Handling weird, wonderful and wrongful questions during Interviews

Posted on 7:26 PM by Bharathvn

# Telling the interviewers what they want to hear
# Responding positively to negative questions
# How to open up closed questions
# Dealing with illegal questions with finesse
Skilled interviewers know that they must put candidates at their ease and get them to talk about how they have used their skills and experience in the past. Unfortunately, many interviewers have never been trained and, because they don’t know any better, may end up asking some fairly crazy questions.

HANDLING QUESTIONS DESIGNED TO EXPLORE HOW YOU THINK
Some questions can’t possibly tell the interviewer anything about your ability to do the job, but obviously the interviewer thinks that it is a good question. You have no choice really but to have a shot at responding briefly to the question, then trying to turn the question to your advantage to show off some skill.

What was the last book you read?
Few interviewers will expect you to have read a business book. Just be ready to discuss the plot or contents of a book that you have read. Ideally, the book should have improved you in at least some small way. If you can, try to show how the book has benefits for your working life. I read a book that talks about the plight of the servant classes in turn-of-the-century China. It’s a very humbling description of the effects of poverty and injustice.
I’m reading a book at the moment on emotional intelligence, which is about how people can build more successful relationships with other people. I’m learning quite a lot about understanding other people’s perspectives and improving my listening skills with
colleagues. Don’t be caught lying. If you are going to say that you have read a key business book, then be ready to answer technical questions about the content of the webpage.

Who in your life has inspired you?
As with many of these questions, the person you name is perhaps less important than the reasons you give for identifying that person. My tutor at university had a really big part to play in my personal development. I’d never been switched on to my studies at school, but my tutor helped me to understand that I was good at something. She gave me a lot of encouragement about my academic work and helped me to volunteer for more activities
within the department, which really helped me to grow in confidence. She was a great influence and we still exchange Christmas cards and the occasional email.

What was the last news story that caught your eye?
Interviewers sometimes like to know that candidates keep up to date with current affairs. Whatever story you choose to mention, try to relate it to the job you are being interviewed for. I was just reading about the big banking merger which will create a new financial services giant with over 140,000 employees. I can imagine that will be a big opportunity for an IT contracting business such as yours. Make it a habit to buy a quality newspaper or read up on the newspaper’s website, and scan the top handful of stories on the day of any interview.

What was the last film you saw?
It does not matter what the last film you saw was. Just be prepared to talk briefly about the plot and why you saw it. I saw ‘Action Movie 4’, which was a big budget adventure movie.
I watch all sorts of things from independent French films to romantic comedies, but on this occasion I wanted something escapist to watch.

See this pencil I’m holding? Sell it to me
This is a common question and rarely asked of salespeople. You could be asked to sell just about anything that the interviewer has within reach, from a lamp to the chairs you are both sitting on. The interviewer is trying to put you on the spot, testing how you respond to the sorts of unexpected pressures that can crop up at work, as well as your ability to communicate and sell ideas. Think of the interviewer as a potential customer for the object that you are being asked to sell, and follow the following three steps:
1. Ask the interviewer about his or her needs and exposure to objects of this sort. For example, if you were selling a chair: How would you rate the chairs around your house or in the office? Do you need to sit at a desk for many hours of the day?
2.Talk about key features of the object. For example, a chair may be comfortable. A pen may be filled with red ink.
3. Discuss some of the key benefits of the object. A comfortable chair could help the interviewer to work for longer without getting backache. A red ink pen could help him to correct documents more easily without confusing the corrections with the original text.


If you were an animal, what would you be?
The interviewer has probably read a ‘pop psychology’ book claiming that candidates can be rated based on the types of animals they would describe themselves as. This is a silly question as there is no link between job performance and types of animals. Unfortunately, you need to play along with this amateur Freud. Select a suitably noble animal such as a lion, eagle, wolf, etc. and go on to relate how its characteristics relate to your ability to do the job. Resist the temptation to choose an animal with comical or sinister qualities such as
a sloth or a snake. I’d be an elephant because I can cope with a heavy workload. I’d be a Labrador because I pick up skills quickly and I’m good around other people There are endless variations on this question. I have also heard an interviewer ask ‘If you were a type of vehicle, what would you be?’ Again, think about certain cars that are known for their reliability, or speed, etc.

