Be mindful of tackling these 5 tricky questions while at a job interview

  • Interviewers today ask tricky questions to gauge your response on matters that may or may not be directly related to your actual job

  • Avoid falling into the trap of stating how often you have worked over the weekends instead talk about how you value managing your time well

  • Avoid coming across as a sore and unprofessional employee by pointing out how bad your previous workplace was

Let's face it, cracking a job interview today is much more complicated than before. Not only do you have to have working knowledge in your field, but you are also subjected to some hardcore grilling on matters that may or may not be directly linked to the position you are applying for. Perhaps this helps the interviewer gauge how you react to unexpected curveballs. Earlier it was as simple as answering basic questions on your previous job, strengths and weaknesses and key projects, and you were more or less through.

 Be mindful of tackling these 5 tricky questions while at a job interview

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Here's are some examples of smart ways to tackle tricky questions:

"Why is there a work gap in your resume?": While a few weeks here or there won't be noticed, any gap of three months or more will get questioned. Tackle this either by explaining any extenuating circumstances (illness/family hardship etc) to them upfront. If there were none, explain how you were looking for the right role to come your way and were not ready to compromise and settle for just anything you were offered. Then, follow up by explaining how you did well in the role you ultimately did take up. If you are still looking, tell the interviewer how and why this role is exactly what you were looking for.

"Why so many job switches?": Yes, they officially consider you a flight risk, even before you have joined. Don't try to address this one by pointing out problems at each previous workplace - that is usually off-putting and will just make you come across as a sore and somewhat unprofessional employee. If the jobs you held were those with different skill-sets, you have lifeline here and can make things easier by simply explaining that you wanted to learn new things, and now, having learnt them, are ready to apply them towards a long innings at your interviewer's firm. If all the jobs were similar, though, your best bet may simply be to admit that in that earlier part of your career, you could have planned things better, and are ready to do this now.

"What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in earlier roles?": This can be a tough one. If you say that you did not face any key challenges, you could end up indicating that you are not self-aware. On the other hand, profess any fatal challenges such as difficulty taking up new assignments not suited to your skillset, or difficulty working with certain kind of colleagues, and you can bid your chances of landing the new job goodbye. To tackle this one, it is best to use examples of times when you faced resistance to the positive changes you wanted to bring about. Did you stand your ground for a direct report that your boss wanted to replace? Did you lead the campaign to provide more training to junior employees to help them ramp-up faster? Such examples can show how you are a go-getter, and how you meet challenges too.

"How do you handle conflict in an office setting?": This one is increasingly common in middle-management job interviews because it tests how you manage people, teams and pressure. Many get this one wrong by saying that they have not faced or do not expect to face conflict in their teams because they will manage them well. A good answer to this question will look at both the people (who is involved and why) and the process (is there something in our workflow that creates conflict?) side of the equation. It will also outline how the interviewee is open to feedback from senior relationships too.

"How often have you worked weekends in your career?": A trap, for sure. Many fall nicely into it by talking about how often they have spent their weekends slogging away in the office. Anything to get the job, right? Wrong. You should highlight that while you have worked weekends when work demanded it, you would also want to manage your own and your team's time well, and ensure they complete projects on time. Of course, if an emergency demands it, you would be willing to give it whatever it takes. This question should also act as a red herring in your mind - if the organization has a culture of glamorizing this kind of over-stretching, it may not be the best fit.

These are only some of the questions you could face, and of course, preparation and situational awareness remain the best tools to negotiate the tricky questions recruiters throw your way.

Rishabh Gupta is a Partner at GyanOne Universal (, a premium career advisory and MBA admissions consulting firm.

Updated Date: Aug 21, 2019 19:23:24 IST