For organizations, hiring is a risky game. Most of the time, they must determine if a candidate is going to make a good employee solely on the basis of a CV, a few interviews, and a reference check. Since there is so much that goes into employee performance and satisfaction, it’s impossible for hiring managers to know for sure if they are making the right choice when they on-board a new employee. That’s why, for them, the most important part of the hiring process is the interview.
Interviewers know that candidates, especially senior-level ones, arrive optimally prepared for the standard interview questions like “Tell me about yourself” So, they often turn to less traditional questions as a way of getting to know the person across the table a little better. While it is impossible to know what a hiring manager might ask, you can expect a few tricky interview questions that will be tough to answer. But knowing what the interviewer is really trying to learn about you by asking these questions can help you shape your answer, even if you don’t get it exactly right.
Here are some to consider:
Hypothetical questions about your behavior in challenging scenarios shed light on your judgment, and your EQ (emotional quotient, or your level of self-awareness, empathy and social skills) and your cost-benefit analysis skills.
- If you were in a real hurry but stopping at a red light ahead would make you late, would you drive through the light?
- If you found out that your best friend’s husband was cheating on her, what would you do?
- If you had to choose between completing your work correctly and completing it on time which would you choose?
You may not wish to discuss your own experience in one of these situations – especially if it is uncomfortably personal — but you may instead get into a discussion of how you would assess the situation, weigh the options, and make the best decision you can with the information you have at the time.
If your prospective job requires creative thinking, you can expect tricky interview questions that ask you to come up with innovative ideas on the spot. How about one of the following:
- Can you explain a database in three sentences to an eight-year-old?
- How would you describe the color “yellow” to a blind person?
- How would you design a simpler TV remote control?
Good innovation starts with customer empathy – that is, viewing the situation from the user’s perspective. So, the best way to approach a creativity question is to start with a context the user can understand. For instance, a blind person may have never seen the color yellow, but she will know the feeling of sunlight and warmth, two concepts you could use to describe it.
Tricky interview questions are often meant to take you out of your comfort zone because that’s where a hiring manager can better see your strengths and weaknesses. You can prepare for some of these types of questions, but you‘ll likely face new ones with a different twist. Remember that you can ask questions for clarification before answering an interviewer. For example, for the question about designing a TV remote control, you might ask for details about the intended user. Or, for the traffic light question, you could inquire if the situation is a life-threatening emergency or something less serious, like a meeting with friends. In all cases, consider these interview questions a chance to show a more complete version of yourself than what a hiring manager sees on your CV.