The majority of interview will happen without too many shocks. “Why do you want to work here?”, “What have you done in the past?”, “Who are you?”. However, every now and then you’ll be confronted with an interviewer who wants to challenge you with a really tough question. Here are some tips on how to behave if this happens to you:
1) Repeat the question back
Simply say the question out loud again to buy you some time. It’s a socially acceptable way to show you’re thinking about it, and it’s likely that after you’ve repeated it your brain will be more prepared to find an actual answer.
2) Ask for clarification on the question
An interview is an exchange which means that you are free to ask questions back to gain a greater understanding. If the question was something tricky like “How many cars in America?” ask them back what exactly they mean. “Do you mean in the United States or all of the American continent?”. You’re gaining more context so you’re in a better position to answer the question.
3) Ask for examples on what they mean
Still having trouble understanding this odd question? Request examples! Potentially they’ll tell you that they can’t say anything, potentially they’ll almost tell you the answer. Either way, you’re buying yourself more time and you’re demonstrating the ability to think on your feet.
4) A short, sensical answer is better than a long-winded inaccurate answer
Have a go at answering it as best as you can. Don’t try to come across as an expert but try to impress in your delivery. Freezing, shaking your head and saying you don’t know will put you out of running for the job. The whole point of tricky questions is that they’ll separate the great candidates from the not so great one. Simply asking questions back, keeping your cool and staying in the rhythm of the interview can demonstrate that you’re a capable employee
But if you really can’t handle these questions, maybe it’s just not the right place for you. It’s likely that the person interviewing you is your future manager, so if they’re being too difficult then you may not want to deal with them for 40 hours a week for the next several years.