Thursday, March 20, 2014

Interview Questions from Hell

Monster calls this list "stupid interview questions." But with the exception of the ones noted as illegal for an interview to ask, I think they're actually pretty smart interview questions.

When you get to the last stages of interviewing, prospective employers want to see you think on your feet. Or at least, they should want to dig and test. If all the interviewer seems to care about is whether or not you're breathing: run, don't walk, to the nearest exit. (Why? Because your would-be employer is either, 1, some combination of unprepared and incompetent, or 2, not legitimate--is a con-artist.)

So: why would I ask these "stupid" questions? Because you have to answer relatively quickly. You should, of course, allow yourself a moment of silence to really think before you open your mouth. And you should prepare for some off-the-wall stuff. But the point is you cannot give a "canned" response to any of these.
  • Questions 1 to 3 are variations on "tell me about your weaknesses." How do you respond to setbacks, negativity, tripping over your own feet? We all do dumb things, or land in sticky situations. The real question is, how gracefully do you learn and recover from problems?
  • Questions 4 to 6 are designed to find out where your head is at: in the gutter? focused on your career? off in la-la land? Keep your eyes on the prize: the career!
  • Questions 7 and 8 are flat-out illegal. Ask yourself: are you being interviewed by a well-meaning dinosaur who somehow didn't get the memo issued 30 years ago that one's family and reproductive status are simply not part of job qualifications? Or are you being interviewed by a jerk who wants way too much information? Either way--the article suggests good answers for an "on the spot" response. But if you're pretty sure the employer's attitude is going to continue to be a problem, consider withdrawing your application. You may want a job badly, but it's easier to say "no" than to spend the next year trying to extricate yourself and your good name from an abusive work situation.
  • Questions 9 and 10 demonstrate a key to all of the above questions: spin. That is, the "right answer" most often isn't about the answer, but about how you talk through your reasoning about the answer.

Thanks and a tip of the hat to Joyce Tesar!

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