Look out for tricky job interview questions. That’s advice you may want to pass along to the new job seeker with cerebral palsy (CP) you’re career coaching right now.
“Hiring managers spend countless long hours interviewing candidate after candidate,” says Joyce Lain Kennedy, a nationally syndicated careers columnist and author of Job Interviews for Dummies. “A tricky question may be used as a time management tool to quickly eliminate a less qualified candidate.”
I remember being interviewed by a panel of conservationists for a communication job with the Wisconsin State Department of Natural Resources in the 1970s, way before tricky job interview questions became commonplace.
One of the interviewers asked, “Do you know about Aldo Leopold?”
It was a softball question, but, at the same time, it quickly revealed the top contenders for the open job.
I said, “Yes, I know who he is.” But left it at that, revealing how thin my experience was in the field of conservation.
Of course, Aldo Leopold wrote, A Sand County Almanac. He’s one of the cornerstones for modern conservation science, policy, and ethics.
But, I hadn’t done my conservation research before the interview, and, therefore, failed to point out that I recognized Leopold’s significance. Therefore, I appeared to be a “lightweight” in the eyes of those on the interviewing panel and didn’t get the job.
I blew the job opportunity (one in which I earned a top ranking based on a state civil service exam) with just that one incomplete answer during the initial job interview.
That shows how important it is for your new job seeker to prepare for the more logical job interview questions as well as those which today are considered “tricky” because they designed to weed out everyone except the top tier job candidates.
As a hiring manager myself during the late 1970s to early 1990s, I conducted job interviews to staff my small department with professionals as well as summer college interns and part-time high school support people.
Here are three job interview questions (and the answers I wanted to hear) that I used quite frequently. I must admit that, from today’s perspective, they may have been “tricky.”
Where would you really like to work?
I didn’t want to hear the name of another company or organization or another location. Our central office at the time was in a rural area, and my antenna were up for job candidates who considered the job opportunity I was offering as, in their view, second or third options due to the location.
What I really wanted to hear was this: “This is where I want to work, and this job is what I want to do.”
Can you describe how you solved a work or school problem?
This is the most basic of job interview questions, so top job candidates should always be prepared with a ready answer.
Yet, all too often interviewees either can’t come up with something on the spot or miss the opportunity to highlight their best skills and attributes. Either way, as an interviewer, I’m learning how an individual’s mind works and how well that person has prepared for the interview.
My advice for your new job seeker: Have an answer ready -- like how you resolved a time management issue to take on a special assignment. Or, better yet, tie your answer to how you learned to work around a problem presented by the fact you have CP (such as finding an accommodation while in school at very little cost).
In other words, showcase a unique achievement.
Can you describe a work or school instance in which you messed up?
This is one of those job interview questions that really is a trap for your young job finder, if he or she is not prepared for it.
“One question within the question is whether you learn from your mistakes or keep repeating the same errors,” says Kennedy.
On the other hand, I used this question mainly to discover a job candidate‘s level of self-confidence. If your youngster would answer this question by providing a list of all of his or her negative attributes, then I’d wonder about his or her insecurities and would not offer the job.
So, coach your new job seeker to avoid skirting the issue or making him or herself look bad. Instead, your son or daughter under this situation needs to only briefly mention a single small, well-intentioned goof and follow up with an important lesson learned from that experience.
Of course, this doesn’t deplete the job interview questions that are potential “job killers” for your new job seeker, but, in most cases, such difficulties can be avoided through company research, personal branding and interview practice.
My belief is that knowing about the employer, knowing who are and knowing what works and what doesn't during an interview is more important than simply trying to anticipate tricky interview questions.