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Why You Should Stop Answering Interview Questions

        posted by , May 08, 2013

Answer the question!

Most interview questions deserve a candid and direct answer. If you don't know an answer — answer with what you do know.

The political tactic of answering a different question that what's been asked is likely to annoy your interviewers. It's generally a bad idea.

That being said, there are times when a less than candid answer is in your best interests. Avoid answering the following 3 interview questions directly:


1. Negativity Traps

To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.
~ Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Can you tell me about the most difficult person on your team?

Any question that asks you to be negative can't be answered directly.

Take a question about a difficult person and answer it with an example of a challenging situation.

Being negative (especially about people) in an interview is always a bad idea. If your interviewer prompts you to be negative — don't fall for it.

Demonstrate that you take a positive approach to challenges.


2. Inappropriate Disclosures

What new patents are you guys working on over there?

If someone asks you to disclose something that obviously breaks your non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with a present or past employer — it's either a slip up or their testing your ethics.

Your perspective employer is considering trusting you with their organizational knowledge and intellectual property. They need to trust you beyond any doubt.

Avoid saying anything that could be interpreted as a shady disclosure. If this means that you have to discuss your work in the most general terms — that's what you need to do.


3. Unproductive Directions

What's your favorite circuit breaker?

It's in your best interests to help keep the interview on track.

In some cases, interviews go off on a tangent.

Example: Interviews On A Tangent

You apply for a position as an commercial aircraft salesperson.

On the second interview, you get 10 questions in a row about electrical systems. You think it's off topic but decide to play along. You answer what you know about electrical systems of aircraft.

The interviewer rights up her feedback, "knows plenty about electrical systems, doesn't seem focused on sales."


When interviews get off track, give them a subtle push in the right direction with your answers. When this doesn't work, directly ask how a question relates to the role.

In many cases, an interview innocently goes off in obscure directions. Unfortunately it's usually the candidate who pays the price for this.

Find friendly ways to keep your interview on track.

Next: 9 Interview Strategies That Work


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