Written by Dave Cullen
Today’s highly competitive job market has created a paradigm shift in how candidates prepare for job interviews. Never before has such a considerable wealth of career and interviewing advice / support materials been in such easy reach to job seekers. Acing interviews is far from easy but it certainly has been broken down to an almost cliched formula. Candidates are more ready than ever for what an interviewer throws at them.
As a result, interviewers have had to redouble their efforts and adapt new strategies to screen candidates. The old reliable questions like “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”, may still be with us but a few new conventions are beginning to emerge. Abstract conundrums are now creeping in such as: “After reducing purchasing costs for raw materials, can you think of another way to reduce the cost of making a piece of chocolate?.” However as interviewers begin to calibrate their techniques, some people have begun to criticise their motivations.
Are they really trying to make candidates think on their feet or are they merely trying to trip them up? These unorthodox questions could potentially catch out an otherwise perfectly qualified candidate.
Speaking on Newstalk’s Breakfast show this week, Cpl Director Peter Cosgrove gave his thoughts on how candidates can deal with awkward interview questions. “You can only control what you can control, if they are in a good mood or a bad mood, there’s nothing you can do about that”. He went on to say “There are questions that are there, not to trip you up, but interviewers do try out interview questions that may be inappropriate.”
Peter cited his personal favourite alternative interview question: “What are the reasons you think you wouldn’t get this job?” He believes that questions like these provide the interviewee with an opportunity to demonstrate self-awareness and identify where their areas of development are. Peter explained that interviewers are looking more for “attitude than skill, you want someone who is hungry, whose motivated, they are the things that make a huge difference in terms of the interview.”
Lack of sufficient preparation was the primary reason Peter believes that most candidates fail to succeed at interview stage. “Most of the questions you can prepare ‘whats are your strengths?’, ‘what are your weaknesses?’, ‘Talk us through your CV’, and then when that strange question comes up, give yourself a couple of seconds to think about it”. Peter maintains that if a candidate comes up against a particularly left-of-field question, that they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it to be repeated. “If alone that will give you a few seconds to think about a good answer”.
Peter also recommends that candidates try to demonstrate good manners by thanking the employer or recruiter for the opportunity to interview. “The worst case scenario is, nothing else changes, but it’s a nice thing to do to demonstrate that you’re not looking for ‘a’ job, but you’re genuinely looking for this job.”