Tell me a story
Ideally, you should tell a story about your career, including examples of the skills that the interviewer is looking for. Perhaps first ask, ‘Can I tell you the story of my career?’ However, if the interviewer insists that you tell a story about something outside of work, try to tell a story about something that you have achieved, whether it is learning a musical instrument or designing an extension for your house. I decided five years ago that I was getting a bit out of shape so I decided to get fit. I joined a local gym and started an exercise programme. I was very unfit to begin with and I used to ache after coming back from my routines, but I was determined to stick with it. I made sure that I’d go at least once every weekend and once
during the week and possibly twice if I could manage it. After about six months, I’d lost a bit of weight and discovered that I had a lot more energy. I’ve kept up the exercising ever since.
Alternatively, try to tell the interviewer the story of how you triumphed against adversity in some way, perhaps while you were growing up. Make sure the story has a happy ending.

If you could meet anyone living or dead, who would it be and why?
Pick someone who has characteristics or skills that would be desirable in the job you are applying for, such as a notable business leader. However, resist citing the really well known business gurus such as Tom Peters or Warren Bennis, as that could make you sound clich├ęd. Politicians can also be risky choices if you do not know the political leanings of your
interviewer. Also steer clear of poets, humanitarians, or artists, unless you can argue that they have traits that you would use for this particular job. I would like to meet Sir Peter Alexander, who was the chief executive of Matazar, the European retailer. The firm grew from 5 shops to 80 shops and saw sales grow by over 1000 per cent in 6 years. I’d love to
pick his brains about his vision for the retail industry.

Who do you admire and why?
Think about the skills or competencies that the interviewing organization is looking for. Perhaps you could talk about a tutor or previous boss who was a good role model for one of those skills. Giving an example of a manager that you have worked for will also give the interviewer the impression that you are respectful of those who are senior to you.
My previous manager was a really good role model. She was on the fast track to partnership at the firm, but almost invariably managed to squeeze her workload into a 9am to 6pm day. She was very focused on her work during the day, which allowed her to have a good work-life balance too. I’d like to believe I’ve learnt some of her tricks for managing her workload and getting more
done during the day.

What kind of manager would you like to work for?
Your answer depends on what you know about the organisation. So make sure you do some research on how you are likely to be managed. For example, if you think that the organisation is driven by strict rules and procedures, you might say: I would like to have a manager who will give me clear instructions and expect me to be able to deliver good results.
If the organisation is known for its creativity and giving employees a great deal of autonomy, a candidate might say: I’d like to work for manager who will listen to my ideas and give
me the authority and responsibility to do a good job.

How many cars are there in Australia?
Management consultancies and investment banks, in particular, like to ask questions that may require you to ‘guesstimate’ an answer. Typical questions might ask you to estimate the size of a market. For example, ‘How many mobile phones are there in China?’ or ‘How many litres of orange juice are consumed in France each year?’ On the face of it, these would seem impossible to answer, as you are not going to have the facts to hand. However, the interviewer is actually interested in two key skills:
1. Your capacity to make estimates, apply rules of thumb, and extrapolate from information that you do possess when no definitive data is available.
2.How quickly you can make mental calculations. The interviewer is not expecting you to have the actual answers. They are more interested in hearing your thought processes on tackling the question. So one critical tip, which the interviewers often forget to mention, is to talk aloud as you work out the answer to the problem. Start by breaking down the question into the facts that you would need to estimate. For example, in order to estimate the answer, you need to know how many people are in Australia. Then you would need to work
out the ratio of people to cars in the country. A candidate’s answer might go along the lines of the following: I have no idea of the exact population of Australia. I know that it is
a huge country, but it is much less densely populated than most European countries. I know that the population of the UK is less than 60 million people, so perhaps Australia has 20 million inhabitants give or take a few million? Now, not everyone has a car. People may live in family units, so even though there may be 20 million people living in Australia, we
probably have only about 7 million households, because on average maybe three people live in each household. Not every household has a car though, so let’s say that only one in two households has a car. Obviously, some households have more than one car but there are
lots of people who travel only on public transport. So of the 7 million households, I’d say there were about 3.5 million cars in Australia. Now, your estimates may have a significant margin of error attached to them. But as long as they are sensible and not completely ridiculous you can demonstrate your ability to break a problem down and make rapid
mental calculations.

