10 Job Interview Questions That Are Meant to Trick You

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Can you outsmart an interviewer? Hiring teams ask challenging questions that sound riddled with tricks. While these questions aren’t meant to deceive you, companies ask them to gain better insight into your candidacy. Here are ten interview questions demystified and un-riddled.

1. How would you describe yourself in one word?

The Trick: They want insight into your personality, but one word doesn’t offer much space to do that! Often this question gets asked early on in the interview when they are still forming their first impressions of you.

How to Reply: Take this one with caution and stay conservative. Words like levelheaded, upbeat, honest, reliable, and dedicated are appropriate.

2. Do you know anyone who works for us?

The Trick: Most people think knowing someone on the inside is a good thing. After all, who better to hand your resume to the hiring team than someone working for them? But hiring personnel tend to connect your character and work ethic with the person you know. Assuming the person who already works there is great they will associate you with great, but if it is anything less than positive, this answer could sway the interviewer’s feelings towards you. So really, they want to know “What is your reputation?”

How to Reply: Be truthful. If you do know someone and you know they’re well-liked within the organization, mention that you know them. If you know someone and you’re not sure if they’re well-liked, you can say you know them, but don’t talk up their work reputation like you would with someone who is crushing it professionally. And if you don’t know anyone, of course say no.

3. How did you prepare for this interview?

The Trick: Really companies want to know, “Do you want to be here?” Did you truly invest time learning about us before interviewing? They want to see that you aren’t just winging it and going through the motions of an interview.

How to Reply: “I learned…” then say what you discovered about their company. Show them how you prepared.

4. What bugs you about your co-workers and bosses?

The Trick: When you hear this one alarm bells need to go off in your head because it’s a trap! Hiring personnel use this question to learn how you get along with others and if you may put a damper on their work place and morale.

How to Reply: Take the opportunity to pause and say, “I don’t recall anything specific.” As an added bonus, state a few positives about past bosses and employees to show them your positive attitude.

5. Why have you been out of work for so long, and how many others were laid off?

The Trick: If you’ve been out of work for a while, what this question really asks is, “Why were you laid off or why are you unemployed?” Interviewers need to know if there is something about you that other co-workers or companies already figured out that they need to avoid.

How to Reply: Joyce Lain Kennedy, a nationally syndicated careers columnist and author of Job Interviews For Dummies advises responding with, “I don’t know the reason. I was an excellent employee who gave more than a day’s work for a day’s pay,” to avoid getting caught in an emotional response or any misinterpretation.

6. Where do you really want to work?

The Trick: Companies want to know if you truly seek this job or are just applying to any open job opportunity.

How to Reply: “This is where I want to work, and where I want to be.”

7. Can you describe how you solved a problem at work?

The Trick: Most people expect this question in an interview but can’t think of something on the fly. Interviewers just want a glimpse into how your mind works.

How to Reply: Practice this one beforehand and come up with a few examples to avoid tripping up.

8. Can you describe a work instance where you messed up?

The Trick: This one is layers on layers of trickery. Here, they are asking:

  1. Do you learn from your mistakes?And
  2. Do you take responsibility for your failings?

How to Reply: Give one work failure example that you learned from to show them how you grow from mistakes.

9. How does this position compare to others you’re applying for?

The Trick: With this one, interviewers gather info on the current job market and what it will take to get you on board.

How to Reply: Either, you adopt a policy of not interviewing and telling, replying with, “I don’t discuss other interviews. Thank you for understanding.” The alternative is making yourself in demand by saying, “I have received a competitive offer and want to see what other opportunities are available before making a decision.” Under no circumstances make up an offer just to appear sought-after.

10. If you won the lottery, would you still work?

The Trick: This one is a little silly. Yet, what hiring companies focus on with this is your motivation and work ethic.

How to Reply: “Winning the lottery would be amazing. I still would want to find meaningful work because achieving and growing from work challenges brings me joy.”


This article was written Danielle Beatty.

Danielle Beatty is a copy writing intern at Nexxt. She brings her experience of exploring for the right job to help job seekers in searching for their next opportunity. She enjoys coffee, music and writing whenever she gets the chance.

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