Answering Tricky Interview Questions

Now we all know the purpose of a job interview is to make sure that you are the right person for the position.  So it’s no surprise that some interviewers will throw in a tricky interview question or two.  But it seems that in today’s tough job market and no shortage of folks looking for jobs, some interviewers are playing dirty.

Case in point: a fellow job-seeker and former colleague called me up frustrated after a friend gave her a heads up that during her job interview she would be asked why she wasn’t further along in her career by now.  Now, when I said she was frustrated, that was an understatement.  She was heated! And understandably so.  Let’s be clear, this woman is no slouch.  She has progressed in her career, she just doesn’t have a corner office.

Basically, what they are asking is, “If you’re all that, why aren’t you further up the ladder, earning more money, etc?”  The purpose of an interview is not meant to insult job-seekers.  They are doing this just because they can.  If you’re ever faced with this interview question, here’s how to respond without blowing the interview or loosing your cool.

It’s tempting to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth with an icy glare, a frustrated tone, a baffled look, or do your best to give a reasonable explanation with an unspoken, “that’s why…sucker!”

It may seem harmless, even noble to admit that you delayed climbing the corporate ladder for the sake of your kids.  Or that because you work for a top firm and were recruited at the highest level, the competition for promotions in your office is “fierce” (with a supressed snap).  But don’t do it!

Here’s how to respond with your dignity and professionalism in tact:

Response #1: I certainly hope that I didn’t give you the impression that I’m not satisfied in my current role.  I’m very proud of the work that I’ve done for (name of company).  I stayed in my position because I loved the work and the executive team greatly valued my contributions.  In my current role, I’ve increased revenue by 17%, and implemented changes that have resulted in a savings of $5M.  Actually, it’s at the urging of one of my professional mentors that I’m seeking a new role.  I am confident that I can bring a lasting contribution to this role as well.

Response #2:  Money and titles aren’t everything.  I honestly believe that doing the work that you love and where you can grow and add value are more important.  In my current role I’ve successfully delivered… that is one of the reasons I was interested in your open position here.  I believe that my expertise could benefit your team…

Do you see where we’re going with this?  And if you must, especially if you opt for response #1, a hint (just a grain) of disbelief  at the question won’t hurt (with a smile of course).

Are you in the process of interviewing for a new job?  What have your interview experiences been?

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