Preparing for a job interview means being ready to answer the most frequently asked questions which almost all recruiters ask candidates.
An excellent preparation, however, consists of being prepared to answer even the most deceptive questions.
During a job interview, in fact, it is likely that your interlocutor will ask you at least one or a couple of tricky questions, and if you can answer these effectively too, you will be able to win a second interview or a proposal for work.
Some are simply trick questions to be answered honestly and accurately, others are asked to put you in the spotlight and see how you react.
Then some questions don’t have a right or wrong answer: their purpose is to evaluate how you reason and how you arrive at the solution.
Why are tricky questions important?
The tricky questions have a specific goal: to allow the recruiter to get a better idea of who you are, what your personality is, and whether you will be a good match for the company.
The recruiter knows that you have most likely practiced answering traditional job questions better, will try to challenge you with more deceptive questions, to really know your personality, and speculate what kind of employee you will be if you are hired.
One of the best ways to answer trick questions is to tell the recruiter specific anecdotes and examples from your previous work experience, focusing your answers on how those experiences formed you and made you an ideal candidate for the company.
The recruiter simply can not believe the goodness of your words, they need you to provide them with examples and details of how you have used your skills previously, how you have behaved in a particular situation in the workplace and how you can act in the face of challenging circumstances.
As with aptitude or behavioral interview questions, incident reports from the workplace help you convince the recruiter that you are a good candidate.
The most frequently asked trick questions and how to avoid falling into the trap
Here are the 10 most common job interview pitfalls, what their goal is, and how not to fall into the recruiter’s trap.
Are you the type of worker who checks emails even on vacation?
The trap: on the one hand, you want to be the perfect candidate who is hardworking and passionate. On the other hand, the recruiter knows that the health and well-being of employees is the key to continuing to be successful at work and wants to make sure you know how to take care of yourself outside the office.
Burn-out (i.e., work stress that leads to exhaustion) is more common than you think and does not depend on how strong a person is; we are human, and we need rest and serenity.
The best answer: affirms your dedication to work and commitment to completing your tasks, but at the same time, affirms that you are aware that psycho-physical well-being is essential to professional success.
Is this position similar to the other jobs you are considering?
The trap: the recruiter can have two goals when he asks you this question. Either he wants to find out which other companies you are applying to, or he wants to have a clearer and more precise idea of what your career goals are.
This question is a good way for the recruiter to understand what professional results you want to achieve.
The best answer: if you are applying for a variety of very different positions, don’t mention them and don’t name the companies. If you did, the recruiter might think that your skills and interests point in a completely different direction from what you led him/her to believe, or that you would settle for any job.
It’s good to have a lot of skills that suit different jobs, but it’s best to let the recruiter know that you have a specific role in mind. Fortunately, with these kinds of questions, it’s acceptable for you to answer generically and not totally detailed.
What is your biggest weakness?
The Trap: the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have it. However, the problem must not compromise your work performance.
When the recruiter asks you this question, they want to know if you know your limits and if you are working to improve them. Furthermore, he wants to make sure that your flaw is not a brake on the work you will have to do.
The best answer: we all have weaknesses, and it’s okay to mention a few that you need to work on. But don’t mention a weakness that might make the recruiter think that you are not the right candidate for that role. Talk about something that won’t compromise your image as a good candidate.
If you could work for a specific company, which one would you choose?
The trap: the recruiter with this question tries to understand how convinced you are of the role and of the company you are applying for. It also wants to understand what other places you are thinking of applying to.
Many candidates have a hard time answering these kinds of questions because they can’t decide whether to stay silent or mention other companies, perhaps giants, with whom they have already interviewed.
The best answer: don’t mention specific companies. It is as if you were on a romantic date with a person, and he asked you: “If you could have a date with someone, whom would you choose?”. Naming other people surely he/she would be disappointed.
To answer the question, focus on how the company you are interviewing for is your first choice and emphasize how that position fits perfectly into your career goals.
Why do you want to work here?
The trap: the recruiter wants to know that you have done the right research about the company and have evaluated why you are interested in that particular job, rather than another. What attracts you to that position in that specific company?
