Navigate Through Tricky Questions In The Interview

Almost all interviews worth their salt are littered with explosive landmines interspersed among normal interview questions.

You may think you are doing well and will sail through the sensational interview, but step on one trick by accident, and the whole show will blow up in your face. That one mistake can cost you a dream job or leave a very bad impression at best.

It's not your fault actually. You may have observed all the cardinal rules right from researching the job/company, composing brilliant answers for common questions and preparing a list of intelligent questions to dressing appropriately and arriving on time armed with sufficient résumé copies.

But, what is to keep the hiring manager from slyly slipping in a 'trapdoor' question designed to catch you out. Most interviewers have devious tricks up their sleeve that not only disarm but also completely skewer the most experienced interviewee.

In the face of the unanticipated pitfalls, candidates end up naively caught like the proverbial deer in the headlights and stammer on to dig their own graves. Here are a few tips on how to ride out some quicksand situations without falling flat on your face:

The nerve-wracking silence

You may have just finished answering a question, when the interviewer is just silent, staring at you and refusing to say anything. And what do you do? Discomfited by the deafening silence, most unwary interviewees rush in headlong, trying to fill the uncomfortable void. Unhinged that they have fouled up the interview, people end up rambling on doing more harm than good to themselves.

Instead of falling for the 'silent treatment' bait and panicking, recognise the ploy for what it is – the interviewer is testing how you respond under stress. Either wait out the prolonged silence patiently or fill it with intelligent questions of your own.

Flagellating questions

Some seemingly innocent, yet disconcerting queries also spring up from time to time, like:

Such open-ended questions can be intimidating, but do not put your foot in your mouth by baring your soul or narrating childhood tales. Use the opportunity to sell yourself enthusiastically without resorting to flattering lies. You can highlight your employability by discussing your work history, describing challenging achievements or even disguising strengths as weaknesses with, 'I work too hard' or 'my colleagues feel that I am detail-oriented.'

If you still end up flustered or confused, avert the question with a genuine, "I am sorry but nothing comes to mind."

Oddball questions

Then there are those off-the-wall subjects that even the most meticulous preparation cannot predict. Consider wacky queries like 'If you could be any fruit, what would you choose?' or 'What would you do if I asked you to jump out of the window?' In fact, a recent survey polled the strangest questions, which revealed:

Keep in mind that though the random questions are not in any way linked to your abilities, the interviewer may be trying to gauge your thought processes, interests, personality, creativity or even whether you can fit in with the corporate culture.

If you are thrown off-balance, take a moment to collect your thoughts and formulate a short, thoughtful and honest answer. You can even incorporate some light-hearted humour to break the ice and build a friendly rapport.

The illegal route

Watch out for inappropriate questions that recruiters are prohibited from asking. They are overstepping the boundaries by seeking personal information about your marital status, religion, nationality, ethnic background, disabilities and the like. It's your call whether you answer the question, deflect it, change the topic or say outright that you feel uncomfortable over it.

Distracting interruptions

Unanticipated interference like a ringing telephone or intrusions by the interviewer's colleagues can cause already edgy candidates to break out in hives. At times, crafty interviewers are even known to make an unnecessary call just to unhinge the interviewee. It is prudent to live down the interruption and patiently concentrate to avoid losing the thread of the conversation.

Above all, being positive, upbeat and maintaining your composure will help you to succeed.

Payal Chanania