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The Trick Questions

Ashling McWilliam for local2 sault ste. marie
August 18th, 2011 at 10:06am



This article is a column or editorial.
The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of LOCAL2.


Unusual Questions

* If you could be an animal, what animal would you be?
* What can you tell me about yourself that would surprise me?
* If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three books would you want to have?
* If your house was on fire and you had the time to grab three things, what would they be?

questionsThere really are no correct answers to these types of questions. The key to answering the questions is to present your responses in a well thought out manner. Generally the interviewer is looking to see how you explain your answer, not what you chose as an answer.

If your animal of choice was a bird, the person interviewing you isn’t going to say “WRONG! You were meant to say KANGAROO!” They just want to hear your explanation; I would choose to be a bird because, I would be able to fly around the world and see all the different cultures of the world, I love diversity. Basically, you just want to explain your answer in a way which demonstrates a strength or preference.

The Weakness question

* What do you consider to be your biggest failure?
* What are the areas you need to develop?
* What weaknesses might you bring to this position?

When you’re answering a question like this, the trick is to quickly provide an honest answer without giving away a detailed history of all your failures. (We ALL have long lists of shortcomings, but in an interview we want to keep those under the radar)

* Avoid answers such as, “perfectionist” or “I take on too much”. They are overused and will make you look like you over-extend yourself.

* DO NOT mention personal qualities such as; procrastination, laziness or a bad temper. These are behavioral problems that take a LONG time to develop and a LONG time to fix.

* Try to use an obvious weakness (something listed in the job description that you don’t have)

* Always state the weakness quickly and then focus on what you are doing to overcome/improve on it.

Example: As a recent graduate, I lack experience/confidence in _________________. To overcome this I volunteer at ___________/I subscribe to_____________ magazine/read about _____________or have had placements at __________ to increase my confidence and learn more about the subject.

Example: “In this position I will need to learn how to generate customers from outside our community. Although I have excellent customer service skills, in particular my ability to _________, I have not really generated customer business outside of __________. What I would do first is ________,

The Situational/Hypothetical Question

These questions put you in a situation where you will need to make a decision/take action to solve the problem presented. These questions are similar to Behaviour-based Interview Questions (Please see previous article – “Behaviour-Based Interviews”) Here are some examples of situation/hypothetical questions:

* How would you market this product? Why?
* How would you handle a complaint?
* How would you handle a disagreement with a colleague/supervisor?

In this situation you can also use the STARR format I mentioned in my previous article. You need to assess the situation.

First what are you selling? Is it a telephone? A piece of furniture? A bottle of wine? You need to look at the S (Situation) and T (Task or Target Audience). If you’re selling a phone to a teenage girl, you will probably articulate the fantastic applications she can use on her iPhone to share music with her friends, whereas if you’re selling a bottle of wine to an elderly couple you may discuss how the rich tones of spice and raspberry compliment the 16oz Ribeye.

The trick to these questions is showing that you will modify your sales pitch according to the product and the clientele. They also want to see that you have an ability to build a rapport with clients, that you can communicate effectively, put customers at ease and establish long term customer relationships.

Tips on Answering Questions :

* There is nothing wrong with accepting the offer for a glass of water! Use that glass of water as a crutch. If you need some time to think, take a sip! Back in the day people used to smoke during the interview, lighting up a cigarette gave them that extra minute they needed to reorganize their thoughts, but I wouldn’t recommend smoking anywhere near your place of interview nowadays!

* Be sure the interviewer has finished asking the question before you begin your answer.

* Ensure that your answers are organized, a step-by-step logical answer (refer to my article on behavior based interviews).

* Clearly identify key skills and qualifications as you present your answer

* When you have finished answering a question, stop talking. Do not ramble on after you have finished making your point. If after waiting a while, you feel the silence is unbearable, ask if the interviewer would like some additional information.

* Avoid using slang terms (stuff/kinda/like).

* Be sure to use descriptions that describe what YOU can do for their organization, NOT what the organization can do for you.

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