Interview Questions That Sound Like Tricks—But Aren’t (Part 2)

As mentioned in Part 1 of this article, navigating the interview process can be tricky. In Part 2, the ...

As mentioned in Part 1 of this article, navigating the interview process can be tricky. In Part 2, the questions that may feel like traps continue, but don’t be dismayed. The answers below will help you navigate the interview process like a pro!

3. “Where do you want to be in five years?”

The right answer is without a doubt: “At your company, hopefully as a [insert title of job one or two rungs up] and helping you [insert company mission].


Wrong! The “right” answer changes for each organization. If the business wants people to stay and steadily climb the ranks, then maybe the above response is what they’re looking for. But maybe they’re more interested in getting smart people and then figuring out where they belong. In that case, a better answer would be, “At your company, solving interesting challenges on a team where I can maximize my skills.”

And if they’re instead looking for ambitious people who will stick around for three years at the most, the optimal answer would be, “I want to have learned X and Y, succeeded in doing A and B, and be working toward C and D.”

With that in mind, tell the truth (are you sensing a theme here?). The fact you’ve thought about and planned for your future is impressive enough; having a path that complements the company’s strategy is a potential gamechanger.

4. “Why do you want to work here?”

There’s no doubt this is one of the most-feared and least-understood interview questions out there. It seems like a test of your devotion to the organization—do you know it was founded in 1982? Has 1,118 employees? Sells 14 products in five categories?

Trust me, the hiring manager isn’t hoping you’ll rattle off some fast facts about the company. Nor is she trying to get you to go on about how great it is in the hopes that you’ll convince yourself that you want to work there, Inception-style.

Her goal: Figure out whether the organization can meet your expectations. It’s as simple as that.

With this in mind, give a few authentic reasons you’re excited about this opportunity. Just avoid salary, convenience, perks and/or location reasons, like, “Your headquarters is in Seattle, and my family really wants to move there,” or “I’d like to make $10,000 more, and that’s not possible in my current job.”

Instead, focus on what you’ll get to contribute. Here’s a sample answer:

I’m passionate about making websites more user-friendly. I’ve seen almost everyone in my life struggle with navigating a site at one point or another, and good design can completely alleviate these issues. Not only is the visitor happier, the company achieves its goals—selling them a product, answering their question, converting them into a lead, and so on. At your organization, I’ll get to work on a vast variety of sites and interfaces. I’ll be doing what I love in a collaborative, open, innovative environment.

5. “Do you have any questions for me?”

The reason this question feels like a trick is because, well, the hiring manager isn’t just asking it to make sure you don’t have any lingering concerns. Yes, they want to be helpful, and yes, they’re eager to answer any unresolved things on your mind—but it’s also a way to gauge how curious, insightful, and prepared you are.

Reply, “No, I don’t have any questions,” and they’ll assume you don’t truly want the position (whether that’s a fair characterization or not.)

Say, “Yes, one thing: How much vacation time will I get?” or “How quickly are most people in this role promoted?” and they’ll think, “This person only cares about the benefits or moving up the ladder.”

Ask, “What do you like most about working here?” and they may judge you for using the same question as every other candidate they’ve talked to that day.

To boost your chances of being hired, you need a creative, specific question such as:

  • “What would success look like after 90 days? Six months? A year?”

  • “What is this job’s number one deliverable or metric?”

  • “If people need help at [company], where do they go first?”

  • “How does this role play into the larger organization’s success?”

Make sure you actually want to know the answer. It should tell you:

  1. If you’re a good fit for the company

  2. If you’re a good fit for the role

  3. If you’re a good fit for the culture

Once you’ve asked your “impressive” question (or multiple questions if you have them), you can and should ask more practical questions, like:

  • “Will I get the opportunity to use [skill you really enjoy]?”

  • “How quickly are you hoping to make a decision?”

  • “What are the company’s plans for 2018 around [remote work, a new office in Y place, expansion into Z vertical, etc.]?”