Why are supermarket own-brand cans of baked beans cheaper than the
leading make of branded baked beans?

No technical knowledge about food production is actually needed to answer the question as it is trying to ascertain the candidate’s ability to make sensible assumptions and to break down an apparently complicated problem. In such a situation, the interviewer is looking for your ability to: _ Apply logic to break a complex problem into a number of more easily
solved component problems. _ Gather and analyse information. _ Make suggestions while thinking on your feet. If the question involves multiple points and sub-questions, ask
whether the interviewer would mind you jotting down some of the key points on a sheet of paper to act as a reminder. A candidate’s answer might go as follows: Well, I assume that own-brand baked beans are cheaper because they cost less to produce. So why don’t we break down the cost of different cans of beans into their constituent parts. Thinking about the constituent parts, there is the basic cost of the beans themselves. Perhaps the branded company can buy beans more cheaply, because they buy in bigger quantities and can get
them in bulk. The branded-beans company would also probably be able to buy tin cans more cheaply, again because they buy in greater quantities. However, those two facts would suggest that the branded beans should be cheaper, so that’s not the answer. Another part of the cost is the distribution of the tins of beans but I can’t see why there would be a significant difference in cost there either. Aha – I’ve got it. Supermarkets never advertise their baked
beans on the television, whereas the branded company has to spend much more on marketing and advertising. So that’s why supermarkets can sell their beans more cheaply.
And there is the answer. Remember that succeeding at case study interviews is about breaking down a problem, and then making some quick estimates and mental calculations.

You are in a room with three light switches, each of which controls one of
three light bulbs in an adjacent room. You must determine which switch
controls which bulb. But I’m afraid you may flick only two switches and
may enter the adjacent room only once. How would you go about
determining which switch controls which bulb?
Some interviewers like to pose riddles, quandaries, or brainteasers to test candidates’ ability to ‘think out of the box’. These are unlikely to have a right or wrong answer. In fact there may be many possible solutions. The only tip here is to let your imagination run wild. I’d flick one switch on, wait for ten minutes and flick it back off. Then I’d turn one of the other light switches on before going in the room. By feeling which light bulb is still warm, I could identify
which one I flicked on for ten minutes. I’d knock a hole in the wall so that I could see which switch controls which bulb. I’d phone a friend and ask them to stand next door to see which
bulb comes on. I’d take off my belt and place the shiny metal buckle strategically so that I could see in its reflection which switch works each bulb. Don’t discount any answer. What’s more important is to come up with a creative solution and not to sit in silence looking confused.

DEFLECTING NEGATIVE QUESTIONS WITH A POSITIVE APPROACH
In the bad old days of interviewing, quite a few interviewers used to think that giving candidates a hard time and deliberately putting them under stress was a good idea. By doing so, they hoped to expose personality flaws in weaker candidates. Luckily, most interviewers now know better, although there may still be one or two interviewers who haven’t heard
that stress interviews are out. If you are faced with an aggressive interviewer, you must keep your composure. Responding with anger will only escalate the situation. Remember that you want to be offered a job, so you need to hide your irritation. Be calm, take your time, and focus on answering the question. Some questions start by making a negative statement about you, and invite you to fight your way uphill to impress the interviewer. Because
these questions can be convoluted, you should take a few seconds to ensure that you have understood the question properly before responding.

I don’t understand why you think you are the right person for this job
You might want to ask the interviewer why he or she thinks so: ‘Can I ask why you think that?’ or ‘Could you be a bit more specific please? What exactly are your doubts?’
Then try to make a short statement about why you think you are the right person for the job.
I’m disappointed that you think that. I think that I am the right person for the job for three reasons. Firstly, I have a track record of delivering exceptional customer service, which is something that my last boss will attest to. Secondly, I’ve been told by various colleagues that I have a better understanding of this particular technology than some of the people who work for the company that invented the technology. And finally, I’m incredibly determined and I can give you a couple of examples of how I’ve persisted to deliver results for the team.

