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5 Ways Job Interviewers Try to Trip You Up (and How to Avoid Stumbling)


A friend of mine recently went on a job interview and was asked to tell the employer not just her biggest weakness — she was asked to disclose three weaknesses!

I think that expecting job applicants to give an honest answer that can be used against them is unreasonable. However, this interviewing tactic is common.

According to Vicky Oliver, author of 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions, “interviewers love to ask questions that are designed to trip you up.”

Vicky has coached hundreds of job hunters through the interviewing process. She says such questions give employers “a chance to see if the candidate can think on her feet, come up with smart answers on the spot, and stay poised.”

You can avoid being tripped up by being prepared. Here, from Vicky Oliver are five types of questions that interviewers love to ask, with Vicky’s advice on how to answer so you’ll leave the interview with your head held high.

1. Questions that find out how well you researched the company.

“Where do you see opportunity for improvement at our firm?”

Just because this is the first time you’ve stepped foot inside the company doesn’t mean that you haven’t pored over and thoroughly studied the website, read company press releases, and Googled the heck out of the company’s founders.

Be ready for this one. You might talk about the website and how it could be improved, or perhaps discuss a niche market that their products could be targeted to.

2. Questions your high school counselor warned you about years ago.

“Let’s look at your Facebook site together right now. Are you willing to do that?”

Gulp. Is this the time to reveal to your prospective boss that you’re the Beer Pong Champ of your graduating class?

If your Facebook site is populated with eyebrow-raising photos of you partying, you have two choices. Long before your interview, you can try to scrub your site. Easier said than done, however.

The other choice is to divert the interviewer with a statement such as this: “I share my Facebook site with family and close friends. I’d love to show you my LinkedIn page instead. The industry networking I’m doing there is really relevant to this position.”

3. Questions that mine your knowledge of the industry.

“What are your three favorite startups in our industry, and why?”

You may think that applying for an entry-level job precludes your being an industry expert, but think again. Interviewers want to find out what you know, but even more important, how you think.

Don’t get tripped up by this one. Learn about the industry you’re entering, then impress them with your insights. “I love XYZ because its advertising reaches out to very young consumers, who may not be able to afford its products right now, but are the future of this industry. That’s visionary.”

One caveat, though: Never reveal information about a competitor that you picked up from an interview at that company. Some interviews really are “mining” expeditions to learn more about a company’s competitors. Don’t fall into that trap.

4. Questions that make you discuss holes in your resume.

“I see that you didn’t work for six months last year. Were you vacationing?”

Have a great answer for the time you weren’t technically working. If you were traveling or caring for a family member, talk about the valuable lessons learned and skills acquired during that time. Give an answer that shines a positive light on your life experience and turns it into an asset.

5. Questions that question your relative inexperience.

“You haven’t worked much in an office. What’s your competitive advantage?”

Quick, talk about your social media smarts. You Tweet, you’re on Facebook, and you can navigate LinkedIn with your eyes closed. Being fluent in social technology could trump your industry inexperience. Don’t forget to show, not tell, what a quick study you are in any given field, and give examples.

Tag Goulet is co-founder of FabJob, a publisher of books on how to get started in a dream career, and Academic Director of the International Association of Professions Career College.

Learn About Social Media at Upcoming Event

For job seekers who want to learn more about social media, Calgarian Debbie Peck is organizing a virtual event on October 23, 24, and 25 called “Social Media for Social Impact”.

“The event is designed for business owners, speakers, authors, career seekers, or anyone who wants to make a difference in their business and the world through social media,” said Debbie.

It features 12 social media and business experts so participants can learn specific techniques and strategies for FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more. Also on the agenda is how NOT to use social media and the top mistakes to avoid online.

You can phone into the event or listen in via your computer. Each speaker will also have a replay available for 24 hours after, so you can sign up even if you can’t make it to some of the talks.

The event is free, with an upgrade package offered for $97 and a percentage of proceeds being donated to the Kidney Foundation. “One year ago, I lost my right kidney to cancer,” said Debbie. “I am totally fine and healthy today, and this is my way of giving back.”

To register for this event visit


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