Be Aware of These Tricky Interview Questions

John Krautzel
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Experienced hiring managers are adept at unearthing hidden weaknesses and personal details about you without stepping outside ethical lines. Interview questions that seem straightforward are often designed to make you reveal how you think and share information that hiring managers cannot directly request. To avoid blunders and make a positive impression, find out what employers really want to know when asking these tricky interview questions.

1. Why Do You Want to Work Here?

Hiring managers want to weed out job seekers who are desperate, indifferent or materialistic, and this clever interview question can reveal deep-set motivations and priorities. Employers are interested in how well you researched the company and whether you are passionate about the specific job or ready to settle for anything. They want to recruit professionals who bring the most value to the company, and employees who only care about money and benefits aren't likely go the extra mile to solve problems or contribute to the team.

With this in mind, focus on highlighting the strong points of the company and personal goals or qualities that make you compatible. Make it clear that rewarding work and a constructive environment come before your salary concerns, and avoid mentioning bad experiences that prompted you to leave previous jobs.

2. How Would You Describe Yourself?

This dreaded interview question — and the common variant "tell me about yourself" — has thwarted job seekers for decades because it encourages you to overshare about your personal life. Hiring managers are evaluating how you see yourself and your understanding of the job duties, but they're also fishing for details that would otherwise remain private, such as family status, age, culture or hobbies.

Instead of talking about your family, weekend plans or 30 years of experience, deliver an elevator pitch that sums up your value proposition. Describe what you're most known for, such as recovering lost customers, and the techniques or strengths you use to accomplish goals.

3. Why Were You Unemployed for So Long?

Despite years of economic downturn that put many skilled professionals out of work, hiring managers remain biased against unemployed workers. They want to make sure your lack of work was a choice and not the result of outdated skills or low motivation. Preparing for this interview question helps you remain composed and avoid appearing nervous or frustrated when confronted with it.

In you answer, emphasize the steps you have taken to keep your skills current and your priority in finding the right fit. Employers want candidates who make decisions based on clear standards and goals rather than desperation, so try to provide an upfront reason whenever possible. For example, say "I took time off for family reasons, and I'm now ready to commit myself to a full-time career again." Mention any coursework, volunteering or trade organizations you have used to stay in touch with industry trends.

Effective hiring managers frequently have multiple motives when asking interview questions, making it essential to pay attention to the image you project to others. Answers that don't reinforce the benefits of hiring you are wasted opportunities, so make sure there's a strong selling point in every statement you make.


Photo courtesy of MindField Group at Flickr.com

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  • Will C.
    Will C.

    Thank you 😊! I will keep this in mind as I am anticipating an interview popping up soon

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Ittamveetil chandrasekharan thanks for your comment. Hopefully that is not the answer that you give in an interview! You could work at any company but they want to know what it was about their company that made you apply. If you answer "to earn an income", interview over! We always recommend that you research the company, know about it so that you know if you really want to work in there. To answer with to earn income just shows desperation and that never comes across in a positive light. So you need to answer why with something more substantial such as I like the direction that your company is heading in regards to...(fill in the blank). Let them know that you researched them. That you found out that the larger percentage of employees love the company and love their jobs, etc. You get the idea. All the best.

  • Ittamveetil chandrasekharan
    Ittamveetil chandrasekharan

    why you want to work here, answer to earn an income

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Michelle Brizendine thanks for your comment. You will be asked this same question in most interviews. Not sure why they do this - maybe they feel that this is an "ice-breaker" type of question to get you to relax and talk about yourself. There are so many articles on the internet that can help you with this. Here is just one: https://www.themuse.com/advice/a-simple-formula-for-answering-tell-me-about-yourself. Hope that helps. If not, just type in how to answer the question "tell me about yourself" and you will get thousands of responses. Get an idea from those and then write your own answer. Write it down and then practice it prior to an interview. @Yanno B - sadly you are right. We do not interact with each other anymore - we send emails and texts without any real human touch or conversation. I think that's up to us to set the example. When you get an email from a colleague, instead of answering it back, get up and go to that person and respond to their question. Lead by example. Maybe the next time that colleague has a question, they will come to your desk to ask instead of sending an email. Honestly, we have no one to blame but ourselves for allowing us to take those 2000 steps in the wrong direction!

  • MICHELLE BRIZENDINE
    MICHELLE BRIZENDINE

    For the question, "Tell me about yourself", (that I recently choked on) what exactly are the interviewers looking for? I don't have a high perception of my role, so should I say what others describe me to be?

  • YANNO B.
    YANNO B.

    We have gone 100 steps forward in great technology, , but sadly 2000 steps back in human relation of interacting with one another and giving people a chance to learn and grow within the company.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Joerg thanks for your comment. I think that your answer is perfect. How does it come across to the interviewer? Do they ask any follow-up questions?

  • Joerg D.
    Joerg D.

    Another tricky interview question ; "Do you prefer to work individually or as a member of a team?" What's a good answer? If I know the nature of the position, I might know what the right answer is. (I can argue it either way.) I used this answer once: "I see good results coming from teamwork, with each team member contributing what he/she is good at. However, the reality of the modern workplace is that we often have to work solo and handle all aspects of a project." Your thoughts?

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Tom congrats on the master's! That's a great accomplishment. So now you are on the job hunt. Are you using the career services department of your university? They are there to help. What about a recruiter? How about networking? Check in with some of your classmates and see how they are faring. They may have found a great recruiter or an agency to assist them in finding their new career. Are you treating the job hunt as a job? Many people say that no one wants to hire them but when you start probing, you find that they are only spending an hour or two a week in the job hunt. To be successful you need to treat it as a job. Make sure that you are researching the companies - could be that you know someone who works there and could help you to get our foot in the door. Hope some of these tips help. All the best.

  • Tom E.
    Tom E.

    When my mother died I had money and time. I took a very undemanding job and grieved. Now I am ready to hit the bricks running with a new career. I used my spare time and money to complete a masters degree at a large university in a related field. No one wants to hire me. Help!

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Brian thanks for your question. I found an article that might help you out: https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/risk-management/Pages/Ban-the-Box-Movement-Viral.aspx

  • Holly McHaffie
    Holly McHaffie

    Good advice. I used that in my last mock interview. I would also use it in a real interview as well.

  • Brian L.
    Brian L.

    What's the best way to explain time spent incarcerated?

  • Lisa Maria C.
    Lisa Maria C.

    Thank you that was very beneficial

  • Elizabeth T.
    Elizabeth T.

    Good advice

  • Patti F.
    Patti F.

    Very interesting. Thanks for the insight.

  • Kroek P.
    Kroek P.

    Very effective

  • Brian  S.
    Brian S.

    Thank for the advice on getting jobs

  • Kelly F.
    Kelly F.

    Awesome! Very informative.

  • Felicia Paul
    Felicia Paul

    Gr8 article..helps with the blindspots of interviews

  • elaine b.
    elaine b.

    Great piece of advice thanks

  • marichu b.
    marichu b.

    Good article

  • Renee Malvin
    Renee Malvin

    Great article

  • Teresa L.Zaragoza Z.
    Teresa L.Zaragoza Z.

    Good article

  • Lynnel W.
    Lynnel W.

    SPELLCHECK IS YOU FRIED! oops, I meant: Spellcheck is YOUR friend.

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