Why do you think that you are better than the other candidates?
The question asserts that you think you are better than the other candidates and you need to correct that assertion. Use this question as an opportunity to summarise again what you believe are your key strengths. I haven’t met the other candidates, so I can talk only about myself. What I hope I have done is to impress you with my track record of results. In particular, I think I have three main strengths, which are…

Do you like regular hours and routine working patterns?
Be sure to tell the interviewer what you think they need to hear. Tailor your response to what you know about the organisation. Is it the sort of organisation where the work may be very repetitive and predictable or incredibly varied?

Yes, I like to get comfortable with a job so that I can do it well. No, I like to have new challenges and variety that will keep me from getting bored but also improve my skill set. And that’s why I am interested in this job.

Do you mind paperwork and other bureaucratic practices?
The interviewer might be trying to hint that the job will involve a lot of administrative work. Good research about the demands of the job will help you to decide on the right answer to give. I don’t mind it. I realise that doing things properly and having a good paper trail are important parts of the job.

Have you ever broken rules to get a job done?
Be careful here, as there is a critical difference between breaking a rule once to achieve a benefit to the organisation and breaking rules on multiple occasions because you find rules restrictive. When answering, explain that you broke a rule only because there was an opportunity or challenge to which you had to react quickly and the organisation would have lost out if you had not broken the rules. I have broken the rules but only because the rule was stopping me from achieving what I knew my boss wanted. I had been asked to get quotes from three companies on the costs of printing a brochure that we needed for the end of the week. I am supposed to get her to sign off expenditure over £1000, but she had been
called into a meeting. The cheapest quote came in at about £1200 but I gave them the go-ahead anyway, because otherwise we would not have had the brochures done by the end of the week.

All of us have personality defects – what is yours?
A personality defect is a very strong term and it would be prudent to avoid admitting to having any. However, you should not try to imply that you are perfect, so go on to talk about one of your minor weaknesses. I wouldn’t say that I have anything as strong as a personality
defect. However, I do have areas that I know I could improve on.
For example...

You don’t have much experience of X – how will you cope in this job?
The ‘X’ could represent just about any skill. The interviewer may have spotted from your CV that you don’t have much experience with a particular system, tool, method of working, software package, etc. that this organisation uses. Your response must reassure the interviewer that you at least have similar experience and that you learn fast. I’ve used several other similar design programmes. When I first joined my current company, I hadn’t had any experience of the Design 200 software but I found that it was sufficiently similar to other packages that I was able to get up to speed with it very quickly. I had to work a bit harder and for slightly longer hours than the rest of the team for a few weeks, but the fact that I’d not used the programme before certainly didn’t impact upon my work performance.

Do you take work home with you in the evenings or at weekends?
This is a question that tries to trap you into admitting that you are ineffective during the day and need to catch up in the evenings and at weekends. I very rarely find the need to. I prefer to get it all done in the office because you have everything that you need to hand and you can bounce ideas off colleagues.

Why did you not achieve more in your last job?
The interviewer may be trying to provoke you into reacting emotionally. Try to talk about what you did achieve rather than focusing on what you did not achieve. I don’t see achievement as solely measured by promotion up the hierarchy. It has been more important to me to be given challenging work and to be learning new skills. However, I am now ready to move on because I do feel that I could be given more responsibility as well as new challenges.

Quite frankly, I don’t think you have enough experience of…
If the interviewer expresses a concern about a skill or experience that you do actually have but he or she just does not know about, you should give an example to make it clear to the interviewer that you do possess it. However, if you do not have the required skill or experience, you would need to emphasise your willingness and ability to learn. Give an example of a related skill that you picked up very quickly.It’s true that I haven’t much experience of running workshops.But when I joined my current company, I had never given a
performance appraisal either. But I asked personnel to send me on a course and I did some reading and talking to other team leaders about it. By the end of the year, I got an award for being one of the top 10 per cent of team leaders in the company. So I do learn quickly.

