What are the worst job interview questions & how can you handle them?

- Job & Career

by Luke Doyle

Job interviews for management positions are stressful enough when you’re just having to deal with the questions you expected them to throw at you. You’ll have done your research into the company, examined the job description and found relevant examples from your career and you’ll feel ready to take on the world.

And then it comes. The question nobody could expect or plan for. One of the worst job interview questions in the world.

We’ve all shuddered when we’ve heard stories about the kind of quirky questions that get thrown at candidates for management jobs in Silicon Valley, but how would you handle them if they came up in your interview? Resume.io gathered together some of the very worst job interview questions, but don’t let them add to your stress, they’ve also got some tips to help you deal with them.

What are the worst job interview questions?

2,000 Americans were asked about the nightmare questions they’d faced and the one that appeared the most times was this: How many gas stations are there in the United States?

Sixteen percent of respondents had faced that question in an interview. It’s the kind of panic-inducing moment that can derail your whole thought process if you let it, especially as it’s likely to have no relevance to the position you’re going for. But it’s still an opportunity for you to show them exactly what you can bring to their business, that’s what they’re looking for, not your insider knowledge into the US gas station market.

Another question that has come up for 13% of people was: You have one minute to persuade me to buy this pen – GO!

If you’ve seen The Wolf of Wall Street you may well remember this question, and Jordan Belfort himself has offered suggestions for what to do if it shows up in your own interview.

Some other awful questions cover topics like your biggest weakness, your failures, your worst enemies and the worst things about your last job.

How can you handle those killer questions?

Unless you’ve got insider knowledge, it’s always worth checking sites like Glassdoor to see if previous candidates have posted interview questions on there – you can’t prepare for every eventuality in a job interview. But managers are expected to be able to think on their feet when confronted with a new problem, so understanding the thinking behind how to answer difficult questions will help you deal with whatever you have to face.

For example, the gas stations question is about demonstrating your reasoning, even if your final answer is way off the mark. The actual answer is around 111,000, but if you work through a solution in a calm and logical manner, estimating the number of gas stations per state and multiplying it by 50, you’ll prove your worth to them.

When it comes to the more personal questions there are opportunities there for you to show why you’re the right person for the job too. Being asked for your biggest weakness is a standard interview question, but one that can still cause anxiety whatever role you’re going for. Interview coach Pamela Skillings recommends coming across as honest and authentic, but also demonstrating your growth and willingness to keep on learning.

Two questions with the potential to throw you off course if you’re TOO honest are:

  • The ones around the worst thing in your last job
  • What your worst enemy might say about you.

These aren’t opportunities to vent about all the things and people you hated, so try not to raise any red flags here. Instead, demonstrate some self-awareness, humility and accentuate the positives, especially about the role you’re going for and the company you’re talking to.

One of the questions in a management interview that might seem the most fraught with danger is where you see yourself in five years. Your honest answer might be ‘doing your job’ that might not be exactly what the person wants to hear. Instead, focus on how the position aligns with your professional goals and where it can take you, keeping your answer non-specific rather than picking out your corner office at this stage.

Finally, there’s the superhero question. It might seem ridiculous to have to discuss what superpower you’d have in a management job interview, but 7% of interviewees said it had happened to them, so you need to be prepared. Being prepared might even be your superpower, but whatever you choose, keep it focused on your strengths and the requirements of the role, not the powers you once pretended to have in the schoolyard.

Excelling in job interviews is a superpower anyone needs if they want to get far as a leader in business, so while these curveball questions might seem a challenge you’d rather do without facing, these tips should help you prepare yourself for whatever might come your way in your next interview.

Photo credit Clem Onojeghuo via Unsplash

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