“At some point during this interview, I’m going to ask a particular question. Your answer will be the largest factor in determining whether or not you get this job.”30 nerve-racking minutes later…
“Now comes the question I mentioned earlier. Tell me something you’ve never told anybody before”.
What would you say? Getting caught in a lie is a virtually guaranteed rejection. But any honest answer is likely to be something that will reflect badly.
This brain-tangler was encountered by a client, interviewing for a senior position at a famous software company. He declined to answer; saying that, although he enjoyed chatting with the interviewer, they had only just met and he didn’t feel close enough to disclose secrets. It was a fair response which showed courage and integrity. He was offered the job.
He later discovered that this was a favourite tactic of the interviewer, who would regularly see senior candidates break down in tears, confide their deepest secrets, and even confess to crimes.
The purpose of leftfield questions is precisely to be outrageous.
Interviewers want to see the real person – the one they’ll work with every day. So, questions must be unexpected enough to shove even the most prepped and polished candidate outside their comfort zone.
The ideal response is not to get thrown by looking for the ‘right answer’, but to be honest, to demonstrate how you think and to let your personality show.
Jay Scott is a consultant on the FreshMinds Talent Interim team