Things can get unpleasant if you go unprepared for a job interview. A string of tricky questions are enough to let your confidence dip. To make the most of your meeting with your potential employers, you will need to make the right impression and position yourself as an asset, rather than a jittery, confused candidate with no clear vision in life.
Yes, not everyone has spontaneity and gift of the gab but it's possible to keep awkward silences and outrageous responses at bay by spending some time thinking about how you can smartly negotiate some of the frequently asked tricky questions and why they are asked.
Here are a few:
What is the wildest thing you have ever done in life?
The idea behind this question is to test your determination, passion and the ability to take risks. It also gives a person a peek into your personality. Rather than creating a fictional situation, be upfront in tackling this. For instance, if you like to explore the world, the wild thing could be taking off on a spontaneous backpacking trip on a shoestring budget.
How would you sell this pen/chair/vase?
An interviewer might pick up an object close at hand to see if a person can think on his/her feet. It's also used for people applying for a marketing or sales position. It can determine if a person can see a USP even in mundane, everyday objects and deliver a sales pitch in a convincing manner.
If someone were to fulfil three of your top wishes, what would you ask for?
Be careful not to come across as a myopic and self-centred person. Yes, a million dollar in your bank account might sound like a great concept in your head but if all your answers revolve around you living the quintessential good life, you run the risk of being regarded as selfish. So, a balanced stance always scores better. Find out the one cause that's close to your heart and meditate upon how you can make life worthwhile for people around - a wish that basically intends at creating larger good - and make it a point to talk about it without sounding pompous. The answer will also give the interviewer a chance to see if there's an overlap between the company's philosophy and that of the candidate's.
What are some of your biggest weaknesses?
This can throw you off guard because it's natural to want to highlight only your strengths in an interview. When faced with this, a modest and honest appraisal of your shortcomings always helps. Try and find a way to project your strength into a weakness - give them a positive spin. For instance, if you take pride in being a good leader, with great communication skills, your weakness could be calling a spade a spade. You can admit that you find it difficult to mince your words when consulted for a feedback.
What will you bring to the table if we hire you?
Remember, this is not an opportunity to boast. The interviewer is looking at understanding your individual merits and how effectively you understand the job responsibilities. The panel is also looking to gauge how well you can match your skill sets to the job profile. So, systematically dwell on your positives and explain how you can add value to the organisation. Describe the colour red to a blind person.
Meant to test your creativity, this question is more common than you think. You can use an embossed font that you think best brings out the feeling that red as a colour conveys. You can say that its energy lends it to a wide range of interpretations where it stands for love as well as signifying danger.
What would you do if you were the last survivor of a plane crash?
Rummaging through the luggage to find survival supplies, finding help, taking a moment to count your blessings, finding human habitation close by, checking if there are Wi-Fi signals on the phone… the replies can wary from practical to witty to outright quirky.
Give us an example of how you tackled a crisis situation. Unexpected setbacks are likely in every business enterprise. So, being able to fire-fight effectively and deal with a crisis without passing the buck is obviously a winning quality.
So, demonstrate by example. Times when you met an unrealistic deadline, led a team through a difficult phase, took a difficult step, decided to take a call on something unethical, all qualify as crunch situations that require great troubleshooting skills. Be armed with concrete examples from your college/previous workplace.
Why did you decide to quit your last job?
A strict no-no here is badmouthing your previous employers or saying that you didn't get along with your previous boss/manager. Saying that you were looking for more exposure or that you were dismayed by the lack of growth opportunities at the old office, however, are acceptable reasons.
If given an option, would you retire now?
The worst thing to say to this would be: Yes, if I had enough money. The question is particularly targeted at understanding your opinions about life, money, ambition and ultimate life goals. By taking the other extreme and saying that money isn't the motivator at all, you might end up getting yourself a raw deal. Worse still, it might raise suspicion on your sense of achievement and ambition.
So, the best way to dodge this will be to say that you've picked up a line of work you're passionate about and would want to keep making a contribution, in whatever way possible, till you can in life. Say that money is important to you but it is by no means the only motivator.
(The writer is Vice-President, Human Resources, Pepper Tap)