Job interviews: Nobody likes them, but they inevitably stand between you and your dream job.
Unfortunately, “What’s your greatest weakness?” is no longer the only hard-to-answer question hiring managers will throw your way.
New techniques, designed to do everything from measure your ability to handle criticism in the moment to downright intimidate you, are now being wielded more frequently by HR managers.
Life and Career Coach Anna Goldstein, founder of SelfintheCity.com, walks you through eight curveball interview techniques you might encounter, and the best way to ace each one.
1. Subtle Scare Tactics
It’s not just in your head: Your potential future boss did not smile at you. And if she’s using intimidation techniques in an interview, she might wait a few beats after you answer a question before responding to what you’ve said.
“These are all external distractions over which you have no control,” says Goldstein, “but what you can do is control how you react.”
First, realize that she’s trying to destabilize you, likely to see how you behave under pressure. To counteract her approach, anchor your feet to the floor and take a deep breath before you answer each question slowly and calmly. The goal is not to let these scare tactics intimidate you, so beware that you’re not playing with your hair, fiddling with your jewelry or shifting from foot to foot, all classic signs of anxiety.
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Then, tune into your feelings, and ask yourself if you like the environment or whether you could see yourself working at the company (or for a boss who likes to keep you off-balance). Remember, job interviews are a two-way street–-it’s also an opportunity to see if the company and the position would be a good fit for you.
2. “Stress” Interviews
You’re probably thinking, “Aren’t all interviews stressful”? But stress interviews are a different breed. They could include an interviewer suddenly lobbing an oddball question like, “If you were to get rid of one state in the U.S., which would it be and why?”
Your interviewer might also start rapid-fire questioning or adopt an aggressive or argumentative attitude. And the degree of stress applied will vary: A mildly stressful question might be: “What makes you think you’re qualified for this job when you’ve had minimal relevant experience?” In the most x-treme versions, you might have to react to a response like: “That’s the worst answer to that question any candidate has given.”
What to do? First, don’t just write off the interviewer as a total jerk. Consider that job candidates can predict most interview questions and have a prepared response for each one; by resorting to bizarre questions and comments like the above, they want to see how the “real” you reacts to something.
And, perhaps more important than what you answer is the fact that you’re being assessed on your creativity, your ability to think on your feet and your capacity for handling criticism. Your mantra? Grace under fire.
If you find yourself in this situation, relax. Consider it a challenge—and a chance to impress your potential employer. If you get choked up, take a deep breath and collect your thoughts. It’s better to have a moment of silence than rush into an answer. And above all, don’t become defensive; instead, act professional. Your confidence and composure are sure to impress.