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Being Asked a Tricky Interview Question? Give These Skillful Responses to Earn Extra Time

Being Asked a Tricky Interview Question? Give These Skillful Responses to Earn Extra Time

You know that moment – your heart stops, you stop breathing, and your whole body freezes for a second. It feels like a whole millennium is passing by before your eyes. We are talking about the moment when an interviewer takes their seat right in front of you and you are expecting to hear an answer which you don’t have.

It seems unfair, doesn’t it? No matter how much time you spend preparing yourself [1] and going through various questions while having multiple answers in your mind just before you enter those scary office doors, all thoughts can just vanish out of your mind when you hear a question you’re unfamiliar with.

Well – all useful ones at least, because that is the moment when you’ll probably remember something that you didn’t know existed in your brain, or something extremely inappropriate to say out loud in front of a person who’s a potential employer. Well, don’t panic, there are ways to buy precious seconds and give yourself some time to come up with a quality answer.

The “Irresistible Compliment” Trick

No one is immune to compliments – they can either hide it well or not. Therefore, when you hear a question that makes your confidence go down the drain, you should perhaps try and influence your interviewer’s ego just a bit.

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So, my suggestion is to go with something like “Well that’s certainly one clever question I have never heard before, so I better try and come up with an equally smart response,” and I’m sure your interviewer will at least give you a sign of a smile. Other than buying some time, you’ll also manage to brighten up the whole atmosphere.

The Art of Paraphrasing

This is the oldest trick in the book, but it can be quite efficient if you know how to pull it off. Now, repeating the whole question word after word will make the thing you’re trying to do very obvious, so you should breathe in and mix up some words.

A question like “How would your presence contribute to our business?” can be turned into “Ah, so you’d like to know how me being an employee in your company would be beneficial for the future development of your business.” It takes some time to master word play and it can be a bit challenging if you’re not naturally good at it, but investing time into it will definitely pay off.

Question Can Be An Answer

Take that same question for example – explaining in which way you can contribute to a business.[2] I keep fixating on that one because it’s usually the most difficult one to answer with a creative question that will make you stand out from the crowd.

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If you want to get a couple of seconds more so that you can estimate what would be the right answer, you should hit your interviewer with a question and present them with something like “I am familiar with the job description I’m applying for, but can you tell me about some unusual challenges I’ll be faced with? That way, I can tell you whether my skills can make your business prosper.”

Asking for Clarification Helps (A Lot)

If a question sounds illogical to you, perhaps it really is. The whole process of being at an interview puts an interviewee in a subordinated position and, although this probably won’t be true because it’s highly professionally immoral, some interviewers can misuse their position.

Therefore, if you don’t understand the purpose of answering a particular question, you should simply ask what’s its point, but do so politely – “Help me out a bit here. In order to answer your question properly, can you please tell me what is the purpose of your question, so that I can provide you with a satisfying answer?” Some questions, like the one regarding which type of fruit you’d like to be, can be a thinker.

Return on It Later

You’re only human and so is your interviewer. It’s nothing unusual for you to require some time in order to come to an answer in your mind, which is why it won’t be at all inappropriate to politely ask your interviewer if it would be fine with them to get back to that particular question later on.

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Being on an interview is very similar to doing a test, and I’m absolutely sure that you leave the questions you find confusing or difficult to answer for when you’re done with those you’re absolutely sure of.

Return to the Previous

Have you ever went on a rollercoaster ride? Well, if you did, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a lot like an interview – some parts of the ride can give you an ecstatic boost, while others can frighten you and shake up your very core.

Well why not try to go back to the fun parts? If you managed to complete your previous answer with flying colors, you should make a digression after you hear a question you don’t really know how to answer and add another segment to your previous answer while you’re thinking about the one you find confusing.

Honesty Is Highly Appreciated

Considering the fact that respect towards professional ethics[3] will be desirable in every office and without regard for which job position you’re applying for, you can simply be straightforward and tell your interviewer that you’re caught off guard and that you need some time to come up with an answer.

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It’s true that resourcefulness is a highly appreciated skill, but the truth is that not everyone responds to working under pressure properly, which is something that the person sitting in front of you is very well aware of. Therefore, if you’re not a word play master, or you can’t think clearly when you’re under pressure, my final suggestion is to be honest.

Nevertheless, you should prepare yourself for every interview properly. Make sure to get enough rest the night before and do your best to put stress and panic aside so that you can actually be satisfied with your performance. There are many ways to calm your mind before a meeting – things like breathing exercises and nutritious foods will most definitely be helpful. Good luck!

Reference

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Last Updated on October 21, 2019

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, is a reminder of why I am so drawn to leadership as a topic. Whenever I think it is impossible for me to be more impressed with her, she proves me wrong.

Earlier this week, a former marine suggested that he had been in a long-term sexual relationship with the Senator. She flipped the narrative and used the term “Cougar,” a term used to describe older women who date younger men, to reference her alma mater.

Rather than calling the young man a liar, or responding to the accusations in kind, she re-focused the conversation back to her message of college affordability and lifted up that “Cougar” was the mascot for her alma mater. She went on to note that tuition at her school was just $50 per semester when she was a student. Class act.

But by the end of the week, news broke that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, another contender for the presidency, had a heart attack. Warren not only wished Sanders a speedy recovery but her campaign sent a meal to his staff. She knew that the hopes of staff, donors and supporters were with the Senator from Vermont and showed genuine compassion and empathy.

To me, she has proven time and time again that she is more than a presidential candidate: she belongs in a leadership hall of fame.

What makes some people excel as leaders is fascinating. You can read about leadership, research it and talk about it, yet the interest in leadership alone will not make you a better leader.

