I was asked some tricky job-interview questions that left me blank. How should I have answered these: Tell me the differences between you and your brother? What are the qualities you would change in your father? What was the greatest setback in your life and how did you deal with it?
The first two questions are dumb. And just because a question is asked doesn’t mean you have to answer it, or at least exactly as asked. With all questions you need to understand what it is they are actually trying to find out about you. I wouldn’t say that a question is stupid, but I would say what is more relevant is what defines you, and talk about that. With the second question, I’d say something such as “more relevant are the qualities that would make me a great hire, many of which were inspired by my dad,” and talk about yourself, your qualities and how you’ve applied them. The last question is about how you overcome challenges and doesn’t mean you have to pick anything personal. Explain how you react under adversity and show resilience.
I am starting an internship next week. I didn’t get one with the company I wanted because it is so competitive but was told that I was a strong candidate. Well, that company just called and said a slot opened up for me. My dad says I have to honor my commitments; Mom says I can’t pass up a great opportunity. What say you?
Oh, like this wasn’t hard enough — now I am going to upset Mom or Dad too? They are both right (be patient and don’t roll your eyes). Being true to your word is something you want to be known for. That doesn’t mean you have to rigidly stick with every decision you make. High-character professionals occasionally back out of commitments. If it happens a lot it’s bad, but if it is rare, it can be understood. If your heart is set on the other company, and it is more aligned with your career, I can understand and forgive the last-minute switch as an exception. Notify the company that thinks you are starting there immediately, be honest about the reason, and be prepared to possibly burn that bridge.
Gregory Giangrande is a chief human resources and communications officer in the media industry. E-mail your career questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Greg on Twitter: @greggiangrande. His Go to Greg podcast series is available on itunes