It’s the human element that makes interviewing for a job so tricky, so daunting. You can hold all the practice interviews and rehearse all the canned answers you want, but at the end of the day you’re going to be sitting across from another human being, who can ask nearly any question that springs to mind. While it is both good and right to prepare for common, stock interview questions, the applicant must also go into each interview with the knowledge that anything could happen.
On that note: There are some surprisingly (and increasingly) popular interview questions that you should make a special effort to prepare for. These aren’t necessarily among the “stock” questions you’re familiar with, but they’re not uncommon among interviewers—and they’re designed to be a bit tricky, not necessarily with the intention of making you fall flat but rather of helping the interviewer see how well you think on your feet.
What are some of these surprising, tricky interview questions? We’ve highlighted five particularly treacherous ones below.
Why are you seeking a new employment opportunity?
In the surface, this one may seem fairly innocuous—and it can be. Maybe you’re looking for a new job because you’re currently unemployed, or maybe you’re simply ready for a change for you or your family. That’s all perfectly fine.
This question becomes insidious and damaging, however, when you start talking smack about your current employers. That’s really what it’s designed to do: To show the interviewer whether you’re a particularly negative person or not. If you show up at an interview and speak poorly of your current job, why should the interviewer expect you to be any more of a team player at this new company? Prepare for this question by reminding yourself not to air your dirty laundry in public, as far as your old employers are concerned.
How do you manage to find time for interviews?
This question is designed to uncover whether you’re effectively cheating your current employer or not—because if you are, there’s no reason to suspect you won’t cheat your next employers, too. You can deflect—and underscore your interest in the position—by stating that you’re taking personal time for the interview because the opportunity seems so perfect for you, so exciting.
Do you know anyone who currently works for our company?
Here’s another one that seems innocent enough. You may think it’s a great thing to have a friend on the inside, talking you up and recommending you to the hiring manager. It can be—but only if your friend is respected within the company. Remember that the friend’s characteristics and reputation are automatically going to become associated with you—so select your referrer wisely!
What’s your dream job?
The point of this question is to determine whether you’re applying for every job in sight, or taking a more targeted approach—and you want to underscore that you’re doing the latter. “This is the place I’d like to work,” you should say; as hokey as it might sound, this simple answer really is the best one.
What does the word X mean on your resume?
Finally, don’t be surprised to have interviewers ask you to explain certain words on your resume—a relatively recent response to the trend of meaningless buzzwords that proliferate on resumes. If you think you can get away with calling yourself “hard-working” or “diligent” without being able to offer up any concrete examples, well, think again.
This last one, of course, underscores the importance of having a really meaningful resume in place.