'If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?' Tricky graduate interview question
Is it a bird, is it a plane, is it a super-job-candidate? No, it’s a tricky question that’s a trick question. Note that, with this graduate interview question, you aren’t being asked which superhero you’d be. You’re being asked what your superpower would be. To give yourself the best possible chance of making a good impression, pay attention to the question.
What’s behind the question?
Why might an employer ask this rather than ‘What’s your biggest strength?’, with which the superpower question has something in common?
The superpower question focuses upon the quality the candidate identifies as their biggest personal asset. Also, it’s intended to encourage a response that isn’t formulaic. Finally, it invites you to focus upon the impact you could have on the organisation. Think of a superhero’s power: it is powerful because it is devastatingly effective.
In some ways, ‘If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?’ is like any unusual interview question; it’s as much about how you answer as what you say. Can you think on your feet and come up with an articulate answer when faced with an unexpected question? If you can, regardless of the superpower you choose, you’ll create a good impression.
The typical skills and competencies employers look for may not seem to have much in common with superpowers. Miss Marvel saves the universe not because of her amazing team skills, time management or ability to prioritise; it’s because she has sheer superhuman endurance (and a sixth sense). However, you’ll still need to illustrate your superpower with an example drawn from your real-life experience.
You can practise your answers to tricky interview questions using resources from our partners at Shortlist.Me.
Pick your superpower
Are there any achievements you’re particularly proud of, or times when you had to overcome obstacles in order to succeed? Can you identify a particular characteristic that enabled you to do this? The superpower question invites you to single out a quality that has made it possible for you to achieve, and to give an example of a goal that you were able to reach as a result.
Our first tip is to choose a simple but strong and effective superpower, for example:
- Endurance, strength or resilience. A superhero might run round the world six times; you could have shown your stamina in sports or expeditions, or by completing challenges in spite of adverse circumstances.
- Observation. Although you might not have X-ray eyes, you could have a good eye for detail and the ability to step back and analyse a situation, then respond to the evidence.
- Speed. Efficiency is as valuable to an employer as the power of flight is to a superhero. The ability to manage your time is an important skill, as is the capacity to spot ways to improve processes and accomplish tasks more swiftly.
- Agility. Are you capable of being flexible and adaptable? Even if you don't have shapeshifting abilities, you may still be able to tackle new tasks and responsibilities in a way that will help your employer to thrive in a fast-changing business environment.
- Sensitivity to what other people are thinking and feeling. You might not be able to read minds, but emotional intelligence is a useful skill in the workplace and recruiters will be impressed by evidence of it.
- The power to influence your environment. Where a superhero might be capable of controlling the elements, you could be skilled at persuasion. Have you ever been successfully involved in campaigning or fundraising, or taken a leadership role?
Link your superpower to the employer and the job
Our second tip is to outline why your chosen superpower would be an advantage to the employer. For example, if you choose to talk about endurance, you could talk about areas of the employer’s work where this is particularly important. Perhaps the organisation has been involved in a particularly complex project or negotiation that required stamina and resilience from all involved.
Then use the STAR method – Situation, Task, Action, Result – to demonstrate where, when and how you’ve already used the superpower.
Example answer: the superpower of speed
‘My superpower is incredible speed so I would be the superhero Lightning. I know that the nature of your business means you respond very quickly to events so I think my superpower would be useful.
‘I used my superpower when I had to make an instant decision as chief fundraiser for a local music festival. I was about to sign a deal with a company who would be the main sponsor for the event for one year when I suddenly had an offer from a rival company who would cover two years but at a reduced amount. I decided to go with the two-year option as I knew the sponsor was more open to sharing publicity with a co-sponsor, so long as it wasn’t a business rival. I had someone in mind who could be a co-sponsor and fill the funding gap for at least the first year. However, this all had to be tied up incredibly quickly as I didn’t want to keep the original sponsor hanging around if we weren’t going to use them.’
How not to talk about your superpower
‘My superpower is mind melting, because your mind will melt when you see what I have to offer you.’
Not only will you sound like a candidate on The Apprentice but it’s far too jokey. Even though the superpower question might sound light-hearted, it’s being asked for serious purposes and is testing your ability to think quickly and critically. While this question is an invitation to talk about your strengths, you need to avoid sounding like a boastful fantasist. The way to do this is by using a real-life example and showing some self-knowledge and self-reflection in your answer.
Which organisations might ask this question?
It might come up if an employer wants to gauge how you think on your feet and to assess your presentation and judgement. It’s been used by tech companies and could also crop up in retail or law firm interviews if they want to shake things up a bit.