We’ve all experienced it. You are in an interview for a role that really excites you, you’ve prepped in advance expecting to be asked intelligent questions and then you are asked a question that seems pointless or generic, perhaps borderline stupid. How do you respond?

Let’s take a step back and reflect on what the purpose of the ‘job interview’ is. If you have progressed to this stage of the recruitment process, chances are the interviewer – recruiter, hiring manager or your potential employer – already has some understanding of your professional background, skills and competencies. The purpose of the interview is for them to connect that experience to the role they are looking to fill, as well as understand you a little bit better and conversely, give you the opportunity to learn more about the role and the business.

For the interviewee, it is all about impression management. In a relatively short space of time, you want the interviewer to form a positive impression of you and importantly, your ability to solve the problem that the role will fill. It is about putting your best foot forward and presenting yourself in the best possible way, relative to the opportunity. There is a balance to be had between being dishonest and answering questions how you think they want you to versus providing totally authentic responses (the ones you may be thinking but probably shouldn’t express out loud).

Remember that the interviewer wants you to succeed. They are going into the interaction wanting you to tick all of the boxes, they want to be impressed and have you reinforce their initial impression of you based on your application. A good interviewer wants to use their time wisely with the objective of finding candidates to add to a short-list, rather than using the interaction as a way to filter people out of the process.

During the interview, if you end up facing questions that seem irrelevant, your focus should be on a) understanding what the real purpose of the question is, and b) reframing the question so you can provide an answer that allows you to communicate what it is you want them to know about you. And by the way, not all interview questions are stupid. It’s how you respond that truly matters.

Let’s touch on some of the more common questions you may face.

“Walk me through your career to date?” OR “Tell me about yourself?”

The interviewer may have your CV sitting in front of them but that doesn’t mean your response is an *eye roll* and you referring to the fact that your career history is outlined clearly in your resume. This is actually a great opening question to take some of the tension out of the room by giving you the opportunity to talk about something you are an expert on, yourself. While the best interviews are the ones where the candidate speaks for the majority of the time, it’s not ideal to spend too much time answering this question. Think of it as an introduction or an extended elevator pitch. If you’ve had a relatively long career, start in the middle, and focus more on accomplishments and expertise rather than reiterating your cv. Another option, if you feel like you have a really good grasp of the role vacancy, is to ask if it would be helpful to focus on your past experience in a specific role/sector.

“Why are you leaving (or left) your current role?”

This is absolutely not the time to speak negatively about a current or past employer (yes, this does happen) but rather share what drives your career decisions – is it the challenge, the opportunity to advance, an alignment with a brand and company culture that motivated you to apply? Give a bit of thought as to how you frame your answer. You may feel like you are being “held back” in your current role, but if you have been in the role for some time, it could raise questions about why you haven’t sought out opportunities previously (or why your employer hasn’t noticed your potential).

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

This is your opportunity to talk about what motivates you in a role, what is the work environment where you thrive, as well as your personal goals and aspirations. The interviewer may also be looking to assess your understanding of the role/company and whether there is an alignment. Given the unpredictability of the world we’re living in, and the fact today’s workforce are following nonlinear career paths, a great way to respond is by narrowing your focus to shorter horizons.

“What are your salary expectations?”

Responses to this question vary significantly but overwhelmingly most candidates feel uncomfortable when answering questions about money. It is however a necessary question to ensure both parties are aligned in their thinking. You should start with doing your research and understanding either what the salary range is for the role or what your value/worth is. If it is not clear on the role listing, you can try online sources like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, PayScale or SEEK. You can either answer based on your understanding of the role and the market value, or by sharing your existing salary range and expectations for the future. If you feel the timing isn’t right, you can also flip it back to the interviewer and ask them what the salary range is or whether what you are asking is aligned to what they are offering.

Any variation on “what superhero or chocolate bar would you be…?”

You may feel like standing up and heading for the nearest exit when faced with this type of question but what the interviewer is hoping to uncover is a bit about your personality. Depending on the role or industry, you can tailor your answer or another way to respond is by saying “interesting question, why do you ask?”.

Love them or hate them, interviews are an important part of the candidate assessment and selection process. Regardless of what question you are being asked, remember that your objective is to steer the conversation back to what makes you great. If all else fails, there’s nothing wrong with deflecting and answering a question by asking your own questions.

Need help?

Decipher Group provides a range of candidate support services that can help you navigate your next career move. Get in touch with us today, we’d love to chat.

The Decipher Team

To stay on top of current recruitment trends and technologies follow Decipher Group on LinkedIn.

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