Friday, 25 October 2013

[HM:256866] 10 Interview Questions Designed To Trick You

Hiring managers are tasked with the impossible job of learning a candidate inside and out after just a few interactions. That's why they're always coming up with new tactics to extract every last drop of information from a candidate. It's important to keep your guard up!  You can almost be sure some of the questions asked will be "interview traps" – interview questions designed to get you to reveal some critical bit of information about yourself that you might have preferred to remain covered. They come in many forms, but all have the common goal of getting you to expose some character flaw that will bump you down a few rungs in the rankings.

Hold it together! Here are 10 of the most popular "interview traps" and tips on how to use them to your advantage.

The setup: Why is there a gap in your work history?

The trap: Does all this time off work mean you're lazy?

It's not necessarily a problem to have a gap on your resume. If you pursued personal projects, took care of a sick relative, volunteered for charity or otherwise used your time off in a productive manner, let them know. They don't care that you haven't spent any recent time in an office – only that you haven't spent it all on the couch.

The setup: What would the person who likes you least in the world say about you?

The trap: Are you aware of your own weaknesses – and how to work around them?

A cousin to "what's your biggest weakness?," this question also requires framing your dominant personality traits in a positive light. Perhaps your enemy would say you're neurotic and controlling, when in fact you just have a completionist's eye for detail, which will ensure no project is finished until all loose ends are tied and re-tied for peace of mind.

The setup: Describe when you were part of a team that could not get along.

The trap: Do you work well with people you don't like?

No matter whose fault it actually was, the interviewer will assume you can't work well with others if you complain about a dysfunctional team buried in your work history. What matters to them is how you handled the situation – did you allow room for discussions and ideas you may not have agreed with? Did you learn any lessons about give-and-take from clashing with a coworker?

The setup: If you could change one thing about your last job, what would it be?

The trap: Are you holding on to any lingering issues you couldn't resolve at your last job?

Can you vocalize your problems in a professional manner and come to a diplomatic understanding with your coworkers / bosses? This question tests whether you let problems stew and boil over, or whether you can address them rationally with the benefit of a positive work environment in mind.

The setup: Explain ________ (your industry) to your nephew / grandmother / totally oblivious client.

The trap: Sure, you know your line of work – but can you communicate your responsibilities to others?

Are you a good communicator? As a developer, can you explain how the newest product feature operates in a way that the marketing team can process, so they can in turn pitch it to customers? If you can't explain your job duties in plain English, you probably aren't well-versed enough in the field to effectively communicate your needs to the coworkers you will interact with on a daily basis.

The setup: Tell me about yourself.

The trap: Are you lying on your resume? Are you confident you're qualified for this job?

Don't meander. This also tests your communication skills – whether you know how to pitch, and whether you know when to stop talking. Succinctly list education history, skills gained from previous jobs, and perhaps a personal project or two which enhances your skill set and demonstrates motivation outside of the workplace. Then, stop talking. Rambling indicates a lack of confidence, suggesting you're not sure whether what you've listed is "enough" to qualify you for the job.

The setup: Why should we hire you?

The trap: Are you a good fit for this specific role and company?

If you can't answer this question, you probably didn't research the company you're trying to work for. Make sure you know the specific functions your future role will entail, and the short- and long-term goals of the organization itself. Then, frame your skills in a context which aligns with the job description and the company's direction.

It also doesn't hurt to research the hiring board to find out what makes them tick, so you can carry the conversation if they mention a project from their background.

The setup: What's your ideal job?

The trap: …Is it something other than this one?

It's okay to have career aspirations, so long as the things you want to do overlap with the things you'll be doing here. Avoid mentioning a title – it may not carry the clout in this company's role structure that you think it does. Instead, discuss the problems you'd like to solve, platforms you want to work with, and other active engagements that encompass both your dream work and the work in front of you.

The setup: What annoys you about coworkers / bosses?

The trap: Are you easy to work with, or are you a Negative Nancy?

It's never a good idea to badmouth a coworker, whether peer or superior. It's best to say you've been fortunate to navigate amicable work relationships. If pressed, mention an attribute that highlights dedication to the company cause, and say that you will expect and encourage that same dedication from your peers.

The setup: If you won the lottery, would you still work?

The trap: Are you motivated to succeed?

Most people know this question aims to trap candidates for whom work is merely a means to an end, rather than a passion to which they will be dedicated. But it's also facetious to say you'd stay in your current position if you were to be blessed with such fortunes. It's perfectly acceptable to say you'd start your own company, charity or project to further your personal development. This question really gets at whether you're naturally inclined to work, so make sure those imaginary piles of cash would enable some form of future productivity

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