|Sometimes, the difficult questions to manage in an interview are not questions at
all. Here are three common interview scenarios that a candidate may be asked to
1. Tell me how you resolved an incident where you were asked to do the
This exercise has a number of possible directions to examine. First, the statement
presumes the candidate has met with impossible tasks, and in so doing, has had to
come to some kind of resolution. If you are willing to take the bait, it would be good
to relate some kind of situation which seemed impossible for others, but was
resolved through personal efforts. In my own experience, the “impossible” merely
needs to be redefined to become an attainable goal. For example, in one consulting
situation, the supervisor asked me to gather information on an issue they had been
unable to resolve or even identify. The task seemed clear enough, as the person
wanted me to find out the procedural differences between two different business
units, in order to pinpoint why one unit seemed to be producing more lucrative
results than the other. As I probed into the situation for a number of days, I
discovered there seemed to be no clear difference in the way each unit handled the
work, yet both had the impression that the other unit’s procedures were different.
After focusing my effort on trying to find out what specific procedure variations
these supervisors were referring to, I found out they were not referring to work
procedures at all.
Though both units processed the same kind of work in the same general way, the
policies associated with each unit were the significant difference between them.
They had significantly different commission structures and incentives for success,
and it was primarily the differences in policies that distinguished them. Thus, the
impossible task of finding procedural differences between two business units that
process work in the same way, was altered to reveal the real policy differences that
contributed to creating significantly different results.
2. Tell me how you resolved a conflict you encountered on a job.
This is another non-question that is worded in a way to prompt the candidate to air
some dirty laundry. There are two ways one could approach such a challenge. The
candidate can defer the exercise by saying that there is nothing significant by way
of conflicts that comes to mind, and ask the interviewer to present a specific
hypothetical scenario to resolve. By forcing the interviewer to address their own
scenario, the candidate does not admit to past “problems,” while at the same time,
it is possible to resolve the hypothetical issue in the comfort of an imaginary
environment. To further press the issue, the candidate can put the interviewer on
the defensive by asking if such issues can be expected in the job.
A second approach is to relate an instance of conflict which was initiated by
someone else, but resolved in a positive fashion by the candidate. The idea here is
to give the interviewer a good look at the problem solving skills which have been
mastered. Do not select a scenario where you needed to ask someone else for
assistance. Choose a challenge that you personally resolved to the benefit of
everyone involved. If you have an instance ready, it will provide a good showcase
for your leadership skills. If the interviewer refuses to provide a scenario, or you
cannot think of a situation where your efforts produced a positive outcome, this
kind is question is a prime candidate for developing amnesia. You can move the
conversation forward by politely requesting time to think about the situation, and
let the interviewer come back to it later on if they want.
3. The interviewer asks you about experience you do not have in an
obtainable skill set.
When an interview takes you into uncharted territory, chances are good that other
candidates will not have one or more skills requested by the potential employer. A
candidate is chosen for an interview because of the skills they appear to possess,
and in some cases, all the requirements will not be met. If an interviewer asks about
a particular method, software title, or experience that is not in your background,
the last thing to do is show signs of panic. A good approach is to comfortably
admit you have not yet gained experience with that skill, but have no problem with
picking it up along the way. If possible, try to present some alternative to the skill
or software requirement, and demonstrate your ability to successfully acquire the
necessary proficiency in stride.
Whether the company is willing to train, or you will be expected to pick up the skill
on your own, the worst that happen is the company will not retain your services
after they hire you for the job. No matter what the unknown task, someone else
has either failed or succeeded in learning the task, so there is no reason to act as if
it would be impossible for you to gain the same level of proficiency. You do not
need to make up a lie to get the job; just showcase what you already can do. With
this kind of challenge, confidence in yourself is almost as good as demonstrated
ability. You would not have been called for an interview if the company did not see
enough in your existing talents and experience to consider you for the job. Subdue
your weaknesses and promote your strengths. Choose which questions to hit hard,
which ones to defer, and which ones to move away from. If you do not get the job,
there will be another one down the road. Try to find something more difficult than
the missing experience that you have already tackled successfully.
John Dir LittleTek Center Check out our information channel and free softtware at
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