Last week, the media was hit with articles professing to know the “10 toughest interview questions” of all time, rendering offices everywhere pensive, interviewers inspired, and jobseekers mildly nauseous. We all like to think we’d be ready for any interview, poised, brimming with knowledge and somewhere on the spectrum of a highly caffeinated cross between Legally Blonde and Rain Man. So how do potential employers catch us off guard? How best to respond to questions designed to catch you out? And, when the going gets tough, “WWBSD?” What would BlueSky do?
As hard as it may be at times to believe, difficult interview questions aren’t there to induce panic attacks or encourage comfort eating, but to test your responses and intelligence, even if your answer is not always completely right. Our very own Steph Mullins has written before on the simple power of, “I don’t know” in an interview, and how the way you answer a question can be of more importance than the answer itself. Even broadcast interviewers cite the importance of catching your interviewee off-guard in order to bypass rehearsed answers and see through to the real person. So bear this in mind when you next walk in to an interview: yes, the person across the table from you may be trying to catch you out but what they’re really doing is giving you an opportunity to shine that you wouldn’t necessarily have had if they just asked you whether you have any experience in efficient filing systems.
Here are some key interview points illustrated by BlueSky’s take on the “10 toughest interview questions”:
Think your answers through:
What cartoon character would you be and why?
Asked at Asda, administrative assistant candidate
“I would say Eustace Baggage, from Courage the cowardly dog – the 2000 American cartoon.
“Eustace is a stubborn old man that is usually bossy to everyone around him except for his mother, Ma Bagge” – now I could get used to that.
Of course, in an interview I would feel compelled to choose a more positive character, like the Dog, Courage, as I cannot see my first answer going down too well...” – Alexandra Dobocan
What was your opinion of the film The Blair Witch Project?
Asked at Jefferies & Company, data analyst candidate
“It shook up a tired genre, subverted the trend for comedic ‘slasher’ parody and paved the way for a new generation of scary films where uncertainty and a lack of action was central to the film’s appeal. It was also the first film I watched from behind the sofa since the evil Queen in Snow White terrified me as a 6 year old….” – Ian Hawkings
Don’t betray a lack of research into the interviewer’s company:
How many calories are there in a supermarket?
Asked at Google, product manager candidate
“Hang on, let me just ask Cortana” – Natalie Bishop
Be passionate and not afraid to express your opinions:
Is Batman a superhero?
Asked at AlphaSights, support engineer candidate
“Yes, it says so on Wiki! ‘Batman is a fictional superhero who appears in American comic books published by DC Comics’.” – Belinda Harris
Although, from the other side of the office:
“I’m going to have to strongly disagree with Belinda on this one. The definition of a superhero is “a type of heroic character possessing extraordinary talents, supernatural phenomena, or superhuman powers and dedicated to protecting the public,” I would argue that he only does the last. Therefore he’s not a superhero, just a rich man with too much time on his hands” – Bruce Callander
Be confident and charismatic but not conceited
What would you take to a lonely island with you?
Asked at Urban Outfitters, sales assistant candidate
“A highly-attuned sense of survival and even better reflexes.” – Natalie Bishop
Honesty is always the best policy:
What is the wildest thing that you have done?
Asked at Metro Bank, teller candidate
"It would have to be between pulling Excalibur from the stone and inventing Times New Roman." - Natalie Bishop
And lastly, always try to make thought-provoking points:
How would you sell a fridge to an Eskimo?
Asked at Harrods, temporary sales associate candidate
“Relocate them to Middle East. It’ll sell itself” – Adrian Barrett