At the Job Interview, Beware of Gotcha Questions

Job interviewers often ask questions that can trip up job seekers.

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GL Hoffman
Job interviews are tough because the applicant is trying hard to impress the interviewer, who often has a lot more experience with interviewing. The interviewer has likely interviewed hundreds of applicants, while most job seekers are thrilled to get, what, one interview a week? It is easy to mess up.

Gotcha questions are not questions like: "What is the square root of 144?" The kind of gotcha questions I am talking about are those that just take a bit of experience in handling. A favorite gotcha question might be, "Where would you really like to work?" Now is not the time to give some other company's name—your sought-after place to work is right here. No one wants to be the candidate's second choice. Often these gotcha questions are not really designed to trip you up, they are simply the getting-to-know-you type of questions that you must handle correctly or they will have "gotcha."

We hire a lot of sales reps at JobDig and LinkUp, and for most of our new reps, it is a first job. Still, we want to find people who want to learn sales to make it a career. We invest a lot in time and money in their training, so we do not want to have people here who don't want the job.

We always ask...in a very casual, offhand manner..."What do you really want to do?"

Keep in mind we are hiring sales reps, we are not hiring marketing reps or advertising people. Yet some of the applicants say something like, "I really want to find a marketing job." Why would we hire someone who doesn't want THIS job? The right answer to us is, "I want to work here in sales." Simple. The best answer is "Sales!" and double the points if the candidate has a look of amazement that we would even have to ask.

My advice is to think first before you speak. Even the most innocent-sounding question can trip you up.

G.L. Hoffman is a serial entrepreneur and venture investor/operator/incubator/mentor. Two of his companies have traveled the entire success path from the garage to IPO. Currently, he is chairman of JobDig . His blog can be found at WhatWouldDadSay.com or at JobDig.com.