15 Interview Questions That Are Designed to Trick You — and How to Respond
Job interviews are one of the most stressful things to go through. In addition to figuring out what to wear and how to greet your interviewer, you also have to prepare what you want to say. Many hiring managers design interview questions to get inside your head and unravel how you see yourself, their company, and the role you're applying for — often without giving away the real intent behind each question. So before you assume that "Tell me about yourself" is nothing more than an innocent conversation starter, peruse through these common interview questions designed to trick you and find out how you can respond to rock your next interview.
Can You Tell Me About Yourself?
They aren't digging around for your dog's name or what shows you binge on Netflix. Interviewers are looking for a few concise, informative statements about why you're well suited to the position and company. Without proper preparation, it's easy to end up spouting generic details about your personal life with no-value-added information. Instead, try preparing what the professional world refers to as an "elevator pitch," consisting of a few brief statements on your most relevant professional accomplishments and skill sets.
Why Do You Want to Leave Your Current Job?
Interviewers might be looking for red flag behavior that's caused problems in your current position, how you speak about your company, and if your shift is merely a matter of convenience. Your knee-jerk reaction to a question like this might lead you down a path of trivial explanations that are turnoffs to prospective employers (like their proximity to your house), or worse, dogging on your current company. Try focusing on your desire to continue growing and developing in your field, specifying how the position you're interviewing for would help accomplish those objectives.
What’s Your Greatest Weakness?
Hiring managers are interested in how self-aware you are, and whether or not you're willing to be open about what you bring to the table. A classic and unimpressive response to this question is disguising a strength as a weakness (e.g., "I work too hard"). Interviewers see right through insincere answers like this and you'll lose credibility as an applicant. Instead, respond with a realistic weakness relevant to the workplace, and be sure to follow up with positive ways you've gone about addressing your shortcoming to improve your work.
Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?
Prospective employers are looking for applicants hoping to grow within the company, to avoid wasting time training and developing employees only to lose them to a competitor. Though you may anticipate your prospective employer being no more than a pitstop for bigger and better things, don't fall into the trap of spilling the beans about your grand plan. Instead, keep the conversation focused on your commitment to developing within your field in ways that their company infrastructure enables.
Why Do You Want to Work Here?
Employers prefer applicants that are well aware of what they're getting into, and feel confident about being well-suited for the company's culture and objectives. Without doing your homework, you may spout an overly generalized response that makes it clear that you're uninformed. Before your interview, take the time to do some digging into the organization's culture, the details of the position, and their mission. Then prepare to explain why your experience and expertise would integrate perfectly.
Can You Explain the Gap in Your Work History?
Your interviewer is interested in your work ethic and how resilient you are when you get knocked down. If this question comes up, avoid getting flustered and the temptation to become defensive. Instead, reiterate your commitment to finding the right professional fit and confidence in your ability to succeed in your chosen field. Steer clear of blaming outside influences or sounding like a victim.
How Did You Feel About Your Last Manager?
The last thing a company wants is an employee who points the finger. Here, they're looking to get a glimpse into how you associate with those in leadership roles, and how respectfully you speak of previous employers. You may be tempted to knock past management as an attempt to further explain your decision to leave, but resist the urge. Keep things positive and communicate the ways your past organization has helped you grow, while reiterating that you're ready to take on more.
Can You Tell Me About a Time That You Made a Mistake?
Employers aren't trying to figure out if you're a mistake-free, perfect specimen, but are more concerned with how you resolve and grow from inevitable failures to come out on top. Don't fall into the trap of trivializing the question by responding with a minuscule mistake of little consequence in order to look good. Instead, pick a realistic situation and utilize the STAR method of interviewing. Explain the situation, highlight the task, clarify what action you took, and highlight the resolution to the problem.
How Would You Go About Weighing an Airplane If You Didn’t Have a Scale?
Okay, you may not hear this question exactly, but logical puzzle questions aren't uncommon and are an interviewer's attempt at a front row seat to your problem solving capabilities. Don't be tricked into focusing all of your energy on trying to find the "right" answer, or worse, freezing and not trying at all. Talk through how you might go about solving the problem, in detail, even if no Einstein-worthy answers are coming to mind.
Can You Tell Me About a Time You Disagreed With a Company Policy?
Potential employers want to know that you have the courage to speak up when something doesn't seem right. They're trying to gauge your ability to respectfully and productively be an agent for positive change within an organization. This isn't a vent session, so don't be tricked into getting worked up and slamming a previous employer. Instead, express the policy, why you felt there may be a better way, and how you handled it in a collaborative and productive manner.
Can You Tell Me About a Time That You Experienced an Ethical Dilemma in the Workplace?
Confidentiality and a strong code of ethics are high on the list of employable qualities. Here, a hiring manager is looking for your ability to tap into your moral compass and steer clear of shady practices, while communicating your dilemma without violating the privacy of your previous company or the people within it. Carefully explain the dilemma and what ethical barrier you felt it crossed, while communicating your dedication to keeping confidential information private.
Do You Know Anyone Who Works For Us?
Interviewers use their short time with applicants to unearth as much as possible about them, including evaluating their competence by the associations they hold with employees interviewers are already more familiar with. Though you may have ties to current employees, don't be too eager to out your relationships. Unless you're positive that your acquaintance is in good standing with the company, steer clear of identifying anybody by name.
How Soon Can You Start?
While this question seems about as straightforward as it gets, hiring managers aren't solely concerned with a date on the calendar. They're testing your willingness to be loyal to your employer, or any employer, by giving proper notice. Don't be too anxious to start right away, or fall into the trap of fearing that an answer that isn't immediate will result in a missed opportunity. Express your commitment to integrity and honesty to any employer, and realistically lay out a timeline for proper notice.
Could You Tell Us What Salary Range You Expect?
Hiring managers want to know that you've done your research and are well aware of reasonable compensation for your years of experience, industry, education level, and geographic location. You may be tempted to anchor them high by throwing out an outlandish number and hoping for the best, but it may backfire. Instead, do your homework on a website like the Bureau of Labor Statistics and find the compensation most realistic for your situation.
How Does This Position Compare to Others You're Applying For?
Your prospective employer is fishing for an idea of how many jobs you've applied for. Though you may want to seem eager about the role or being "all in" for the company, refrain from implying that you've only applied to this one job. Your interviewer may not feel you're serious about securing gainful employment, or may not believe you. Don't overcorrect and gush about how many companies are vying for you, either. Let the interviewer know that you're looking seriously into several options, but haven't yet decided which is best.