No matter how much you prepare for a job interview there will be moments when you will be asked an unexpected question that can feel awkward. And when you start to feel uncomfortable or unsure, you can fumble with your answers. So before you get into the hot seat, it’s good to know what some of the most common awkward questions job interviewers ask, and how you can handle them with grace.
1. Why Did You Leave Your Last Company Or Why Are You Leaving Your Current Company?
What they want to know: Were you let go, and if you were was it because of performance or integrity issues? If you resigned from your last job they will want to know if it was for a good reason or just on a whim. This test how professional, responsible, loyal, and reliable you are.
How to answer: Your reasons can be because you couldn’t stand your misogynist boss or because your kids’ tuition is getting more expensive, but it is advisable not to reveal anything personal or financial as the basis of your decision to leave. This can question your professionalism. It’s best to say anything related to making a professional transition, like you want to try a new challenge or you want to join an industry that is more suited to your abilities.
2. Why Are There So Many Gaps In Your Resume?
What they want to know: Are you stable and reliable? Are the gaps caused by difficulty in finding employment or because you’re just lazy or have no plans for career growth? While you were unemployed were you doing something that supports your job objectives?
How to answer: If it was due to illness, unemployment, or personal reasons, avoid stating that because it can be viewed negatively. Instead, consider everything that you were doing at that time and find a way to tie them to your career goals (like doing independent study or volunteer work). But if you can’t tie it to job objectives, then state something positive that you were doing, like ‘personal travel’ or ‘family management’. Don’t lie because it will just worsen the situation.
3. Don’t You Think You Are Overqualified For The Job?
What they want to know: Don’t misunderstand this as a way to talk you out of the job. Most likely, they already know you are overqualified for the job and they’re interested in you. But they want to know why you want this job when you are qualified for a more desirable position. Will you get bored with the job and move on? Could you be having difficulty finding jobs for positions you are equally qualified for or could you have exaggerated a bit in your resume about your qualifications?
How to answer: Avoid bragging or playing down your accomplishments. Assure the employer that you are genuinely interested in the position and will give the same commitment and professionalism you gave to your previous job. Try to highlight other factors that attracted you to their job opening, like the values or culture of the company or the thrill of being part of a start-up. Whatever your reasons make sure to be clear about them.
4. Do You Have Kids Or Are You Planning To Have Children?
What they want to know: A lot of interviewees can find this question too personal and some might even point out that it is illegal and discriminating. Just try to keep in mind that what the interviewers might really be getting at is if there will be any personal commitments outside of work that could affect your performance. They want to know if you can commit enough time to ensure you will be successful in your job.
How to answer: Most interviewers avoid this question, but maybe the inexperienced HR was the one interviewing you and you do get asked this question. Try to rephrase the question and tactfully redirect it towards your interest the job. You can say something like “Perhaps you’re asking if I can handle the long hours or how focused I can be on my work. I can assure you that I am very committed to my career and adhere to a very strict work ethic, regardless of my personal life. Maybe you can tell me more about the career paths in your company?”
5. Do You Have Any Questions For Me?
What they want to know: Did you do your homework about the company? Were you paying attention during the interview. How interested are you really in this job and in growing with this company?
How to answer: Most job applicants are so caught up in preparing answers for questions they’ll be asked that they get caught completely off guard by this question. As a job applicant, it is expected that you do enough research on the company and assess if it is a good fit for your career goals. Prepare questions that can help you learn more about the culture and values of the company. You can ask the interviewer about the working environment or where the company is headed. This shows that you have critical thinking.
If you were a fruit, what would you be? If you had a super power, what would it be? What is your theme song? These types of questions may seem silly or used just as ice breakers at the start of an interview. But they are actually ways for the interviewee to test your creativity and to determine how well you know yourself. So try to think out of the box and even relate your answer to work. For example, if you are asked what animal you are, you might say you’re an owl because you are wise, observant, and calm. If you are faced with a problem at work, you will take the time to properly assess the issue, find helpful solutions, and won’t allow your emotions to get the best of you even during stressful times.
How To Handle Any Awkward Question During a Job Interview:
- Do your homework and find out ahead of time what other questions could be asked and how to properly answer.
- Don’t let your nerves get the best of you. If you need time to think about your answer then don’t rush.
- Make clarifications, especially for tricky questions. This will help ensure you give a targeted response.
- Always remain calm and tactful even when faced with annoying, silly, and even offensive questions. There is still a professional way to respond to rude interviewers. Remember that the way you respond to any situation is a reflection of your character.