Let’s examine some of these techniques and break them down to find why they are designed that way and what they accomplish. Knowing the reasons behind some interview “tricks” can help us understand the psychology and be better prepared to think along the lines of a hiring manager.
The first question goes something like this: “Do you work well in a team environment, and what types of benefits can you contribute to a team?” That’s a simple enough question. The simple answer is to tell them how well you work with others, extoll the value of teamwork, etc.
The killer is actually in the follow-up which goes something like this: “Hmm, I see. We are actually looking for someone who can work independently on projects and really take the initiative. Do you feel that describes you?” The line of questioning has been turned on its head and now you need to come up with an answer which seemingly contradicts what you just said.
This insidious pair of questions is not just for the sport of seeing you squirm in your seat while you search for a coherent answer. It is designed to see how you think on your feet and adapt to contradictory ideas. How do you respond? Thoughtful, flustered? Your reaction says more than your answer.
The second tool is used to gather as much information as possible. It’s a type of verbal “truth serum” that will get you talking and keep you talking. This is how it starts:
“I see that you spent a very brief time with XYZ Corp. Why did you leave them?”
You answer: “It wasn’t quite the right fit. I needed something that would be more compatible with my skill set”.
You continue: “It wasn’t my fault, really. You see, the project was… blah, blah… “
Interviewer: uncomfortable silence…
You blurt out: “I was actually going through a tricky divorce at the time, and you know how it is,… “
Now you are toast. The interviewer has given you enough rope to hang yourself with. This is a particularly nasty little trick which is very effective in many cases. It takes advantage of the discomfort of silence and compels the applicant to reveal more information than he or she had intended. It’s usually not that dramatic, but it does produce results. The best response is of course, say what you want to say and then shut up. The next person to talk loses.
Other tricks include:
- Getting your name wrong to see how bold or passive you are in your correction, or if you correct him at all.
- Making you wait too long. How do you react?
- Seating you in a lower chair than the interviewer to create the feeling of intimidation, again, to see how you respond.
These techniques are not meant to be memorized. It is important just to know that they exist and to expect attempts to throw you off or rattle you. It is also a good idea to have some knowledge of both standard and creative interview questions. That knowledge will give you a confidence and ability to prepare. It will help get you accustomed to different interview techniques and allow you to be prepared for anything that comes your way.
The bottom line to all this is preparation. The more prepared you are for a situation, the better you can handle it. Learn interview questions and how to think like a hiring manager. A little preparation goes a long way.