How to Prepare Yourself for Bad Interview Questions

Job-seeking candidates do their best to prepare for an upcoming interview. They memorize the details of their resume, rehearse commonly asked questions, and tailor their interview wardrobe to perfection. However, not every interview goes as planned, and many times, it isn’t the candidate’s fault. During the course of your interview, you may find yourself faced with a few bad questions that can catch you off guard or even make you uncomfortable. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for bad interview questions.

Prepare for the Worst

Interviewers may have a variety of reasons for asking “bad” interview questions. Perhaps they conduct interviews infrequently and are out of practice. Or maybe they believe that an unusual question will steer the conversation away from traditional, boilerplate answers. While you can’t prepare for every bad question that comes your way, you can practice providing good answers.

To start, have your friend or family member run you through some common interview questions. Cycle through these questions until your comfortable coming up with answers on a certain theme — your experience, your skills, your personality, et cetera. Now have them mix in a few uncommon questions, such as, “If you could be any animal/cereal/flower/etc., what would you be?” This will help you prepare to answer questions on the fly, and allow you to adapt your good answers to bad questions.

Know Your Rights

Sometimes an interviewer will try to gather additional information about a candidate that doesn’t pertain directly to the position. If these details can be used to discriminate against the interviewee, then this practice is illegal. There are certain questions that are illegal for an interviewer to ask, including questions about:

  • Your arrest record (Keep in mind that they can ask if you’ve ever been convicted of a crime.)
  • Your marital status or sexual orientation
  • Whether or not you have children, or if you plan to have children
  • Your credit or personal finances
  • Your religion
  • Your disabilities
  • The nature of your discharge from the military
  • Your nationality or native language
  • Your drinking habits
  • Your past drug use or addiction
  • Your age (including what year you graduated form high school or college, how long you’ve been in the workforce, etc.)

If you’ve found yourself with a bad interviewer, chances are they aren’t going to ask these questions outright. They may use leading questions to try to find an answer, such as asking about your hobbies to gather information on your religious or political affiliations.

If you feel that an interviewer is leading towards one of these dangerous or illegal questions, you have the right to refuse to answer or to politely redirect the interview back to the subject at hand. Remember: if you ever feel uncomfortable or threatened, you can always leave the interview.

Whether your interviewer is inexperienced, trying to be clever, or simply inappropriate, it can be difficult to field strange questions during the course of your interview. But if you practice ahead of time and know your rights, you can keep the interview on track and achieve the best possible outcome.

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