How do you think your experience has prepared you to take on more
responsibility?

A good response should talk about the opportunities you have already had in your current or previous jobs to take on more responsibility. I’ve actually already had some experience of managing a restaurant. When a shift manager was sometimes unable to come to work, I was usually the one who assumed responsibility for the team. So I’d be the point of contact if customers had any complaints. I’d be the one who would order more stock, take the
cash bags to the bank, and lock up the premises last thing at night. Over the last six months alone, I’ve probably spent at least a dozen days taking on the full range of managerial responsibilities
.
Aren’t you over qualified (or have too much experience) for this job?
The employer may be worried that you might get bored of the job and move on quickly. If you agree that you are overqualified, you could try explaining that you are looking for a better work-life balance. There may have been too much travel or the hours were too long in your previous or current job. Perhaps you have family or other personal commitments that mean you want to have some stability in your working life for a few years. Or you could try arguing that you want to join a smaller company where you can feel that you have a greater impact on what goes on. Whatever you say, make sure you can state your case convincingly to
explain how you will still be committed to the job, that you’re not burnt out and looking for an opportunity to slacken off entirely. I realise on paper that this may look like a step down from being a manager to one of the team. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer the day-to-day business of graphic design to having to manage a team. I get much more enjoyment out of doing it than managing others who are doing it and that’s why I’m currently looking for jobs only as a designer rather than a design manager.

Have you ever been fired?
The best answer would be to say, ‘No’. However, if you cannot, then you will need to have good reasons why it happened. Finish by reassuring the interviewer that it was a one-time situation that will never again occur. I had a major difference of opinion with my boss. I felt that some of his practices were misleading. For example, when customers rang in with complaints, he encouraged us to lie to cover up why we hadn’t got the right products to them on time. We clashed on quite a few occasions and eventually my boss asked me to leave.
However, I’ve worked for four other bosses in my career so far and I could ask any of those other bosses for a reference and they would tell you how good I am in a team. I joined the company because I thought I would be working on lots of big, strategic projects. However, when I joined, I discovered that the job actually involved a lot of dealing with the detail and
administration. I really should have resigned but unfortunately I let it affect my motivation. As a consequence, I was asked to leave. However, I learnt my lesson and now am much more careful to understand the demands of the jobs I apply for. This job, for instance, is exactly the kind of job that would play to my strengths because it would allow me to concentrate on those broad, big picture issues.

What keeps you up at night?
In reality, most people have a combination of both personal and professional worries. However, you may want to downplay the extent to which you agonise over work-related issues. I don’t think anything keeps me up at night, to be honest. I have concerns, obviously, but for the most part I feel that I am in control of my life. At work, I want to do a good job and feel that people respect me for my work. But I wouldn’t say that these trouble me overly.

How would you rate me as an interviewer?
It would be dangerous to express your honest opinion if the interviewer is boring you or asking the wrong sorts of questions. Be diplomatic and constructive if you want to make any small criticisms. I’d rate you as a good interviewer because you’ve asked me some
fairly challenging questions that have made me work hard and really think about the answers. But at the same time you have also given me a chance to talk about my skills and experience. So yes, all round it’s been a good performance on your part.

OPENING UP CLOSED QUESTIONS
Technically, you could get away with answering only ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to closed questions. However, you will give the interviewer a much clearer picture of your skills and fit with the organisation if you continue by giving an example to explain your ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer.

Do you ever have any doubts about your ability to do the job?
Insecurity is a deeply unattractive trait in potential employees. Who wants to work with someone who needs constant reassurance? However, be careful not to sound arrogant in your response. Of course there are moments when I feel tired and frustrated. But I
can honestly say that for 99 per cent of the time, I get a real kick out of the variety, the pace, and having challenging deadlines. Keeping busy and learning new things is how I know I’m still alive.
.
Do you regard it as a weakness to lose your temper?
A ‘Yes’ could imply that no one should ever lose his or her temper. But a ‘No’ could imply that you lose your temper regularly. I can’t think of an occasion when I have personally lost my temper at work. However, I recognise that we’re all only human: it could happen to me in the future. So I try to be patient and understanding of the reasons why someone else may be angry. Consider as an alternative explaining that you sometimes feel frustrated but somehow manage to bite your tongue or otherwise calm yourself to avoid taking it out on people at work.

