How would you answer the following interview questions?

Picture this. You’re a pencil in a blender, now what?
If you were a household item, what would you be?
If you could have any super-hero power, what would it be?

According to Jane Trnka, executive director of the career development center at Rollins College School of Business, these are actual questions asked during recent interviews. Internet and technology firms are notorious for asking “unusual” interview questions, like this one used at document-sharing internet firm, Dropbox: “Imagine a world where your car was equipped with Dropbox. Please describe that world.”

Trnka advises practicing your answers to these and similar questions. That way you won’t get flustered and have that “deer in the headlights look” when faced with these types of questions.

Margaret King, director of the Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis, a think tank that studies human behavior, suggests that, in asking seemingly irrelevant questions, interviewers are seeking to better understand how the candidate thinks and what they value. In the super-hero power example, does the respondent focus on qualities such as “wealth, status, or power” or does the answer suggest a more nuanced world view reflecting values such as “the ability to sense others’ needs,” “the capacity to analyze complex situations,” or “an incredible memory.”

Joseph Terach, CEO of rèsumè-writing firm Resume Deli, suggests using humor when responding to odd questions. If you are asked about your super power of choice he suggests, a dramatic removal of your eyeglasses, a la Clark Kent, and a response such as “What do you mean “if” I had a super power? Seriously though — because questions about superpowers should always be taken seriously — mine would be the ability to avoid waiting in line: at the movies, at the market, at the bank, everywhere.”

Paul Freiberger, author of When Can You Start 2014? Ace the Job Interview and Get Hired, offered the following categories of quirky questions and approaches to respond to each:

Puzzle Questions. These seek to test problem-solving abilities. Questions such as “Why are manhole covers round?” fall into this category. The essence of the question is to understand your thought process. The actual answer matters less than the how the applicant’s reached his or her conclusion. “Never give an answer to this type of question without a coherent explanation.”

Whimsical Questions. This category covers questions like: “If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?” and “Who is your favorite Muppet?” Your answer should reflect the qualities that are desirable in the job.

Stress Inducing Questions. There are, in fact, questions whose primary purpose is to put the interviewee on the spot. Questions like, “What would you say if I told you that this interview is going terribly?” fall into this category. Rather than react, treat these questions as hypotheticals. Calmly tell the interviewer that you would be disappointed if that was correct, because you would really like the position and you believe you are well qualified.

Susan Riehle, author of “Make Me an Offer I Can’t Refuse—the ‘Gangster’ Rules for Your Working Life” believes that there “really is only one interview question.” No matter what form the question takes, what the interviewer is really asking is “Why should I hire you and not the next guy through that door?” Answer in a way that says something about you, she advises. To illustrate, she tells the story about an interviewer who asks “If you were a pastry, what pastry would you be?” The interviewee answers, “I’d be a banana-nut muffin: slightly sweet, interesting and still good for you.” The job interview was for a customer service position. The interviewer wanted someone pleasant, intelligent, with a sense of humor, quick thinking, who didn’t get thrown easily. The interviewee got the job.

Career coach Susan Hosage warns that while “quirky questions can yield bizarre answers, since applicants aren’t prepared, they often relinquish information that may not contribute positively to their candidacy.” She recommends that all questions, even quirky ones, be answered in a way that ”highlights the skills, knowledge, abilities, and attributes that you can bring to the job.

To be able to impress someone when asked an unusual interview question, have an answer ready that you have thought about in advance. Go into the interview knowing that, despite your preparation, questions that you have not anticipated may be still thrown at you. Take your time and keep in mind that what is most important is probably not the actual answer you give, but how well you maintain your composure.

A veteran human resources executive, Lee E. Miller is a career coach and the author of UP: Influence Power and the U Perspective — The Art of Getting What You Want. Mail questions to