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The Perils of Traditional Interview Questions and Ways to Deal with them

Feb 13 2017

As jobseekers, we have always been at the giving end. It is always us to be answering some of the terrible traditional HR questions. Yes, some modern hiring managers may ask the interviewee, “So, do you have any questions for me?” And that sounds as if, it is better if you don’t. Sometimes, an interviewee too is either not confident or is reluctant to ask anything. In such cases, these hiring managers are just lucky.
The Perils of Traditional Interview Questions and Ways to Deal with them
Okay, before I proceed further, this article that I am writing is not meant for those who badly need just any job. This is for the ones with long term career building intention.

An Interview to Remember

Today, I’ll share my experience of an interview with a Fortune 500 firm. Since it is the experience that matters, let’s not name the organization. I hope you’ll benefit from my experience in terms of not letting the interviewer be too intimidating.

It is the eighth round of interview. I am already employed but the lure of working with a Fortune 500 overpowers anything. The scope of learning from industry leaders can never be compensated even with a permanent, high designation, well-paying job with a smaller company.

Job Hopping

The interviewer is an interesting woman. On meeting her, I greet her with big smile and take the seat. She appears very happy and charming, as if ready for the kill. The interview begins and she asks, “Tell me why have you been job hopping? This seems to be your sixth or seventh company. It only reflects how unsettled you are!” I answer, “Well, they say never to miss an opportunity, so I kept the doors open and opportunities kept coming. In fact, they didn’t just visit for a while, they stayed as long as I wanted them, till the next opportunity came my way.”

Being Closed to Learning

My answer causes her discomfort. She wears her coat of defense and asks her next question, “I see you are very closed to learning. How do you intend to grow?” “Well, I guess the fact that I am able to talk to you and respond to your thoughtful questions is because of my readiness which is not possible if I am closed to learning.”

Being Defensive

“You are headstrong, aren’t you? What makes you so defensive?” the senior vice president asks. In my heart, she is already a waste of the company’s branding image. I answer, “What happens if tomorrow our competitor (imagining I am already employed) questions our branding eminence? Would you attack them or build a strong internal and external defense to alleviate the impact of such assault? Or, for example, if you have a wound, won’t you expect our body to build a defense against the antibodies or would you let it fester? I guess, It’s great to have the knowledge of defense, it’ll be instrumental in company’s reputation management.”

Greatest Weakness


Now, she seems to be pretty irritated and cannot stand my head long answers. Linda, two more questions for you, “What’s your greatest weakness? and What do you know about our company?” “Weakness? Well, we, as in neither you nor I are free from weaknesses. I go weak in the knees at Eagle Boy’s chocolate pizza and Hyderabadi Dum Biriyani.” She corrects me, “No, I mean WEAKNESS!” “Sorry, but I think this is asking too much. Why would you want to know about my weaknesses unless you have some dubious plans?” I wonder, why is she putting up with so much of me? “So you think not knowing about the company can be your weakness?” “No. I have done as much homework needed for me to understand where I am headed. Everything’s there on the internet along with some videos that talk about the organization’s culture and inclusivity. But if you expect me to talk about your everyday operations, I am sure you have induction programmes and new hire meetings likely to inform us about everything.”

“Okay, Linda. It’s just because of the management, I… ” I smile and take a leave.

The Offer

Next week, I am given the offer letter. My work station just opposite to her sad face. I look her up on LinkedIn, and find that she has spent maximum a year with each company. As a B-School fellow, she directly landed with a senior role and heavy compensation. But Interestingly, soon after a month of my joining, she leaves the company to join the competitor with a package that’ll help her upgrade her Audi to the latest one in the market.

Story Short

  1. Don’t let your prospective employer or hiring manager dictate you.
  2. If there are plenty of people to hire, the job market today wouldn’t be facing crises. So, you are important!
  3. No need to talk about your weaknesses or anything that’s very personal to you unless you know what you are doing.
  4. To “What do you know about our company?” question, take this, “Yes, that’s something I wanted to learn more about apart from what’s on the internet and your competitors are talking about. Please tell me. Also if you may define my roles and responsibilities and how I can give better.”
  5. Wear a confidence that doesn’t show the number of washes you have put it through. It is certainly not the end of the tunnel.
  6. And never, never lose your cool. Be polite, be thoughtful, say what you have to and let it go. It’ll come back if you if it is wise enough to not miss you!

Linda Ashok is a corporate professional with 10 years of work experience with Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 companies namely IBM, ADP, Bank of America and Deloitte US-India. Currently she heads communications at CEIPAL LLC. For more: