Three things interviewers might expect you to do…

Posted August 26, 2014 by
Jane Sunley

Jane Sunley, CEO of Purple Cubed

With 9.7 million unemployed people within the United States, and the number of people aged between 16 and 24 out of work increasing by 2 million in the last quarter*, the jobs market is a challenging place to be for job seekers.

Not only is there the difficulty of securing the first stage interview, more and more employers are using rigorous selection and / or assessment procedures to select the right candidate for the role – they want the best. And this presents you with additional hurdles to jump.

With familiarity and practice, your chance of succeeding will increase. The positive news is that you can gain experience of the various types of tests, assessments and tricky interview questions from a simple Google search or reading one of the numerous books available on the subject.

To get you on your way, here are my top tips for overcoming three things employers may expect you to do in the interview process…


There are a myriad of tests used by employers, depending on the role, situation and experience of the individuals. Some that you might encounter are:

  • Aptitude – these are work-related and test a person’s skills or knowledge around specific tasks. There are often no right or wrong answers and are constructed so that only a small percentage of the population would be able to answer everything within the time allowed. Therefore it’s important to stay calm and take your time to avoid careless mistakes. Go through and answer everything you know and then go back, spending the remaining time working out the rest of the answers.
  • Verbal reasoning – these are very common because many roles expect you to understand, interpret and use written information. They present a number of facts or a piece of text whereby you’ll need to analyze, draw conclusions and otherwise interpret the data.
  • Numerical – these check your ability to understand and interpret figures and other data in order to draw conclusions, make logical decisions and solve problems. For example you may be given a budget sheet to interpret profit and loss accounts, for example – therefore make sure you’re familiar with basic business data and the commercial aspects of the role.
  • Abstract reasoning – using exercises based on shapes and other diagrammatic information, these test conceptual awareness and lateral thinking – i.e. the ability to identify relationships between sets of images, spot trends and exceptions.

Interview questions

Most interviews center on a pre-planned set of questions based on the role requirements, cultural behaviors and the information provided in your resume and cover letter. It’s important to spend time thinking about the types of questions you may be asked, formulating your responses, including real-life examples and metrics. It’s useful to run through your answers with a friend or family member so they can provide feedback. Some of the more standard questions you may be asked include:

  • What could you bring to this role / our company?
  • Why should I employ you?
  • Tell me about your strengths and development needs?

Companies are also using ‘weird interview questions’ in order to test an individual’s response to the unprepared, logic and personality. The great thing about these questions is there are no right answers; as long as you respond confidently, logically and are determined to find a solution, then you can succeed. My advice to you is not to waste time tracking down every obscure question and creating a response as that would be a ridiculous waste of your time. Just think and apply reasoning, for example:


If the Japanese are the smallest race, how would you prove it?


You could take a logical approach, using statistics to prove this either by researching average heights of the various nations on the Internet. Or you could be more creative and say: “I’d call Levis and ask them what distribution of jeans they sell around the world. While leg length isn’t an exact indicator of overall height, they should be able to tell you how tall people are in any given country based on the volume of specific jeans they sell there.”

Assessment centers

Lasting from half a day to two or more days, these combine a variety of activities, tests and challenges to assess your performance in pressurized situations. Your potential employer will be observing your interaction with others, teamwork, assertiveness, leadership potential and general attitude and approach. Some of these are so well constructed that they are fun, informative and help you, as much as the employer, decide whether it’s a good fit or not. The key thing here is to be yourself – you have no idea what the selection panel is looking for so listen, think, act and above all be a good person who is nice to be around. This is not just about your talents; it’s about your ability to fit in.

*Bureau of Labor Statistics – July 2014

Jane Sunley is the author of the UK best-seller, It’s Never OK to Kiss the Interviewer: and other secrets to surviving, thriving and high-fiving at work. She is also founding CEO of people and performance specialists, Purple Cubed – a business which helps organizations attract, develop and retain talented individuals. To find out more about her books and access free resources, visit

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