trick interview questions

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Preparation and honesty are two essential criteria for success in any interview. You know all the standard interview questions and you should have prepared answers for them. Not that you should be robotic but be prepared enough to be articulate and interesting. You also will run into the occasional interviewer who only asks negative questions. These are a struggle but can be overcome if you rely on your preparation of similar more positive questions. The toughest of all are the trick interview questions.

Standard Interview Questions

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Why do you want to leave your current company?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

Yawn. Yet you must prepare for these and you must make your response interesting as well as connected to the company and the position you are interviewing for. Preparing answers to these ho-hum questions will enable you to answer more off-beat questions around the same topics.

Negative Interview Questions

  • Have you ever had a bad experience on the job?
  • What has been your biggest failure?
  • How do you handle stress?
  • How do you deal with conflict?
  • Have you ever faced an ethical dilemma?

Gosh, maybe you don’t want to work for a company that focuses on these types of questions! If you get more than one or two of these in an interview, you probably have a point that there is some on-going problem at this firm. Chances are, though, the preparation you’ve done for the greatest weakness and greatest strength question will have something you can use here.

Trick Interview Questions

  • Are you the type who checks email during your vacation?
  • Is this position a similar role to any other jobs you are considering?
  • If you could work for any company, where would you work?
  • What do you think your references will say about you?
  • Everyone has one exaggeration on their application or resume, what is yours?

Yikes! Are these interviewers clever or subversive? There are very obvious bad answers to these trick interview questions and not quite as obvious good answers. Here are some suggestions on how to respond.

Q: Are you the type who checks email during your vacation?
A: Of course. I really can’t completely disconnect; however, there is value in truly vacationing and taking a break from your job so I try to keep it under control and only respond or forward on those emails that require action before I return.

Q: Is this position a similar role to any other jobs you are considering?
A: Yes, this role is my ideal and with the very strong job market right now there are multiple openings that are similar. Yet here are the specifics of why I feel your opening and your company are the best fit and at the top of my list.

Q: If you could work for any company, where would you work?
A: For a company that has a mission, values and objectives that I can believe in and share success with – your firm fits those criteria. (Go on to describe more specifics around those three things.)

Q: What do you think your references will say about you?
A:I’ve had terrific experiences working with or for all of my references. I think they will talk about what we accomplished together and the positive rapport and relationship we had doing it.

Q: Everyone has one exaggeration on their application or resume, what is yours?
A: Oh gosh, no. I learned a long time ago little white lies always seem to catch up to you. Everything I’ve presented on my resume and in this interview process accurately reflects my experience and my work. If you contact my references they will affirm what I’ve presented and vouch for my integrity.

Whether you get the standard, the negative or the trick interview questions, sticking with being prepared and being honest will serve you well.

Interested in talking further about your job search? Contact Smith Hanley Associates’ Executive Recruiter for Pharmaceutical Commercial Analytics, Eda Zullo at ezullo@smithhanley.com.


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