Here’s an article, just one of many examples I’ve seen, entitled “Watch Out! Ten Interview Questions Designed to Trick You!” on the reputable Forbes.com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jennagoudreau/2012/02/23/watch-out-ten-interview-questions-designed-to-trick-you/, which starts off with the following ominous warning “…once you’re in the door, interviewers often put you through an obstacle course of deceptive questions with double meanings or hidden agendas.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. As a hiring manager, I would love nothing more than to find the best-qualified candidate for an open position on my team on the first shot, and I am not an exception to the rule. By the time a candidate gets to me, human resources talent acquisition has spent a lot of time filtering through résumés and potential candidates to line up the individuals they feel are the best fit based on the job description provided, and they usually do a great job of this. At this stage, I’m looking for the best fit for the team, for the position at hand, a person who is passionate about working for this company and group, someone who has a proven track record of delivering results, and someone with the potential to grow into a larger role. What I don’t want is to start my search from scratch and have to extend this recruiting process longer than necessary.
Most hiring managers and HR representatives are extremely busy people with lots of demands at work, and playing games or tricking candidates does nothing to advance our business goals. Of course there are unscrupulous interviewers in the world, just as there are those few candidates who brazenly exaggerate their experience, but as a matter of course, the point of an interview is not to trick anyone, but to get to know them better and assess them for a fit for an open position (as well as an opportunity for the candidate to evaluate whether or not it is a company/job they want). Sure, when I was on the job hunt I’ve had those interviewers who asked me brain-teasers (and there are still companies that do so), but I understood even then that they were not trying to trick me, but trying to see how I approach a problem and use logic to resolve it, and how that would translate into problem-solving on the job.
Many of the questions pointed out in the article referenced above are indeed asked in most interviews, and the feedback is sound, but the questions aren’t meant to be “deceptive”. Think of it as dating. If you are out seeking a long-term relationship (and most hiring managers are looking for candidates for the long-term), you want to get to know the other person to see if there is a fit and the potential for many days of excitement and happiness together. It’s a two-way street. You’re not trying to trick them into messing up so you can send them packing.
As I write this, I’m on a flight from New York to Orlando to attend the NSHBMA National Career Conference. Hundreds of individuals will be interviewing at this conference. If you are one of them, or have any upcoming interview anywhere else, I would recommend that you ignore the hype about the interviewers being out to get you. Just be prepared, courteous, ask good questions, answer honestly, and feel good about the process. Even if you are qualified for the position, you still might not get it because there may be many equally (or more highly) qualified candidates competing for the same opportunity, but at the very least you should know that more likely than not, the person on the other end of the interview has been in your position before and is rooting for you to succeed.