The job interview obstacle course makes many talented, hard-working people cry over their instant noodles. But knowing how to handle sneaky job interview questions can boost your confidence so you can show them what you can bring to the organization instead of trying to conceal an anxiety attack. Here are 5 sneaky scenarios and how to handle them when it comes to the job interview.
Sneaky Job Interview Questions ...and Their Answers
“The Undercover Interview”This is more of a sneaky technique than a question, but expect to see it more often. Jeff Hayden at Inc., says the boss greets you in the lobby, then hands you over to someone less formally attired and less responsible "looking" to give you a tour. Having lulled you into a false sense of relaxation, this person may still have decision-making power and will casually ask questions to discover the “real” you. So no matter whether you are talking to the CEO, a random guy in the graphic design department or the janitor, keep it professional.
“So tell us about yourself"This popular open-ended question has tricked many job seekers into telling their life stories. Don’t. Plotr says that what the interviewer wants to know is whether or not your personality and skills will fit into the job, so be prepared to share some personal aspects that fit what they’re looking for. Practice that elevator pitch.
“Why have you been out of work for so long?”This dreaded question can trigger an emotional response, so be prepared. The Job Doc at Boston.com says to be honest, but list and detail your pertinent accomplishments during any work gaps. Point out freelance jobs, volunteer positions and any other positives.
The “Random” QuestionCNBC posted a list of wacky interview questions that included everything from the fuzziness of tennis balls and what kind of breakfast cereal you are to how much pizza Americans eat in a year. All of them are designed to see how you react under pressure. The interviewer wants to see how you think through a difficult question, and maybe even a little bit of humor. Just don’t break down or stare blankly. Ask for clarification and then work out a response.
The Illegal QuestionMany questions about age, race, gender, disabilities and citizenship status are off-limits for interviewers, but they still pop up. Interviewers also re-word these questions “legally” to find out the same information. What to do? CalPoly Career Services says there are three ways to go:
- If you are comfortable answering the question, just answer it and move on.
- If the question is very troubling or obviously illegal, refuse to answer and inform the interviewer that you know the question is illegal and not relevant to the job in question (it's best to reserve this only for really nasty questions).
- Answer the question behind the question. In other words, if asked, “Are you a U.S. Citizen?” calmly respond that you are legally authorized to work for the company.
Being prepared for these tricky questions can give you more confidence during interviews, but if you need further job search tips, we can help with that. Need a job interview to show off your new answers in? We can help with that too.