The best answer: don’t say you want to work there just because there’s a gym benefit, free coffee, and a casual dress code. Make sure your answer has real meaning.
Show enthusiasm when you answer and talk about how the company’s values are yours too, how you support, respect, and share the company’s mission and work. After that, you can add a few details about the job you will be doing if you are hired, your aspirations, and what you expect from the role.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
The trap: the recruiter (and the employer) does not want to invest in hiring and training an employee who does not want to stay in the company, or who intends to change career paths.
While it is becoming more and more common for people to stay in a job for a long time, you shouldn’t allow the recruiter to have the slightest doubt about your commitment and dedication to that role.
The best answer: the best answer you can give to the recruiter is the one that shows your willingness to grow in your role and always improve. Employers want to hire motivated employees who have a passion for the work they do that drives them to constantly learn to get better and better.
Keep in mind that after receiving your response, the recruiter may ask you what your specific goals are. Then, prepare 2 or 3 key points that you have identified as your professional goals.
What do you think your contacts would say about you?
The trap: the recruiter wants to see if you are insecure about your referrals and if you will succumb to the temptation to say something negative about your past work experience or your ability to succeed in the role.
The best answer: Simply put, don’t fall into the trap, be honest but not too much. Under no circumstances should you provide negative information or details about your previous work experience.
I’m sure you have included in your CV the contacts of those who have agreed to be your referrals and consequently, none of them will want to speak ill of you.
Which part of the offered role seems most challenging to you and why?
The Trap: do you have the right qualifications and skills as you say you have? When studying a job posting, you will surely find aspects that you know you can handle better, and others that scare you and that are more difficult for you to deal with.
The recruiter wants to know if your strengths can allow the company to achieve its objectives.
The best answer: a lie about your skills and abilities will haunt you after the interview, so better be honest.
Use your answer as an opportunity to present yourself as a candidate who is always ready to face new challenges and who is willing to improve and redefine their skills to meet the needs of the company.
Tell me about a job that is your dream.
The trap: in most cases, passion, and great motivation generate productivity. Dedication leads to success. The recruiter wants to understand if you really want to invest in this role, or if you see the job simply as a fallback that ensures you an income while looking for something better.
At the same time, the recruiter wants to know if you love the job itself or just the idea of the job. Let me explain, just because a job seems right for you, it’s good for your reputation and your image doesn’t mean you’ll love doing the daily tasks it requires.
The best answer: is the job you are applying for your dream? If you say it enthusiastically and explain why. You want to convince the recruiter that you will fully invest in your role and that you will not spend the day daydreaming about another job position.
If the job you are applying for could turn out to be the perfect one for you then you can tactically plan an answer.
Tips for answering tricky questions
- Be prepared to answer questions about why you quit your job or want to quit. These are among the most difficult questions in an interview. Try to be honest when you answer, avoid talking badly about the company, your bosses, and your colleagues, even if the circumstances you experienced were not positive. Focus on what you hope to find in your new job that was missing from the previous one.
- If you’ve been fired, prepare an appropriate response to address the issue. It is important to have a good strategy to respond effectively, without shame, and with sincerity. The best way to handle the situation is to give a simple, positive answer, closing on an optimistic note. Showing that you are ready and charged for a new experience, a new direction, in your life diverts attention from the negative details about your dismissal.
- Be prepared not to get an answer. During a job interview, the questions are many and varied, so you will have to accept the fact that, despite your complete preparation, you will not always have a ready answer. Think about how you can handle the situation and how you can take time to think. Be careful not to give random answers that could compromise your application.
- Don’t panic when you don’t have an answer in your head right away. In these cases, your goal will be to buy time. Ask for clarification if these are needed and if you are not satisfied with the answer you gave, use the post-interview thank you letter to clarify your answer and add important details.
- Remember that enthusiasm and resourcefulness count. Most of the time the recruiter asks you tricky questions to see how you know how to handle changes, new and unexpected challenges, how quick you are to adapt and react in the workplace.