Tricky interview questions and how to handle them

As a job-seeker you’re likely to be asked one or more of the standard pointless, childish interview questions on this list.

How will you answer? If you give the standard kiss-ass answer you’ll hate yourself in the morning, and you’ll also brand yourself as just another sheep.

That’s bad in two ways. If the company is stuck in a time warp with respect to their interviewing process but actually needs a thinking person to help them out, you won’t get the job.

If the company doesn’t want to hire a thinking person and wants a sheep instead, you’ll get the job, and then you’ll hate yourself even more!

Here are non-standard answers to the traditional hare-brained interview questions. To give these answers (or your own personal variation on any of them) requires a little more mojo than you may have displayed in a job interview thus far.

It’s good to try new things! That how we grow muscles.

Try some of these smart answers to interview questions and see how it feels. I predict you’ll feel more like yourself and more confident every time you try it. 

With All the Talented Candidates, Why Should We Hire You?

It may take all the strength you’ve got to bite your lip rather than to reply "If you don’t think I’m as good as the other people you interviewed, why would you waste your time and mine dragging me in here?"

This is a really insulting question, and on top of that it’s brainless. The recruiter or hiring manager will meet the other candidates, and you won’t.

How could you possibly compare yourself to people you’ve never met?

Apologists for this disgusting question say "You’re not supposed to take it literally. It’s a chance to show off your skills." If an interviewer needs applicants to dance and prance and pirouette for them, the poor interviewer doesn’t get enough affirmation in his or her life. 

That’s a shame. However, that is not your problem.

At Human Workplace we recommend this answer: "That’s a great question. I think that’s what we’re here to establish – am I the right person for this job, and are you the right employer for me?

"I can’t tell you how I compare the other candidates, obviously, but I can say that if you and I are meant to work together, I’m sure both of us will be able to tell. What do you think?"

What’s Your Greatest Weakness?

Perhaps you’ve heard the old joke: an interviewer asks a candidate "What’s your greatest weakness?" and the candidate says "I’m too honest."

The interviewer says "I don’t think that’s a weakness" and the candidate says "I don’t give a sh*t what you think!"

Here’s the answer we recommend: "Weaknesses? I used to think I had weaknesses and I used to worry about the parts of me that I didn’t feel comfortable with.

"Gradually it dawned on me that I’m perfectly suited to the things I do well, like [graphic design and art direction] and that there are other things I shouldn’t be doing because  I don’t enjoy them and I’m no good at them – like [Excel spreadsheets] for example. What about you?"

It is an old-fashioned and curiously American bias that people are born with weaknesses. We can thank our Puritan forebears for that no-one-is-okay-as-they-are belief system which has populated the waiting rooms of therapists for generations.

In many parts of the world people think Americans are crazy for their obsession with weaknesses – but then again one need not look far to find reasons for concluding that Americans are eccentric, to put it mildly!

Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?

Who could know where they’re likely to be in five years — and why anyone would want to? This is an old-fashioned question that may have made sense in the Mad Men era, but not now.

It is a rude question, too, because the employer has no intention of making the job-seeker an offer that will guarantee his or her employment for five weeks, much less years.

Now and then stuck-in-a-time-warp managers and HR folks will write to us insisting that this question is valid, because it ‘shows that a person has a life plan.’ That is arrogant, isn’t it?

If a person can do the job you need to have done, why is it your business whether or not they have a life plan, much less what the details of that plan are?

Here’s how we recommend that people answer this turkey:

"In five years I see myself happily engaged in projects that excite me, working among smart and supportive people. Is that the kind of environment you have here? Can you tell me about the culture? I’d love to hear about it!"

Categories: Job Tips with Phil Blair