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04/19/09
Tricky Interview Questions
Filed under: Interview
Posted by: John Hadley @ 9:54 pm

“In one of my interviews, I was asked the following questions:

  • What are the qualities that “you think” your collegues like in you?
  • What are the traits that “you think” are disliked?

  • I just wanted to know how should we answer such a question and what is the purpose of such a questions?”

    These are just a variation on the standard “Strengths and Weaknesses” question, couched in terms of traits, and given some appearance of objectivity by framing it around what others would say. You need to have given a lot of thought in advance as to what your strengths and weaknesses are, and how you would answer questions about them.

    The purpose is to get you to share things that you might not have been inclined to share otherwise, and perhaps to trip you up around the ‘dislikes’ question. You might share some serious weaknesses that will make my hiring decision easier.

    And you might reveal any of these:

  • That you aren’t very self-aware; you don’t know what others think about you.
  • That you are arrogant, and believe everyone thinks extremely highly of you, and that you like to brag about that.
  • That you don’t have good answers to questions, and can’t think on your feet well.
  • That you get uncomfortable when asked about certain things, or when discussing certain types of things, which tells me that’s an area I should probe more in the interview or with your references.

  • The best way to answer these is to have a clear picture in your own mind of your strengths and weaknesses, and then to:

  • Be very matter of fact about the former, giving key examples / results to back them up, and
  • Minimize the latter, avoiding a discussion of a laundry list of negatives, and showing for any you do reveal: (1) what you have done to work on them, and (2) what you will continue to do, so that (3) they are presented as something I shouldn’t be worried about in hiring you.
  • By the way, never reveal a weakness that is core to a critical job function, as that will likely get you ruled out, unless you can very clearly demonstrate that it is no longer a weakness.

    3 Responses to “Tricky Interview Questions”

    1. Phyllis Says:
      The very fact that there are “tricky interview questions” is very frustrating to job seekers. Everyone has weaknesses!! At my age, I know my weaknesses well! Some I have been able to work on, some I know will never change. Do you honestly believe that the perfect candidate will not have any weaknesses? Basically, if we reveal anything, it can work against us. We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t! For example, I’m not a born leader, and I know I would not make a good project manager. But if I say I’m not good with deadlines, that will kill my chances of being hired. Of course I’ve had and met many deadlines, but it’s not my strongest quality and I know that I have to push myself to make them. Should I reveal that in an interview???? I’ve been alternately taught to turn the negative into a strength, but I’ve also been told NOT to do this… It is almost impossible to “guess” what answer the interviewer will find acceptable. I don’t know why interviewers feel they have to “trip us up” with these behavioral questions. Why not just ask us questions relative to the job at hand? Most interviewers can get a sense of the person just from talking to them. Why is all this game playing necessary?
    2. Sergio Says:
      It could be to eliminate the amount of candidates applying for that position, leaving only he ones who know how to play the game.
    3. Carolyn Says:
      Yes, it is about playing the game. What a shame so many qualified, good candidates are being eliminated from the field.

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