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Interview Tips for Tricky Questions

Interview Tips for Tricky Questions

As you prepare for your big interview, you'll be drafting and rehearsing answers to the larger questions that most interviewers tend to ask, regardless of the nature of the job. No matter which industry or position you're pursuing, your interviewers are likely to pose predictable questions like these:

"Why should we hire you for this role?"
"Have you done this type of work before?"
"How would you describe your problem solving/leadership/communication/public speaking skills?"

Of course you'll need to answer these and you'll need to prepare an "elevator pitch", or a thirty-second, unprompted explanation of why you think you're the right candidate for this position. But watch out; a growing number of employers are also seasoning the interview process with a set of questions that can't be anticipated, and they're looking for answers that can't be rehearsed. Some of these tricky questions might sound like this:

"How many peas would it take to fill the Empire State Building?"
"Who was the 23rd President of the United States?"
"Teach me how to build a short wave radio."

When these questions come your way, you won't be able to reach for your phone. You'll have to think and talk your way through the problem using only the resources you have in your own brain. Here are a few tips that can help.


1.  Don't Stall Out

Whatever happens, don't just give up. If you need to panic for a minute, that's fine, but recover quickly. You can do this. You may not nail the exact number of peas that can fit inside a giant building, but there's only one answer that's truly wrong, and that's no answer at all. Hopeless blank stares are not an option.

2.  Recognize the Spirit and Intention of the Question

Use your situational awareness and your social skills to determine what's actually being asked of you. If your interviewers are delighted with their collective wit and they can hardly ask the question through their own self-satisfied chuckling, it means they're testing your sense of humor, not your math skills. Answer in kind. Make them laugh. If they're asking you how to build a bicycle, they're probably assessing your problem-solving skills, not your bicycling experience. Just back up and explain the steps you might take to tackle this problem.

3.  Communication is Key

Be articulate and open as you work your way through this challenge. Share whatever you're thinking and feeling in order to keep your listeners on your side. As you try to determine how many floors might be in the empire state building and how many peas might fit on each floor, think aloud and show your work. And don't assume you have to do everything alone. If part of your solution would involve calling in a team of experts, say so. Who would you call and what would you ask?

For more on how to create a killer resume, ace your interview, and start your next job on a high note, explore the career development resources on MyPerfectResume.

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