How to Answer Tricky Interview Questions: Part I

Published: Mar 28, 2023

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Job interviews can be stressful as it is, but when the interviewer throws some trick questions into the mix, it can make the entire process feel like an abject nightmare. These types of questions are designed to trip you up, and the way you deal with them could be the deciding factor for the hiring manager. Today we’re going to go over some common interview trick questions, and how you should answer them. Let’s begin.

“Tell me about yourself.”

Where you expecting a question? In all seriousness this can be asked a few different ways, but the tactic remains the same—the interviewer is trying to figure out how effectively you can communicate your skills as they relate to the position you’re interviewing for. It’s common for interviewees to fall into this trap and start talking about their personal lives, which is precisely what you should not do.

When answering this question, try to visualize certain bullet points from your resume that demonstrate your value to that particular company. Remember, this answer can differ depending on where you’re interviewing, so being familiar with your resume is key. Your answer should be brief, but impactful. Here are some examples of how you could go about answering this question:

  • “I’m results driven and I enjoy collaborating with others. People often come to me because of my innovative approach at analyzing and solving problems.”
  • “I’ve got a knack for keeping my team focused and motivated. I think it’s very important to communicate effectively so that expectations can be managed.”

The interviewer will often ask this question early on, and your answer has the potential to set the tone for the rest of the interview. Your goal here is to demonstrate your skills and their value by describing them as if they’re personality traits. This will help the interviewer determine whether you’re a good fit for the company.

“What excites you about working here?”

This question and other forms of it are a clever way for the interviewer to determine whether or not you’ve done your homework. We talk a lot about researching the companies you’re applying to, and this is one of those scenarios where it comes into play. There is an additional element to this question—another trap, if you will, and there are types of answers you should avoid.

With proper research, you should be able to reference certain aspects of the organization that excite you or that align with your values. Often, companies will provide information about their leadership team, employee-run resource groups (ERGs), charitable endeavors, or events and activities on their websites. These are all appropriate things to reference when answering this particular question. What you want to avoid is making any negative comments about your current or previous employers. For instance, don’t tell the interviewer how much you dislike your current boss, or that you feel underappreciated at work. Remember, keep it light and positive.

“Why is there such a large gap in your resume?”

When the interviewer asks you about a noticeable gap in your resume, stay calm and cool. This question is designed to throw you off balance and provoke a reaction, and how you answer it can make or break your candidacy in certain cases. There are many reasons for a gap in your resume, but here it’s all about what you’ve been up to during that particular time period.

If you’ve been going on interviews but haven’t found a job that clicks, it’s a perfectly acceptable reason for a lull in your work history. Along with this, provide the interviewer with some reassurance that you’re properly motivated and consistently maintaining your skills. For example, if you’re a graphic designer you could say something along the lines of “I’ve been interviewing regularly but haven’t found a good fit yet. In the meantime I’ve been working on some projects for a family member that owns a local business.” This will show the interviewer that you’re staying sharp despite not having full-time employment.

“Have you had any conflicts with your boss or coworkers in the past?”

Your initial reaction to this question might be to simply answer “no,” but this can come off as dodgy or disingenuous. Even if you haven’t had any prior conflicts to speak of, an answer is in order. As with some other questions on this list, this one is designed to elicit certain types of reactions, so do your best to remain calm and collected. It’s easy to fall into a trap here and speak negatively about a previous boss or coworker, but we know better.

The trick here is to find a way to speak positively while making a vague reference to some sort of conflict. A clever response might be “I’ve always found that I work well with mostly anybody, especially in environments where there’s good communication between my team and management.” Vague statements such as this one will demonstrate to the interviewer that while you’re familiar with conflict, you certainly don’t go looking for it. Additionally, the interviewer will see that you’re able to overcome and learn from toxic scenarios.

During any job interview, it’s important to keep your composure. An interviewer can learn a lot about a candidate through their reactions to such questions, so if you’re cool as a cucumber during the interview process, it will greatly increase your chances at landing the job. In part two, we’ll be dealing with even more trick questions, so keep it dialed in here.