There is no doubt about it, most of us dread tricky questions during job interviews. With the interview process itself being stressful already, being thrown an unexpected or seemingly unrelated question may leave you temporarily stumped. This can cause even the most competent person to forget basic information or worry about how your answer would be interpreted. Being prepared can help you tackle tricky job interview questions.
Carry a Discreet “Cue Card”
Carry a pen and two-pocket folder with a few sheets of blank paper for notes in one side, and several extra copies of your resume in the other side. This will serve as your cue card and note taking system. During the interview, if you forget important information, casually glance down at your resume to jog your memory. This may help you feel less “on the spot” and will reinforce interviewers' perception of you as a well-prepared candidate.
Understanding the Purpose of Tricky Interview Questions
Tricky interview questions are intended to help interviewers understand more about the type of person you are. They may be designed to show your character, how you respond under pressure, how assertive you are, whether you are likely to stay with the company over the long term, your work ethic, or other areas that are not as easy to glean from a resume alone. It is a good idea to anticipate these questions and have some examples and answers ready before your interview.
Generally, you will answer these questions appropriately if you stick with the following guidelines:
- Answer based on what your potential employer’s interest will most likely be. For example, if your employer asks you to tell about yourself, keep your responses focused on career-related information and not personal facts.
- If asked about conflict, always share examples of how you dealt with difficult situations that you were able to bring about a win-win solution for everyone involved.
- Questions about personal weaknesses should be answered truthfully but should also be work-related. If possible share a weakness that is actually a positive. It is important to also include details on how you have improved upon this “weakness.”
- Be prepared to face questions about any difficult situations in your work history. If you were unemployed for a period of time, be prepared to explain how you used that time constructively. If you focused on developing new skills, were engaged in a job search, pursued education, or other positive endeavors, be sure to share this.
Taking Notes and Following Up
If you are truly stumped and cannot answer a question, be honest and state that you are not familiar with the subject. Show interest in learning more about it. If you cannot recall an answer, state that you will check your records and get back to the committee. When you write your follow-up letter,answer the question. No one knows every answer all the time, and by following these tips, you will be showing your interviewers how you would handle a similar situation on the job.