How to answer tricky questions
Eight interview questions you didn’t see coming.
Anyone can become a competent interview robot. All you need do is hop online and revise dozens of classic questions and model answers.
Armed with knowledge, you learn to say that you left your last job because you wanted more challenges. You know that, if asked to reveal your biggest flaw, the safe answer is that you overwork – the cost of total commitment.
Suppose, though, that the interviewer has more guile than average or is just plain devious, cruel – even strange.
How do you handle a question that comes from left field, never occurred to you and is absent from the cheat sheets? Try these tips.
1. What key performance indicators are you accountable for?
This brutally factual question stems from the hirer’s desire to know that you understand measurement and can achieve targets, says the general manager at Frontline Recruitment Group, Doug Downer. Write them down before attending the interview so you can easily pinpoint and talk about the KPIs for each role you’ve held.
2. Why are you worth the salary?
You must substantiate the value you will bring to the role and the company, Downer says. If you have boosted profitability or sales, that proves your value. Likewise, if you have slashed costs or achieved notable outcomes in projects or roles, that demonstrates worth. Play up your successes – be bold in response to this question.
3. Aren’t you overqualified?
Concerned about commitment, here the interviewer wants to know whether you will keep scouring the job market and quit when the right role or salary materialises. So, talk about long-term aspirations, express a desire to be with the business well into the future. Also, if applicable, point out that the business is growing and so needs able, well-qualified candidates like you. State that your experience and skills will yield an instant return.
4. Tell me about someone you worked for and didn’t respect.
When addressing this loaded question, beware of falling into the trap of passing personal judgement, says recruitment analyst Ross Clennett. “The interviewer is trying to see whether you bitch about others or dump on them,” Clennett adds. Focus on how you delivered the outcomes for which you were responsible. Keep the answer about you – not a rival.
5. Who did you vote for at the last election and why?
You could certainly decline to answer this question as it is unrelated to performing a specific job, Clennett says. However, that may not help your cause. If you respond, say that you cast your vote according to the candidates and policies specific to each election and cannot remember which way you voted last time.
6. What is the worst thing an employer would say about you?
Particularly treacherous, this question is fishing for disclosure of your worst weakness. Zero in on an area or skill where you overcame challenges and surmounted barriers that might mar your performance, suggests Annemarie Cross, the author of 10 Key Steps To Ace That Interview! “Avoid bringing up something that you are still struggling with unless, of course, you can demonstrate successful outcomes in the workplace.” Essentially, send the message that you continually strive to improve.
7. In what ways are you similar/dissimilar to your best friend?
This outwardly innocent question keys into the saying that “birds of a feather flock together”. The interviewer wants to know what kind of qualities you embrace. Focus on characteristics likely to be seen as strengths in regard to the role at stake, Cross advises. Some dissimilarities might be good qualities to have. If it’s not stretching things, talk about how they are rubbing off on you.
8. What type of cereal would you be and why?
A variant of this peculiar question is: “What type of car would you be?” or “What kind of animal would you be?” All three have a similar rationale – learning the reasoning behind your selection. For instance, would you choose a wholesome cereal or feel-good sugary pap? Would you select a flashy modern car that grabs attention or a safe, reliable car like a Volvo? When it comes to animals, would you choose to be a lion and become the king of the jungle or an animal that usually moves in packs (teams)? “Again, your response could be quite telling to an interviewer, despite the initial question seeming to be senseless,” Cross says.
By David Wilson
The Sydney Morning Herald