A Stressful Job Interview in English

stress interviewSince I started doing interview coaching, I collected some stories about unusual interviews. Take, for instance, Heineken job interview that went viral, where the candidates were put to the unexpected situation test. What would you do if your interviewer suddenly had a heart attack?

You probably know a great deal about standard interview questions. Let’s see what can else the interviewers devised to put you off guard.

1) Sensitive questions

“Why haven’t you married?”, “Are you living with anyone?”, “Are you on any medication?” – such questions have nothing to do with actual job responsibilities and even border on being illegal. Each person has his or her boundaries and may feel shocked or insulted when asked such questions.

HR people can ask them for several reasons. First, it may be an indirect way to learn if you are ready to work overtime or do other tasks, unrelated to your work responsibilities. Second, they can check how you react in a situation of stress. If you are seeking a position that involves work with customers, you will probably need to have Buddha-like self-control to deal with unpleasant situations.

One way to tackle this challenge would be to say: “That’s a strange question to ask. No one has ever asked me this question before in an interview. Why would you be interested to know that?” In many cases, the interviewer will simply drop the question. Or, they can try to focus the question, while you can come up with some ideas how to respond without losing your self-respect.

2) “Encyclopaedic” questions

“How many cows are there in New Zealand?”, “Can you tell me three names of recent Nobel prize winners?”, “Who first reached the South Pole?” – such questions are to check your reaction in the situation of uncertainty. Will you feel at a loss? Or show indifference and reply “I don’t care.” Or make a random guess … Or will you probably use some strategies to discover the right answer the quickest possible?

You could think aloud or ask if you can use the Internet to find the answer. Sometimes the questions are compiled in such a way that it will be difficult to find the answer at once, you will need out-of-the-box thinking to discover it.

3) Creative questions

“If you could have a dinner with any famous person, dead or alive, whom would you choose?”, “If you were a word, what would it be?”, “Would you prefer to be an animal or a robot?” – these questions test your wits and creativity. In addition, you will reveal your values, which will allow your interviewers feel if you fit their corporate culture.

Before answering such a question, try to smile. You can also use some filler “Oh, that’s an interesting question. Let me think a moment”. Doing so, you will win some time to come up with an idea.

4) Funny requests

“We are bored. Could you sing a song?” or “Tell me a joke”. Candidates who experienced such unusual requests can feel humiliated or embarrassed. If you feel that you are not Sting or Madonna or George Carlin, you can consider changing the subject “I’d rather get to the point. Actually, I prefer to demonstrate the skills I possess rather than the skills I don’t have. If you wrote “singing skills” in your job description, I’d probably not consider this vacancy.

From my perspective, it is not really important if you follow the request or not. The most essential thing is not to lose your nerve and stay calm. This way you can produce an impression of a focused and self-confident person.

In any case, if the requests or questions are particularly offensive, it may be wise to walk out of such interview. You probably wouldn’t like to work for a company where corporate culture presupposes treating people aggressively and disrespectfully!