Tag Archives: job interviews

How to deal with interview traps

bear trap

Questions that are really interview traps can kill your chances

Thumb screws and the iron maiden are no longer considered proper interview tools. Nasty traps are rarely set for candidates.  The most common snare is a reasonable question or a pause that becomes the killing moment in an interview.  We’ll talk about pauses another day.

Reasonable questions that are dangerous include:

  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What do we have to pay you to get you to work here?
  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • Are you willing to do anything necessary to get the job done?
  • Where else are you interviewing?

When you get a dangerous question you should answer it accurately.  That doesn’t mean you need to go into a lot of detail.  Over the next few day we’ll touch on each one of these questions.  For now, remember to be brief.

Any one of these questions can bring out old job wounds.  Job wounds are things that happened at a previous job that you are afraid will happen again.  Get over them. This is a new company.  Don’t yell, whine or complain about the past.  If you have to mention something that is ugly, state the fact in one short sentence and stop.  Don’t explain.  Don’t fill in the details. Let your interviewer assume what he wants. You will find that their imagination is often more generous to you if you are extremely brief and only mention facts.

The secret to avoiding interview traps is to prepare an answer in advance.  Use that answer and avoid going into areas that are painful for you. Brevity is a key.

If all the world’s a stage, I want to operate the trap door. (Beatty)

Something To Do Today

Write down a one sentence answer to each of the questions above.  Next week compare those answers to the guidelines for each question.


Next:     Pregnant pauses

Later:              What are your weaknesses?

What do we have to pay you?

Why are you leaving your job?

Will you do anything we ask?

Where else are you interviewing?


What to ask in the interview – the 4 best questions

Contributor, hard working, excited and interested will get you a job. Greedy, lazy, bored and distracted will get you shown the door out.

Excellent questions are a way to show the difference between you and the other candidates.  You need to ask questions that show you will take some of the burden off of the hiring manager.  You must show your great attitude with your questions.

“What do you see as the greatest contribution I can make to my team here?” is a winner.

“What problems will I be helping to solve in this job?” works.

“What burden can I take off of your back in my first 3 months?” will be a relief.

“How will my performance be evaluated in one year’s time when I take this job?” is a great question.

Let them know you will be trying to meet their expectations.  Open up a conversation on what is really expected of you.

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.  (Twain)

Do you get the idea?  You need to ask questions that show the ways you can contribute and start taking away some of your new boss’s headaches.


Something To Do Today

Before your next job interview or pay review, make a list of questions that show your desire, interest and motivation.


Next:              How early do I get there?

Later:              Good manners

How to be memorable in a job interview beauty contest

I can only remember one Miss America winner.  She had a bold nose, played a lap harp like a rock instrument, and her family spent 3 years in South America as missionaries.  That was Charlene Wells.

Charlene was different, really different in a few big ways.  She won without getting a nose job.  It was the first time she had entered a beauty contest.  She wanted to win, but didn’t obsess about it.

Charlene was practically odd in those things.

Job interviews are often beauty contests.  If there are more than 3 people being interviewed, 2 could do the job.  If there are 10 people being interviewed, there will be at least 5 who could fill the position.

So how do you get picked?  You have to be memorable in a lot of good ways.

What is different about you and your background? School grades, hobbies, the network in your basement and that you wore a nice suit may make you stand out.  That you sold out the High School Yearbook ads in one month by yourself or you lived in a cave in college will be even more memorable.

Make sure your interviewer observes how you are different.  Don’t rub their face in it, but be different.  Give them a couple of personal tidbits to remember you by. Distinguish yourself from the herd. It could be that you have 5 brothers, raise rabbits, or love dogs. Yes, it may even be that you are incredibly qualified.  Something about you must be memorable or you will be an also ran.

Want to really stand out?  Send two thank you notes to everyone you interviewed with.  Send one email as soon as you get home.  Send another thank you on paper.

Being grateful for an interview will set you apart.  Two days later when they get the paper thank you, it reminds them who you are. 

So you have a lot of competition?  Chances are slim?  Grab the opportunity by the throat and be memorable in a nice way.


Something To Do Today

Make a list of things that are noticeably different about you in a good way.  Be sure personal notes of interest are on the list.  Get some help from your friends and family.