Tough Interview Questions
James, November 14, 2012
So you have prepared for your job interview using our helpful tips to put yourself in the best possible position. However, once in the interview a tricky question can catch even the most well prepared candidate by surprise. Tough job interviews test in equal parts the grit and wit of applicants. Those who give smart responses to nerve-racking questions while managing to retain their composure are more likely to land the job. Here are five provocative questions hitting beyond the realm of the conventional interview.
1. “If you were a/an_______, which one would you be and why?” The hypothetical being may be a superhero, an animal, or even an inanimate object. This type of question is usually meant to reveal the interviewee’s personality type, self-perception, or prominent traits that define the person. Take it as your chance to shine. Give an original answer that’s refreshingly different and a cut above the ho-hum replies the interviewer has heard dozens of times before. Your memorable statement should also relate to the job, putting in succinct terms why you’re the most qualified person.
2. “Have you let your family down with your career choice?” Don’t let the personal-professional slant of this question catch you off guard. Your family may have been disappointed or didn't expect you to take this line of work. It’s perfectly all right to say so in all honesty. This is an opportunity to show that you’re a mature person who knows what you want to accomplish in life. Explain the reasons why and how you intend to reach your professional goal. A confident answer confirms that you can stand up for yourself and are driven by an inner passion to succeed.
3. Some questions are designed to test your priorities in the face of seemingly conflicting interests; for example, the likeability factor versus professional ambition: “If you could be promoted to an executive position but be disliked by your co-workers, or remain in your current job and stay friends with them, which would you choose?”
This is a loaded question; there’s more to it than meets the eye. Many organisations promote from within the ranks. They’re on the lookout for employees with the aspiration and potential to climb the corporate rungs. This gives rise to rivalry among contenders, and envy of those left behind. On the other hand, an effective leader must possess people skills. Aim for the best-of-both-worlds answer. Not everyone is favourably inclined to see a peer rising to the top, and you can live with that. However, your fair, reasonable and open-minded leadership will win the support of the majority of your team.
4. One management consulting firm weeds out the weak by a process of self-elimination. First, the interviewer briefs a batch of applicants on the organisation’s operations, its high expectations for the staff, the long work hours, and other harsh corporate realities. Next, she gives the group a 10-minute break to think things over. They’re free to leave if they believe the job is not what they had in mind. When the session resumes, she asks the remaining applicants,“Why are you still here?” More grilling questions follow, until the candidate pool is whittled down to a few brave souls.
5. Some questions have no right or wrong answers, but probe deeper to reveal if you’re the right fit for the job. For example, a tech position requires a specific set of core competencies and soft skills. The interviewer’s opening salvo may be: “Would ________ [naming a historical or contemporary world figure] have made it as a software engineer and why?” This question allows both you and the interviewer leeway to explore what it takes to be the best person for the position. It isn't enough to know the abilities and attitudes that the interviewer is looking for. You must prove that you indeed possess the right combination of skills expected of the successful applicant. In addition to technical skills, software companies seek creativity, flexibility and divergent thinking.They hang in there through dogged determination or sheer desperation to have a job.
These examples are just a snapshot of the challenging questions you may encounter in a job interview. It may well be that candidates are on an equal footing in terms of job qualifications when called to interview. How well you think on your feet and perform under pressure will give you the winning edge.