Career Survival Skills: Another Gotcha Question
by Michael Mayher

Have you ever attended an interview and felt as if the interviewer was playing games with you? As perhaps they participate in the process only to mess with people for the sole reason that they can – and evaluating your suitability and skills is secondary. Sometimes they are crass, unprofessional or even detached and yet, they are there to evaluate you, now that’s quite funny, albeit ironic. But seriously, there are many occasions when the interviewee is a lot sharper than the interviewer although, under the circumstances, there isn’t much you can do about it.

I like to prepare people for as many what-ifs as possible, for how to react to any number of situations that can unexpectedly occur during the interview process. The more surprises you prepare for, the less surprised you’ll be. During the last few months I’ve written about some of the stupid interview questions you may encounter, such as, “If you could be any kind of an animal what would you choose to be?” Yeah, that’s a real question with many variations and it is a dumb one. Or, the common but just as stupid, “Can you tell me / describe one of your weaknesses?” This is clearly a question asked by someone who doesn’t know how to interview but they have convinced themselves that they do. Well, there is another one I want to share with you, in order to be prepared. Although it may not be intentionally presented with the intent of throwing you off your game, it can be off-putting. It is also not as clever as the person posing it thinks it to be.

You walk into an interview, an event that you were invited to attend; you introduce yourself and sit down. Then they say with a Cheshire Cat-like grin, “So what can I do for you?” Whoa…, what is that about? It sounds like a not-so-veiled insinuation, that they are doing you a great favor by meeting with you. Perhaps they are a jerk who wants to let you know who’s in charge of the meeting, or it’s a lame attempt at being clever, or, it could be purposefully to knock you off-balance. Don’t let it. It is an opening question that is intended to throw people off their game; which can, in turn, sap a little of your self-confidence right from the get-go.

If you ever experience this kind of introductory question just let it roll off and stay calm, in essence ignoring it and respond with your opening statement, which should be something to the effect of, “I’m here to interview for the position of …” And then, await their response and next question, which, if the first introductory question is any indication of how it might proceed, is likely to be just as direct, like, “Why should we consider you for this position?” Once again, stay cool and assuming you’ve prepared for your interview, proceed to tell the why.

I have witnessed interviewers and managers who behave in this way and occasionally it is a tough guy (or girl) act, intended to shake you up and see how you react to a little bit of pressure. I don’t agree with these kinds of theatrics and I think it is bad form, nonetheless maintain your composure, stay focused and continue forward and you’ll do okay. After you’ve performed your best to win the chance to proceed to the next interview step, you can self-evaluate and reflect upon whether or not you want to continue.

About the Author: Michael Mayher has been an international direct search recruiter on two continents for over 22 years. A consultant, published author, lecturer and blogger, he re-introduces professionals to critical Soft Skills lost in our digital age and necessary to effectively navigate their careers. You can find more information by visiting his blog and website.)

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