College prepared me for a lot of things like handling extreme, prolonged stress and how to survive six months off $500. Yet my professors, advisors, and fellow frat party enthusiasts did nothing to equip me with the skills I needed to tackle job interviews.
I’ve done a lot of interviews in the few months since graduation. Some went well, some were crap-shoots from the start, but all felt like navigating a minefield. I’ve decided to start accumulating a Q&A sheet of the questions I’ve been asked that were never in those ‘25 Questions to Expect At Your Interview’ articles.
1. If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
I’ll start with this one, as it was part of the most recent interview I had. The position was in sales for a consulting agency. When the interviewer (a nice man who looked like a ex-pro wrestler) asked this, I felt my eyes pop. Excuse me? Is this some ‘get to know your new BF/GF better’ questionair? For an insane second I felt insulted. Here I was trying to find a way to support myself, pay my bills, and finally get my parents to stop looking at me with pity/disappointment and you want to know my childhood play-pretend!?
I also had not prepared for this. “Falcon?” I answered. I did not have a reasoning. The interview moved on.
My advice: If someone asks you this, the job probably isn’t worth the energy to cobble together why you wanting to be a tiger means you’re the right person to sell network subscriptions. You’re better than that.
2. What is your ultimate career goal?
Now this one might be in a few “What to expect” articles, but I never really considered that I didn’t have an answer until, dun dun dunnn, I didn’t. The interviewer doesn’t mean “How much money do you want to make?” or “What would be a vague approximation?” They want a position title and specific job responsibilities. As a recent college grad, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted. Mostly, I wanted a job to give me real-world work experience so I could figure out what I wanted, but that doesn’t help when pressed for details. Interviewers don’t care that I’m having a nearly-quarter-life crisis.
Eventually, I figured out what I wanted to do. Unfortunately, I made this discovery in the middle of an interview for the job that would be the stepping stone to that career. Timing is everything.
3. If I called up your previous employer, what would they tell me?
This has some merit to it from an interviewer’s perspective. They want to get you to be “honest” in that you give yourself praise, but make it sound like your old boss might say it. For me, I had the urge to say, “Isn’t reference follow-up your responsibility in this whole fiasco?” That, if you weren’t sure, is NOT the correct response.
For this one, I started to write-up the aspects of my previous job(s) that I was good at. Organization, scheduling, leadership, etc. Then, I’d pick the ones that most related to the job I was currently trying to get. Don’t be afraid to write all of it down as a list, taking notes and adding to it as you go. In fact, keep a little notebook of all these aspects and answers for any interview question you come across that trips you up. This way, when you (inevitably) have to interview again (whether it’s in a week or several years) you won’t be starting from scratch each time.
*Side note: It’s also a great idea to pre-write anecdotes to go along with these characteristics/responsibilities. Consider it like the old adage ‘Show your work.’ The interviewer will respond better to tangible narratives and examples than just a simple answer.
4. Did you bring any work samples?
This is for anyone, not just you creative types. I made the mistake with my very first interview, because no one EVER MENTIONED bringing my writing samples. They asked. I blinked in confusion and embarrassment. I did not get the job.
Bring work samples, even if you don’t think you’ll need them. Even if you are interviewing for a different kind of job than what your samples are from, still bring some that could conceivably showcase an aspect of yourself/work that links to an aspect of the new position. Even if that aspect is ‘I come prepared.’
5. Why did you apply for this position?
This is a horrible question. Some interviewers clarify by tacking on “…over other positions,” but that doesn’t make it any better. Rest assured, I definitely applied to those other positions. You guys just called first.
The real way to answer this is to focus on the responsibilities of the position itself and how it will “help you grow” and how you love the company and how the work is meaningful to you blah blah blah (unless those things are true. Then you’re golden.). They want to hear that you really care about getting this specific position. Lay it on thick, but not too thick.
**This list is far from complete! We’ve all had some of those strange interview questions over the years, so please share yours!