You will have more information than the average person, but becoming a good leader is lifelong work. It requires experience – and lots of it. Most importantly, it requires observation and a commitment to action. Warren observed what was happening with Sen. Sanders, empathized with his team and then took action. Regardless of the outcome of this election, Sanders’ staff will likely never forget her gesture.

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You would have had to work on a political campaign in order to appreciate the stress and anxiety that comes with it. In this moment, staff may not remember everything that Warren said throughout the lengthy campaign, but they will remember what she did during an unforgettable time during the campaign.

If this model of leadership is appealing, and if you are searching for how to up your own leadership game, read on for six characteristics that good leaders share:

1. Good leaders are devoted to the success of the people around them.

Good leaders are not self-interested. Sure, they want to succeed, but they also want others to succeed.

Good leaders see investing in others just as important as they see investing in themselves. They understand that their success is closely tied to the people around them, and they work to ensure that their peers, employees, friends and family have paths for growth and development.

While the leaders may be the people in the spotlight, they are quick to point to the people around them who helped them (the leaders) enter that spotlight. Their willingness to lift others inspires their colleagues’ and friends’ devotion and loyalty.

2. Good leaders are not overly dependent on others’ approval.

It is important for managers to express their support for their teams; good leaders must be independent of the approval of others. I explained in an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, that:[1]

“While a desire to be loved is natural, managers who prioritize approval from subordinates will become ineffective supervisors who may do employees harm. For example, a manager driven by a need for approval may shy away from delivering constructive feedback that could help an employee improve. A manager fearful of upsetting someone may tolerate behavior that degrades the work environment and culture.”

In yet another example, a manager who is dependent on the approval of others may not make decisions that could be deemed unpopular in the short run but necessary in the long run.

Think of the coaches who integrated their sporting teams. Their decision to do so, may have seemed odd, and even wrong, in the moment, but time has proven that those leaders were on the right side of history.

3. Good leaders have the capacity to share the spotlight.

Attention is nice, but it is not the prime motivator for good leaders. Doing a good job is.

For this reason, good leaders are willing to share the spotlight. They aren’t threatened by a lack of attention, and they do not need credit for every accomplishment. They are too focused on their goal and too focused on the urgency of their work.

4. Good leaders are students.

In the same way that human beings are constantly evolving, so too are leaders. As long as you are living, you have the potential to learn. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you think you have; you can always learn something new.

I have the experience of thinking I was doing everything right as a manager, only to receive conflicting feedback from my team. Perhaps my approach was not working for my team, and I had to be willing to hear their feedback to improve.

Good leaders understand that their secret sauce is their willingness to keep receiving information and keep learning. They aren’t intimidated by what they do not know: As long as they maintain a willingness to keep growing, they believe they can overcome any obstacle they face.

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As both masters and students, good leaders read, listen and study to grow. They consume content for information, not just entertainment purposes. They aren’t impressed with their knowledge; they are impressed with the learning journey.

5. Good leaders view vulnerability as a superpower.

It means “replacing ‘professional distance and cool,’ with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure,” said Emma Sappala in a Dec. 11, 2014, article, “What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable” for Harvard Business Journal.[2] She went on to note the importance of human connection, which she asserts is often missing at work.

“As leaders and employees, we are often taught to keep a distance and project a certain image. An image of confidence, competence and authority. We may disclose our vulnerability to a spouse or close friend behind closed doors at night but we would never show it elsewhere during the day, let alone at work.”

This rings so true for me as a woman leader. I was raised believing that any show of emotion in the workplace could be used against me. I was raised believing that it was best for women leaders to be stoic and to “never let ‘em see you sweat.” This may have prevented me from connecting with employees and colleagues on a deeper, more personal level.

6. Good leaders understand themselves.

I am a huge fan of life coach and spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant. In addition to her hit show on the OWN network, Vanzant has authored dozens of books. In her books and teachings, she underscores the importance of knowing ourselves fully. She argues that we must know what makes us tick, what makes us happy and what makes us angry.

Self-awareness enables us to put ourselves in situations where we can thrive, and it also enables us to have compassion when we fall short of the goals and expectations we have for ourselves. Relatedly, understanding ourselves will allow us to know our strength. When we know our strengths, we will be able to put people around us who compliment our strengths and fill the gaps in our leadership.

Final Thoughts

Being a good leader, first and foremost, is an inside job. You must focus on growing as a person regardless of the leadership title that you hold. You cannot take others where you yourself have not been. So focusing on yourself, regardless of your time or where you are in your career will have long term benefits for you and the people around you.

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Further, if you want to become a good leader, you should start by setting the intention to do so. What you focus on grows. If you focus on becoming a better leader, you will research and invest in things that help you to fulfill this intention. You will also view the good and bad leadership experiences as steppingstones that hone your character and help you improve.

After you set the intention, get really clear on what a good leader looks like to you. Each of us has a different understanding of leadership. Is a good leader someone who takes risk? Is a good leader, in your estimation, someone who develops other leaders? Whatever it is, know what you’re shooting for. Once you define what it means to be a good leader, look for people who exemplify your vision. Watch and engage with them if you can.

Finally, understand that becoming a good leader doesn’t happen overnight. You must continually work at improving, investing in yourself and reflecting on what is going well and what you must improve. In this way, every experience is an opportunity to grow and a chance to ask: ‘What is this experience trying to teach me?’ or ‘what action is necessary based on this situation?’

If you are committed to questioning, evaluating and acting, you are that much closer to becoming a better leader.

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Featured photo credit: Sam Power via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Why Good Managers Overcome the Desire to Be Liked
[2] Harvard Business Journal: What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable

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