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A Guide To The Most Evil Job Interview Questions

Gail Kenny - Managing Director of Puregenie, an online travel recruitment agency

So last month I tackled some of the common job interview questions you are likely to field. Some of them may have seemed tricky, but they’re small fry compared to some of these tough interview questions that employers reserve for when they really want to make the applicants sweat!

But fret not, dear readers – there are answers to (or at least efficient ways of dodging) the most fiendish of job interview questions. How? Read on…

“Some of this job will be repetitive and mundane. Are you seriously okay with that?”

Ouch – how’s that for an opening tough interview question? Of course no one is over the moon about repetitiveness and they know this, which is why if you’re overly positive you’ll smack of insincerity – they’re not just looking for an intelligent, positive response here, but one that’s believable! To that end, in answering this interview question you might find a good response to be something like: “Of course all jobs have elements that are repetitive and less interesting than the others, but I’ve always tried to give 100% in every aspect of my work – mundane or not.”

“How have you managed to attend this job interview during office hours?”

This tough interview question may as well have been rephrased “does your boss know you’re here?” because that’s what they’re asking! It should be fairly obvious that the right answer isn’t “I pulled a sicky!” A good answer to this is “I took some of my pre-allocated holiday time to attend”, or if you want extra brownie points it will look exceptional to say “Regrettably, I was out of paid holiday time, so I asked my employer for some unpaid leave. I don’t think it would be fair on them to pay me for time spent attending other job interviews.”

“You know what the job involves – which part do you think sounds the least appealing?”

This interview question is incredibly mean and unfortunately there is no easy way out. You could try and keep it short with a “Having read through the job description, there isn’t anything which really doesn’t appeal to me” but if the job does have unappealing elements (and 99% of jobs do!) then you’ll come across as insincere. If there are aspects of the job which you can see yourself hating then be honest about it – just make sure it isn’t a major part of the job, and try to play it down when answering the interview question with a “but every job has some areas which don’t appeal, so I would still endeavour to take on these less appealing elements in a mature and professional manner.”

“What kind of person do you find it hard to work alongside?”

Although this interview question seems like an easy pitfall, there is real potential to turn a negative into a positive! Start off your answer with your best trait, as in “I’ve always thought of myself as very hardworking/sincere/quick/efficient, and so I sometimes find it frustrating to work alongside those who lack that particular quality. That said, I do pride myself on being very easy to get along with and a team player, and I have never met someone I can’t work alongside.” When answering the interview question this way, you highlight your positive points rather than other people’s negatives.

“To be honest, you seem to be overqualified for this position…”

Not an interview question as such, but something that definitely needs to be effectively deflected: if they feel you’re overqualified it seems to imply you’re either desperate for work (which you may well be, but you don’t want them to know) or likely to move on within a few months. If this comes up, you need to convince them that it’s just the kind of job you’d really enjoy – it’s hard to do, but when answering interview questions, convince them you have a high tolerance for boredom or that this kind of work is the type of thing you love doing and they should be thrilled to hire somebody so able.

“You haven’t been in your current job very long – why?”

The job interview process is expensive both in terms of costs and time – the employers don’t want to be in a position where they hire you and find you’re looking to move on within 3 months. They need their investment to be rewarded, and as such you need to set their minds at ease and convince them that it is your intention to be in ‘for the long haul’. A reasonable answer to this would therefore be something along the lines of “I felt I had learned all I could with my current employers and need to move on to enhance my career. I am now ready to settle down and devote myself fully to something I can commit to in the long-term.”

“You’ve been in your current job for a very long time – why?”

The flipside of the long-term human resources investment coin is that employers are often unimpressed by someone who seems to lack the ambition or ability to get another job. It’s a bit unfair, and should be easy enough to defend with one of the many legitimate explanations of employee dedication – a love of the job, good friendships, or a good old fashioned sense of loyalty.

“Have you been attending other job interviews?”

This job interview question is tough and can have both negative and positive repercussions. It could be an assessment of how much you want the job (“I’m only applying to this one simply because it seems ideal for my ambitions and skill set”) or a cheeky way of assessing if their rivals are interested in you (“I’ve been talking to a few other companies and considering my options.”) You have to use your own judgment to work out their intentions based on the tone of the interviewers and the other interview questions they ask. If you are in any doubt you could try hedging your bets and combining both the previous answers: “I have been talking to some other companies, but in all honesty this job is my preference, as the job description seems to match my experience and skillset.”

“What is your current salary?”

This is a cheeky job interview question that you should avoid giving the straight-answer to! They’re trying to save money as much as possible, and by working out your current wage they hope to be able to offer you the bare minimum (a slight increase on your current salary) – if you don’t tell them, then you’re in a far better position to negotiate. “It isn’t about the salary for me really - it’s the whole job package that interests me.” Avoid directly answering the interview question here, and you should be fine.

These tough interview questions are difficult to answer sufficiently, but the employer knows this – remember every applicant will receive the same

About the Author

Gail Kenny is the managing director of Puregenie – an online recruitment agency for the travel industry. The site caters to talented individuals with skills and experience to succeed in the online environment - SEO jobs, careers in online marketing and more

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