. During an interview, a candidate presented himself to be very religious, that lead to "can you kill someone" question. The answer was no.
     
  14. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

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    Then there is "what animal would you be," "what super power would you want" - part of the family of questions with no right or wrong answer, just to explore the ability to think on your feet and respond to the unexpected.
     
  15. midmom19

    midmom19 Member

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    FalconsRock....
    The response from the interview board to my DS's question was
    " not really. You are the only candidate we have interviewed that is the captain of 3 varsity sports and your record is very competitive with everyone else. Keep doing what you are doing and good luck" he received a MOC mom from that interview:)
     
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  16. dakine

    dakine Member

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    I'd add that body language is a big part of the interview also. Do you smile? Looking people in the eye or staring at the floor? Hands in your pockets or are they relaxed? Are your teeth clean? How are your shoes?

    Practice makes perfect. Nobody likes doing interviews at first. Ask some adults (that have jobs) to setup a practice interview. Video yourself and review. You will be great!
     
  17. Memphis9489

    Memphis9489 Parent

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    At a congressional interview, one of my sons was asked, "Who is your military hero?" Military history was not a big interest of his - certainly not enough to have a "military hero." He simply said, "I really don't have any heroes, military or otherwise." The interviewer seemed to accept that answer and moved on. He received a nomination from that office, too. I thought that was pretty funny, actually.

    Come to think of it - I don't have any heroes either. I respect and admire certain people but - hero? - nah.
     
  18. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    Curveball question for my DS was:
    ~ Knowing the amount of American fatalities, do you believe we should have invaded Iraq?

    I am sure somebody will be asked about ISIS.

    dakine,
    I am not sure I would video tape it at all and study it.
    ~ For you that may have worked. For my kids, that would have just been more stress studying it. Correcting and re-correcting. Heck, even knowing that they were going to tape it, would equate to them be unnatural during the practice video.

    The fact is they know these kids are 17/18 and it is intimidating to walk into a room with many people staring at you and peppering questions.

    I do agree with the other portion of your post.
    ~ If you are a guy and plan to wear a suit or blazer, but rarely wear either, than pull them out now, and practice sitting in it.
    ~~ If unaccustomed to wear a suit coat, than you are also probably unaccustomed to unbuttoning it before you sit down. Nor would you be accustomed to not sitting on the tailcoat. Both would mean you re-sitting in the seat after adjusting.
    ~~~ This is especially important if you have rarely worn a dress shirt or tie. The shirt can be constricting. Many will tug at the neck or the cuffs.

    ~ If you are a girl, remove most of your jewelry.
    ~~ There is nothing more annoying during an interview than listening to multiple bracelets jingle when you move your hands.
    ~~~ The same is true if your nervous tick is to twist your rings on your hand or your earrings. If you are a hair twister when it is down, wear it up. Remember at an SA, and the AD world you won't be wearing it down, so they will not think anything about you having it pulled back for the interview.
    ~~~~ I would recommend no nail polish at all, but if you choose to wear it, than wear a natural tone color.

    Finally, this is what we did for our DS... and no, he did not dress up for it. We held a casual dinner party with close family friends. During dessert we called DS down, he had no prior knowledge we would be doing this, they on the other hand knew when they were invited that this would occur. He popped down and it started casually with how the college plans were going. It slowly contorted into those curveball questions of why, what if, have you thought of....

    By the end of the night he realized what we were doing to him. He held his weight and plus some. He was very relaxed for his interview when he entered because our friends threw what I would call the real curve balls. Caveat: he wanted to be a pilot
    ~ How will you deal with the fact that when you bomb something there might be collateral damage
    ~~ See above re: should we have invaded Iraq
    ~ What will you say to your child if they ever ask: Did you kill someone?
    ~ Living or dead if you could ask 1 question to 1 person (military related) what would it be?
    ~~ He said Truman and knowing the devastation dropping the A Bomb on Hiroshima, how did you come to the decision to drop the bomb on Nagasaki 3 days later?
    ~~~ That was the Wow moment, because our friends thought surely it would have been Lincoln, FDR, Kennedy, Nixon. None of them ever thought about Truman. Just saying, that going with the traditional answer might not be the best path. Yet, if you go non-traditional, make sure you can back it up.

    I would also suggest to parents that if your are driving your child to the interview, FOLLOW THEIR LEAD. If they want to listen to music on their phone and not talk, than let them. If they would prefer to go into the building without you...do so. Go to WalMart, IHOP, or wherever to spend your time until they call and say come back and get me.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2015
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  19. Rocket17

    Rocket17 Member

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    What a great thread! As a newbie BGO I have yet to do my first interview. I've got the interview guidelines with mandatory questions in hand but... Y'all have given me some really outstanding suggestions!
     
  20. WannabeGonnabe

    WannabeGonnabe Member

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    As a candidate, the BGO asking me, "Have you ever been in a gang?" threw me a little haha. Did not see that one coming!
     

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