5 Most Annoying Interview Questions

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Interviews are tough. I mean, you’ve gone through all this trouble to write up a high-quality CV and a great cover letter only to have yet another chance to blow it in the interview. And, because they’re so laden with significance (after all, only 20% get past the first round) these things can be hugely stress inducing. Something that’s made so much worse when they ask some of those super annoying interview questions.

I mean, there are plenty annoying ones. We all have our least favorite. Still, which ones are the most annoying? Which ones really grab us by the nether regions and make us seethe? Here are five of the most annoying ones out there, according to us. Feel free to add your own in the comment section.

What is your greatest weakness?

Yeah, it’s been out there for a long time and we all know it. That makes it less annoying than it used to be. Still, it’s a pretty mean question. Here you are, trying to do your best to impress the people you’re seated opposite and then in order to impress them, you have to tell them about your biggest weakness?

Of course, you don’t tell them about your greatest weakness. No ‘I’m an alcoholic’ or ‘I have such big insecurity issues that sometimes I just break down and cry’. That will never get you a job anywhere.

Instead, the trick is to take something that kind of sounds like a weakness, but that is really a strength after all. Like ‘I’m a perfectionist’ or ‘I’m incredibly demanding’. And once you realize that, you’ll be okay. Still, so many people don’t and end up tanking the interview because they don’t know what the right answer is. 

What are you better at than anybody in this world?

Another nasty trick question. I mean, it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. If you say you’re not better at anything, then you appear to lack confidence. If you do say you’re better than everybody else at something, then people will think you’re confident.

And that makes it a nasty question. Fortunately, there is an out. Cut a third path. Start your answer off with the preface, ‘I don’t know if I’m the best at the world at it, I mean there are six billion people out there, but I’m pretty damned good at…’ and then your answer. Then you get to not sound like an arrogant douche, while still appearing confident.

What’s your dream job – please describe it in detail

Oh, come on! Most of don’t know what we want to do. Daniel Gilbert wrote a whole book about it called Stumbling on Happiness. Add to that that it’s also a trick question, seeing as when you answer honestly (I want to be a butterfly) then it immediately becomes obvious the position you’re applying for isn’t suitable for you. So how is that a nice question?

Of course, it isn’t. Fortunately, there is a way around it. After all, there is a right answer out there. And that is, whatever you’re applying for right now but then a few steps higher up the food chain. So, maybe if you’re applying as a translator then aiming to be a content editor. That will make the job seem like the right fit for you and it seem like you’ve got a suitable bit of ambition.

Of course, then you do need to know what that job actually entails. So do make sure that you know that. Otherwise you might be in for a nasty surprise when they explain the job isn’t at all like you expected it to be.

Tell me about yourself

Another masterful stroke of misdirection. This question isn’t a request that you unburden. No ‘well, I was born in Mississippi and I really like carrot cake’. Really, they’re asking ‘how do you fit into this company?’ They’re saying ‘give us your elevator pitch. What can you do for us?’

But as they’re being coy about it, that can be a hard thing to know when you’re new to the interview game. You might think that the person at the other end of the table wants to get to know you. They don’t. Chances are, they’re not interested as you at all as a person. That’s not how most corporations work. Instead, the question is ‘what can you do for us?’ and ‘will you fit into the company structure as it is?’

So this is where you do your elevator pitch. ‘I’m Dan, just finished Harvard with Honors and I just love numbers. That’s why I want to become an accountant.’ And then elaborate.     

Where do you see yourself in five years

Another tightrope act question because if you aim too high you might be seen as too ambitious (and perhaps a threat to the person you’re talking to). If you aim too low, on the other hand, then you don’t have enough spunk and initiative, which means you won’t be able to cover the cost of your salary.

The worst part? What the right answer is supposed to be can entirely depend on who you’re talking to and how ambitious they are. If they’re not very ambitious then you can very quickly come off as a threat. If they are shooting for the stars, well then you can easily get seen as lacking initiative.

The solution is to play up your flexibility. ‘I’m not exactly sure where I see myself. I mean, after all the best way to make God laugh is to tell him your plans, but I would like to be…’ and then some general outline of what you’d like.

Last words

So there you have it. Some of the most annoying questions out there and some solutions to help you deal with them when they do come up. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with those. More importantly, understand the underlying idea of these questions as people will ask some version of these at almost every interview you’re going to go to. And if you don’t recognize them for what they are, you can’t see the snakes hiding in the grass.

And that sucks, because interviews are already hard enough without you walking into the traps the interviewer has set for you. 

 

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Tuesday, 20 November 2018
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