6 Ways Job Interviewers Try to Trip You Up—and How to Avoid StumblingWith the dramatic improvement in the job market, now is the time for all job seekers to get serious about finding a job. Landing an interview is the first step. But then you’ll need to get mentally prepared for the 45 most harrowing minutes of your life. That’s the average length of a job interview.
Job interviews are nerve-wracking for the simple reason that interviewers like to ask questions that knock people off balance. Doing so gives them the opportunity to see if the candidate can think on her feet, come up with dazzlingly brilliant answers instantly, and keep her cool.
Here are 6 types of questions that can trip you up—and how to answer them so you’ll leave the interview walking tall.
1. Questions that your mom warned you about.
“Let’s look at your Facebook site together right now. Are you willing to do that?” Gulp. Is this the time to reveal to your prospective boss that you’re the Beer Pong Champ of your graduating class? If your Facebook site is populated with eyebrow-raising photos of you partying, you have two choices. Long before your interview, you can try to scrub your site. Easier said than done, however. The other choice is to divert the interviewer with a statement such as this: “I share my Facebook site with family and close friends. I’d love to show you my LinkedIn page instead. The industry networking I’m doing there is really relevant to this position.”
2. Questions that probe a hole in your resume.
“I see that you didn’t work for six months last year. Were you vacationing?” Have a great answer for the time you weren’t technically working. If you were traveling or caring for a family member, talk about the valuable lessons learned and skills acquired during that time. Give an answer that shines a positive light on your life experience and turns it into an asset.
3. Questions that challenge your relative inexperience.
“You haven’t worked much in an office. What’s your competitive advantage?” Quick, talk about your social media smarts. You Tweet, you’re on Facebook, and you can navigate LinkedIn with your eyes closed. Being fluent in social technology could trump your industry inexperience. Don’t forget to show, not tell, what a quick study you are in any given field. Give examples.
4. Questions that test your interview preparedness.
“Where do you see opportunity for improvement at our firm?” Just because this is the first time you’ve stepped foot inside the company doesn’t mean that you haven’t pored over and thoroughly studied the website, read company press releases, and Googled the heck out of the company’s founders. Be ready for this one. You might talk about the website and how it could be improved, or perhaps discuss a niche market that their products could be targeted to.
5. Questions that mine your industry knowledge.
“What are your three favorite tech startups, and why?” You may think that applying for an entry-level job precludes your being an industry expert, but think again. Interviewers want to find out what you know, but even more important, how you think. Don’t get tripped up by this one. Learn about the industry you’re entering, then impress them with your insights. “I love XYZ because its advertising reaches out to very young consumers, who may not be able to afford its products right now, but are the future of this industry. That’s visionary.” One caveat, though: Never reveal information about a competitor that you picked up from an interview at that company. Some interviews really are “mining” expeditions to learn more about a company’s competitors. Don’t fall into that trap.
6. Questions that ask you to define your growth curve.
“Are you planning to get an MBA?” Interviewers ask these types of questions because they test your prospective loyalty to their company and reveal your professional vision. Let’s say you just graduated from college and you are thinking of getting an MBA. Are you really going to tell them that you’ll work for a year then go back to school for two? You might say instead: “Ideally, I’d love to find a company where I can grow and develop while pursuing an executive MBA, part-time. That way, I’d be even more of an asset to your company.” If the company features executive MBAs as part of their training program, it’s an even better answer because it shows you’ve done your homework on the company and understand the corporate culture.
There are more tips and strategies for acing the job interview in my book, 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions,and 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions. Learn more at www.vickyoliver.com.
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