The Trick Question to Watch out for in Your Next Interview

The Trick Question to Watch out for in Your Next Interview
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By Michael Dinich, Ladders

You’re in an interview, and you think you’re about to nail the interview (and you are).

You feel good, and perhaps you have a sharp mind that can be easily adaptable to tough interview questions. However, be on high alert with the interviewer because they might have a tricky question up their sleeve.

We need to start with the premise that the interviewer has a couple of important needs. They primarily desire their lives to be made easier by hiring someone, a near-perfect fit, as soon as possible.

They would also prefer the person to adequately accomplish the job at hand, be relatively pleasant to work with, and, hopefully, the prospective employee would have the bosses back when needed. Thus, they ask tough questions!

Tough questions take a little more thought into developing an answer for them. On purpose, this is so because the interviewer wants to ensure that you can be responsive and comfortable in an uncomfortable situation, more often than not paying close attention to your nonverbal communication than you’re actually answering!

They are trying to trip you up in the best possible way. However, that doesn’t have to be the case for you.

Here is the one question that rattles most applicants and destroys their chances of landing the job that they dreamed of:


“Tell me about a time where you made a mistake?”

A true wolf in sheep’s clothing. However, let’s break this question down!

Questions about past mistakes are some of the toughest and trickiest interview questions to answer. You want to acknowledge the mistake (and never badmouth or blame others), but you never want to make yourself seem like a liability or a risk to hire for this new job!

Avoid talking about mistakes involving carelessness or lack of effort. We agree you want to be honest and authentic as much as possible, but you want to present yourself professionally as well. It’s better to talk about making a mistake because you hadn’t experienced a situation before or didn’t quite have the right knowledge.

And then here’s the game-changer…

At the end of your answer, talk about what you learned from the experience and how you’ve become better since then. If possible, talk about encountering a similar situation a second time, what you did to effectively resolve it, and how you got a much better outcome because of the lessons you learned.

For example:

  • “During my first year of teaching, we had a massive snowstorm, and I was unaware of the new protocols that had recently been implemented for teachers. I spent the night planning and preparing, only to find out I didn’t have to. However, I learned that when it came to it, I was capable of adjusting on the fly even when mother nature throws a wrench in things.”

  • “When working with a new client, we were asked to provide services we didn’t offer; however, we had been working on landing said client for some time. Not knowing the best option, I aired on the side of caution and let them know we didn’t offer that service. However, I could check and see what is possible. I ended up being wrong about the service; however, we still landed the client because I was honest about my mistake.”



Here are 3 tips to keep in mind when answering this tough question

While tough questions are a given, the cooler as a cucumber you stay, the more inclined you are to give better, professional answers.

Use these three tips to help:

  • One. First, the interviewer is not out to get you. They want you to give good answers. They’re looking for someone they feel comfortable hiring! And they’d rather find that person sooner than later. Don’t talk fast, and keep in mind that interviewers know people get nervous.

  • Two. Next, it’s okay to say, “Hm, that’s a tough question, let me think for a minute.” No interviewer will fault you for doing this once or twice in an interview. So don’t just blurt out an answer and rush yourself if you hear a tricky interview question that caught you completely off-guard. Please take a deep breath and think it through.

  • Three. And finally, for many of these questions, the interviewer wants to hear your thought process. Just be yourself and be transparent. A real answer is always better than a fake answer. An experienced interviewer can read through fake answers!



The Verdict

Being an applicant in an interview can be a tough position because, at times, it gets uncomfortable having to recount your mistakes.

However, that’s what makes you stronger! Employers like it when they see candidates shine through being put on the spot because they know they have someone they can trust (given if all checks out!).

While many might look at this question as a tough one, truth be told, this is a great question to embrace. When done correctly, the infamous mistake question can really set you apart from others!

They are not trying to crush your dreams of landing that job you want, rather gauge your mindset, thought-process, and honestly get to know you on a professional level. Make sure you are in the driver’s seat in the best possible position to crush this tough question, pass with flying colors, and never have to fret again.

See more at Ladders

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