Interviewing for a new job is one of the most frightening things you’ll do all year. This Halloween, we’ve sifted through some of the scariest interview questions you’re likely to face and come up with some expert tips for tackling them.
1. “Tell me about yourself.”
This questions strikes fear in all who hear it. Even though nearly every interview starts off with this question, it’s always nerve-wracking to answer when you know this will be the first impression you make on the interviewer. Research the position and the company so you’ll be prepared to frame your experience in a way that shows you have the skills for the job, but remember not to make this sound too scripted.
DO: Focus on your professional background and be succinct.
DON’T: Share your life story or go through your resume line-by-line.
2. “What is your greatest weakness?”
This question has become cliché, but employers still ask it. Definitely don’t respond to this with the equally clichéd, “I’m a perfectionist” or “I work too hard.” Employers ask this because they want to gauge your self-awareness. Now is not the time to humblebrag.
DO: Show that you’re aware of your weakness(es) and have taken steps toward overcoming them.
DON’T: Mention a weakness that is a core competency of the job.
3. “Why have you been out of work for so long?”
Being asked to explain an employment gap can be panic-inducing, and, if you’ve been unemployed for a significant amount of time, this question can start to feel like a personal attack. Remember to breathe and understand that the employer is trying to get an idea of how fresh your skills are and why this is the right job for you when returning to the workforce after a break.
DO: Give an honest answer that still positions you as a strong candidate for the job.
DON’T: Lie, make excuses, or indicate that you’re desperate for a job.
4. “Why should I hire you?”
We’ve talked about the best way to answer this one before. The key thing to remember here is that your answer to this question needs to be different from your answers to “Tell me about yourself” or “What are your greatest strengths.” This is your chance to stand out from other candidates and you won’t do that by restating what’s listed on your resume.
DO: Be specific about what makes you unique and how you can help the organization achieve its goals.
DON’T: Just reiterate things you’ve already said at another point in the interview.
5. “What are your salary requirements?”
This is an uncomfortable question with high stakes. Don’t wait until you’re asked to think about your answer. Making a split-second decision is not a good way to start a salary discussion that will have a big impact on your future. Research the average salary for professionals in your industry and region, and understand your personal financial needs and your bottom line. Remember: It’s best to find out what range the employer is working within first, before giving your own number.
DO: Provide a salary range that you would be comfortable within rather than a specific number, and understand the benefits package offered.
DON’T: Get into a detailed salary negotiation before you have a formal offer of employment.
6. “Do you have kids?”
Or “Are you married?” Or “What country are you from?” Not only are these questions frighteningly personal, they’re also illegal. Questions about your marital status, national origin, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and disabilities are off-limits and illegal to ask in an interview. If you find yourself facing inappropriate interview questions, evaluate whether the interviewer is simply ignorant of the law or deliberately discriminating. Think about whether you would still be comfortable working for the organization in light of the situation and whether you still wish to continue with the interview. If you believe you have been unfairly discriminated against, you can file charges with the US EEOC.
DO: Let the interviewer know that you believe their question is inappropriate and/or illegal. Politely decline to answer and, if you are still interested in continuing with the interview, ask to move on to the next inquiry.
DON’T: Lie, and don’t feel that you need to discuss anything you don’t feel comfortable sharing.
7. “If you were an animal, which one would you be?”
Or “How many traffic lights are there in Manhattan?” Don’t be alarmed by off-the-wall interview questions. Interviewers sometimes use psychological questions or “wildcards” to see if you can think quickly and find out how you solve problems. Remember that there isn’t a “right” answer here. You just need to demonstrate thoughtfulness and agility.
DO: Take a (brief) moment to understand the question before answering, and explain why you answered the way you did.
DON’T: Give a one-word answer or ask to skip this question.
There are hundreds of other frightening interview questions out there, some even scarier than these. What’s the most terrifying interview question you’ve ever been asked?