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Tricky interview questions

Tell me about yourself: It’s one of those open-ended questions that seems to be asked quite often as an icebreaker during an interview.

Although, it may sound like a simple question, it typically leaves job seekers at a loss for words. They tend to answer this question on a personal level — talking about family, kids or hobbies. Responding in this matter is fine in casual conversation, but it can provide too much personal information in a job interview.

Here are things to keep in mind when either asking or being asked this question:

• Employers: Interview questions should be valid in regards to the specific position. This question is seen as borderline sensitive and probing for the wrong information, since it could lead to human rights issues or a discriminatory bias. Recruiters are not allowed to ask questions about family, marital status, sex, religion, ethnic origin, etc. This question may be seen as leading job seekers to provide prohibited information.

So how do you prevent this question from being interpreted this way? Rather then being vague, change it so that it is work related; for example, “Tell me about your work experience?” or “Why are you a good candidate for this position?”

• Job Seekers: When faced with this question, keep your responses related to work or the specific industry. For example: “I have about five years in this industry and I think I would be a good fit because …” Avoid responses that will lead to mentioning any personal information outside of work, such as family, secondary jobs or any other sensitive topics.

Remember, human-rights legislation works in the public arena and provides protection, procedures and remedies to job seekers, so if you feel this question is leading to sensitive issues, keep your response light and simple.