When was the last time you felt frustrated at work?
Try to avoid saying that you feel frustrated by other people. Perhaps talk about how some system or process at work stops you from achieving organisational goals more effectively.
I don’t really get frustrated by much. Although I do sometimes think that if we didn’t have to submit all budget applications through head office, we could save a lot of time. Having said that, I appreciate that head office wants to make sure that we are not overspending. But it is slightly frustrating that we can’t meet customers’ requests a little more quickly. However, if an interviewer insists on an example of when you last felt frustrated by another person, give a response that shows you might have felt slightly frustrated, but in no way let it affect your working relationship or your ability to do the job. I have a colleague who speaks and laughs incredibly loudly. Sometimes when we’re on the telephone with customers, I know that the customer can hear her. I don’t want the customer to think that we’re being unprofessional so I’m constantly telling my colleague to quieten down, politely of course. Various colleagues and I have mentioned it to her probably several dozen times, but she soon forgets to be quiet and becomes loud again.

Do you mind travelling much?
If you do mind having to travel, I would recommend that you keep your mouth shut until you have been offered the job and have the opportunity to negotiate exactly how much you will have to travel. But simply answering ‘No’ is not enough. It is part of the job and I am used to it. I find that I can catch up with my reading on trains. One of the reasons I’m looking to join you is the prospect of international travel. I want to experience different cultures and
learn about the different ways in which business is conducted elsewhere, so I’m really looking forward to travelling quite a bit.

Good morning. Would you like a hot drink before we start?
Not a trick question. If you would like to, then do accept a drink, as you may be talking for a few hours and need to moisten your mouth and throat. But rather than have your interviewer ask you whether you would like a drink, whether you would like milk, and how many sugars you take, simply answer the question fully in one go. For example: White coffee, two sugars, please Just a glass of water – from a tap would be fine for me, thank you.


NAVIGATING THE MINEFIELD OF ILLEGAL QUESTIONS
Legal guidelines in the last few years have specifically prohibited certain questions that have no relevance to a candidate’s ability to do the job. In theory, interviewers should not ask you about your age, ethnicity, marital status, children or childcare arrangements, birth place, your parents’ or partner’s occupation, your sexuality, membership of a trade union,
hobbies and interests outside of work, or religious beliefs. However, interviewers rarely ask illegal questions deliberately. They are more likely to be acting out of ignorance. Your choice of answer depends on how much you want the job. You may legally be entitled to refuse to
answer the question, but you could possibly embarrass the interviewer and reduce your chances of getting the job. Would you really want to try to prove discrimination in a court of law?
Consider how much you want the job. How you deal with illegal interview questions is ultimately up to you. But if you really want the job, you may want to swallow your pride and answer the question anyway.

Are you married?
Of course you want to say, ‘None of your bloody business!’ But remember that the interviewer probably doesn’t realise that he or she is asking an illegal question.
Yes, I’m married. But my other half and I have completely independent careers so please don’t think that my marital status would in any way affect my ability to do the job.
No, I’m not married. But when or if I ever get married, I can guarantee that it won’t affect my work as my career is incredibly important to me.

What happens when you decide to have children?
Interviewers sometimes assume (incorrectly) that all women want to have children and that children would automatically have an adverse effect on their motivation or ability to work.
Actually, I have no plans of having children. I don’t see myself needing children to be fulfilled.
I don’t plan on having children for at least five more years, because I have certain career goals that I would like to achieve before I’m 35. I have no current plans to have children. In any case, I wouldn’t want a family to slow my career down. I’ve decided that I want to be a partner in a firm within five years.

