Tips to tackle tricky questions

“One must be honest in admitting mistakes; at the same time, one must be smart to state what one has learnt and how he or she is going to be different in future.”

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Interview is a stage in the selection process, which is critical to cross. After having cleared the initial stages like application, written test and group discussion, Interview is an attempt to get an inner view of the person. Unlike a written exam, there is no specific syllabus for the interview. Based on the skill of the interviewer, one can elicit as much of insight about the candidate as possible. A well-handled interview can offer useful data points related to the technical, behavioural and managerial aspects of the candidate.

In this process, one encounters some tricky questions. They are tricky because you do not know whether your answer should be honest or socially acceptable. In other words, the dilemma is whether to be truthful or to speak what the interviewer likes. Here is a sample of such tricky questions and some ways of handling them.

1. Why did you get lesser marks after some good academic record?

The real fact might be that during your higher education you had too many distractions and did not focus on studies. While this is the truth, you might doubt whether to you can afford to say this!

Often heard reason is illness; one get to hear statements like, “I fell ill and therefore I did not do well“ or “My father was sick and I had to take care of him“. Remember one thing ­ as an interviewer, I might be meeting tens of people on a given day.

State the truth and quickly add what you learnt from that experience. For example, your distractions caused poor academic performance. Then say what you derived from such experience, which you could use in future. Your answers should not be so much stereotyped that I can sense that you are faking.

2. Why did you change four jobs in four years?

This is another tricky question and the answer will have serious repercussions.

  • What if you changed jobs for the sake of money? If you say this, then they will derive that you are unstable and will jump out for an other few thousands.
  • What if you changed jobs because you could not adjust? If you state this, then they will have reasons to doubt your interpersonal relationships at workplace.

tricky questionsBest is to anticipate this question and do your homework. Before going for the interview, you must do your analysis of the reasons for job change. Do you see any pattern? What did you learn from that pattern? That is what you should present in the interview.

Interviewers are likely to favour candidates who learn from their mistakes and you are unlikely to repeat the mistakes. Your answer to this tricky question should instill such confidence among the interview panel. For example, look at this reply: “I was searching for a job that I like instantly and when I did not like, I kept changing jobs. But after changing four times, I realized that changing jobs is not the solution; instead, I need to change my mindset and learn to see the value in every job“

3. Why were you idle for last eighteen months?

Several times, we see gaps in the experience track. The obvious question that one should expect is ­ “Why were you idle?“ Here again, the reasons seem to be so predictable and at times funny! Some of the quotable reasons include: “I was ill and could not go to work“, “My mom was sick and I had to take care of her“, “I wanted to do a course and therefore I quit“, “I was responsible for my sister’s marriage and therefore I quit my job“ and so on.

Read this list again and check which answer sounds genuine. Either job is so less important to you than other priorities in life or you must be faking! The real reason might be a tiff with your boss or your poor performance or any other serious ethical issues.

If there was any unethical conduct, it will surely come out even after the interview. Any other reasons can be managed with some thought and genuineness.

In summary, one must be honest in admitting mistakes; at the same time, one must be smart to state what one has learnt and how he or she is going to be different in future! That is the trick of handling tricky questions!

This article was published in: 

HR Mirror

Hans India

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