Posted March 25, 2014 by

Why Have They Asked me That

Group of managers interviewing female job candidate

Group of managers interviewing female job candidate. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

It’s a question we’ve all pondered during the middle of an interview: why on Earth have they asked me that? It could be that the question is a left-field piece of oddness, such as “why are manhole covers round” or “what would you do if you were trapped in a gigantic blender?” It could be that it’s simply one of those questions every interviewer asks, and you’re still unsure as to what it actually means. Well, rest assured it does mean something; and your answers can reveal a lot about you.

What an employer wants to know varies from question to question, but the goal is always the same: they want you to drop little hints about your personality or past that might otherwise be hidden. Little hints that will allow them to build a picture of you as a worker and person, beyond what you might be willing to tell them. Here’s how:

“Tell me about yourself…”

This is the classic start to any interview. It sounds like a way of breaking the ice and getting the ball rolling, but it serves two very vital purposes. First, it allows the interviewer to check your communication skills and how you present information to others. Secondly, it allows them to start raising red flags if you have any flaws or patterns of behaviour that might cause them trouble one day. You may think you’re talking about your love of travelling, for example, but they might well be hearing a flake who will quit at a moment’s notice.

“Why are you leaving your current job?”

Your answer to this question allows an interviewer to gauge exactly what sort of person you are to work with. They want to see if you start bad-mouthing your current boss, or work mates or even the culture of the place. Do so and they’ll consign you to the scrapheap of those who can only think negatively or – even worse – those who will undermine the company with gossip.

“Why should I hire you?”

In business, self-confidence is the most-widely valued attribute of them all. This question is designed to test whether you have it. Maybe you said something earlier that makes you sound like a doubter. Maybe your general demeanour is of someone wading way out of their depth. For whatever reason, they think you don’t believe in your own abilities – and this is the last chance to prove them wrong. Knock them back with a wave of self-belief, backed up with examples of your own brilliance at work.

“What is your greatest weakness?”

Like many of these questions, this one serves two functions. One is to act as the flipside to the question above. You’ve demonstrated you have confidence, now you need to demonstrate an awareness of your own limitations. Someone with unquestioned – and ill-placed – self-confidence can be as damaging to a business as someone who’s only response to everything is “no.” Now’s the time to show you’re neither; but a fully-rounded human being.

Alternatively, the interviewer may have a hankering that some indefinable quality about you is wrong for this position. In that case, they may be hoping your hasty answer simply gives them a concrete reason for turning you down. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

“Why are manhole-covers round?”

Left-field questions like this and other gems (such as “what colour is your parachute?”) usually seem like an attempt to wrong foot you, but they really serve a vital purpose. Aside from seeing how quick you are on your feet, they allow your interviewer to test anything from your lateral thinking skills, to your emotional responses, to your abilities with logic. It may sound like madness, but there’s definitely a method to it.

Author – Adam works for Talent Puzzle, a recruitment agency recommendation site. We deal with a variety of generalist and specialist recruitment agencies to pair the right employer with the right agency.

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Posted in Advice for Candidates, Career Advice, Interviewing, Job Search | Tagged Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,