Are you pregnant at the moment?
While you do not legally have to disclose the answer to this question, you may want to answer truthfully anyway. An employer could make your life very difficult for you if you lied when you knew that you were expecting a child. I hope you don’t mind, but I’d rather not answer that question. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m afraid I don’t quite
see the relevance to my ability to do the job. Yes, I am pregnant. But I hope you will be able to treat me as just another candidate and allow me to demonstrate precisely why I have the right skills for this job.

Does your husband/wife/family mind you being away from home?
The fact that you are married should not affect your willingness to travel. However, avoid getting into a lengthy debate about it and just answer the question in a positive fashion.
I have always travelled extensively as part of my work – in fact I enjoy it – so my marital status really shouldn’t be a cause for concern for you. I’m not married, so this isn’t a problem.

What hobbies and interests do you have outside of work?
In theory, an interviewer should not ask you about what you do outside of your work. The legal guidelines say that it shouldn’t matter whether you spend all of your leisure time slouched in front of the television or working with charities. The only thing that should matter is your ability to do the job. However, if you do want to answer the question, try to pick activities that imply you are the kind of person this organisation would want to hire. For example, if the role requires lots of team working, then talking about solitary pursuits such as playing the guitar or going on country walks by yourself could give the wrong impression.
Avoid talking about your family excessively as this may give the interviewer the impression that you may not be willing to work long hours when necessary. Mentioning activities to do with your faith or religion has unfortunately also been known to turn some interviewers off.
Quite a few of my colleagues at work are also my friends outside of work. So we like to have the occasional drink/meal out/game of football together. I’m a keen photographer. I find that looking for interesting photos to take gives me a fresh outlook on life, something that probably helps me to stay more open-minded about opportunities at work too.

Do you play any competitive sports?
Some interviewers believe that candidates who play team sports are also more likely to be good team players in the workplace. But even if you do not play a team sport, it is still better to talk about some form of exercise that you engage in than nothing at all. Some interviewers worry that people who enjoy sitting around doing nothing in their leisure time might also sit around doing nothing in their work time too. I play five-a-side football at the weekends. I find that it helps me to think about the strengths and weaknesses of different people and it helps me to be a better team player. I don’t play any competitive sports, but I do go jogging at least
twice a week. I find that regular exercise gives me more energy in my life and my work.

Do you have any problems with relocating?
If relocation is necessary for the job, you should hopefully already have picked this up in your research. However, if the question comes as a complete shock to you in the interview, try to respond in a way that allows you to play for time. I didn’t realise that relocation would be required for this job, but I have to say that I am very keen to join the company from what I
have seen and heard about it so far. So, depending on the right package, relocation would not be a problem.

This job requires you to work on a Saturday/Sunday – does that cause any
conflict with your religion?

Hopefully you will already have ascertained from your research before the interview that you might have to work on certain days. So if you decided to press ahead with the interview, you should be able to simply say: Not at all.

Does your religion mean you will need to take more holidays than other
employees?

If you must take certain religious holidays, explain that you will take these as part of your annual leave entitlement. No. There will be times of the year that I might ideally like to take
off. But I’ll follow the company’s guidelines on the matter and apply for time off just like any other employee.

Do you mind if I ask what your partner does for a living?
Perhaps the interviewer wants to know whether your partner has a demanding job that might cause problems with childcare. Or perhaps the interviewer is alluding to your sexuality. In either case, this is an illegal question although you may still wish to answer it, albeit in a tangential fashion. My partner has a demanding career in the airline industry. But I am my own person so what I hope to impress upon you is my ability to do the job on my own merits.
Remember that illegal questions are more often asked out of ignorance on the interviewer’s part than a deliberate desire to cause offence. In deciding how you will respond to the question, ask yourself, How badly do I want the job?


IN SUMMARY
# Remember that there are many untrained, unskilled interviewers who can ask questions that bear little relation to the job. However, put up with their sometimes strange questions by smiling and trying to turn them to your advantage.
# Aim to give short examples that showcase one of your skills or a personal quality in every answer you give.
# Control your emotions or any anger you may feel when you are asked an illegal question. In the vast majority of cases, the interviewer is asking the question out of ignorance, so you must tread carefully in order not to make them feel uncomfortable.