Feeling nervous before a big job interview? You’re not alone. According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive, 92 percent of survey respondents were anxious about some aspect of a job interview. Among the top reasons: being too nervous, and not being able to answer a specific question. We all know tricky interview questions are coming our way — but what if there’s more to it than that? Not to fan the flames of your anxiety, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that your interviewer will be testing you with more than just the standard curveball questions.
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Call them mind games, dirty tricks, or just savvy recruiting, these four ploys are prime examples of things that some hiring managers will do to gauge the worth of unsuspecting applicants. Don’t get paranoid, but these are definitely worth being aware of before you go into your next trap, er, interview.
Walt Bettinger didn’t become the CEO of Charles Schwab because he’s slow and predictable. He certainly proved in a recent New York Times interview that he knows more than a thing or two about how to read people. His
interview tactic: we’ll call it the bait-and-switch.
According to the interview, when Bettinger takes job candidate out for breakfast, he’ll get there early and ask the server to intentionally screw up the order. He says that he can tell a lot by how the person
reacts to this not uncommon, generally annoying situation. Whether they say anything — or sometimes nothing — he can learn a lot how they’d handle similar situations around the office. All the while,
the candidate thinks they just had a bad experience with the service industry.
The Red Herring
In films, the red herring is a character or event that’s introduced to bring the audience to a false conclusion. In the case of Zappos interviewees, as Inc. highlights, it’s a part of the interview process that’s designed not to feel like it.
When an out-of-town candidate comes to interview for Zappos, they’re picked up by someone who seems to be just another loquacious driver. They’ll ask about why you’re interested in the job and other
seemingly innocent pseudo-interview questions, and later when they pick you back up ask how it went. Not only does it catch the candidate off guard and in a more candid environment, but according to Inc,
Zappos won’t hire folks who are rude to the driver.
The Long Pause
This is one of those that have a fifty-fifty chance of just being your paranoia — but it’s good to
know what to do in any case. According to job interview expert Alison
Green at U.S. News, silence isn’t always so golden when it’s coming from an interviewer.
Green says, “Some interviewers will intentionally remain silent when you finish an answer, waiting to see if you’ll start talking again. Most people are so uncomfortable with silence that they’ll rush to fill it, and in doing so, they might offer information that’s too candid or maybe damaging.”
Her best advice: just wait it out. And if it goes on for too long, simply ask if there’s anything else
you can add to clarify your answer.
The Cup Test
Much like the red-herring driver or the bait-and-switch breakfast outing, the cup test is a test of character. HubSpot‘s David Cancel likes to bring a cup of water with him to interview engineering candidates. At the end of the interview, he leaves the now-garbage empty cup on the table. He likes to see what the candidate might do with that trash. Pick it up and throw it away, and it signals that they might indeed be a good fit for the job.
Interviewers not only want to see that you’re qualified on paper, but also that you’ve got the strength of character to handle the more common human challenges we face at work on a daily basis. Whether it’s someone making a mistake, showing attention to detail, or paying close attention to your co-workers, recruiters, and job interviewers are watching closely to see how you conduct yourself right from the first
Tell Us What You Think
Are you convinced your last interviewer played a trick like this on you? How’d it go? Did you fail like this author has on countless occasions? Share your wins and fails in the comments below, or join
the conversation on Twitter!