Dec 08

Two Tricky Interview Questions That Can Take You By Surprise

interview questionsAs a potential employee you should always head into a job interview with hope and excitement, a freshly edited resume clutched in your fist, and sporting your most appropriate outfit. You feel ready for all those interview questions.

Hope and excitement helps get you through the door. That fabulous outfit helps you feel good and gives a good first impression. The freshly edited resume has helped refresh your memory of exactly how many years you have worked, the list of equipment you have run and all those other details of your employment history.

You sit down, ready to answer any interview question about former employers, work duties, improved revenues and length of employment. But before you even have time to adjust yourself in the seat you might be blindsided by a few “trick” interview questions. Trick questions that will actually determine if you will be hired or not!

Tricky Interview Question #1:

Why are manhole covers round?

One of the craziest “trick” interview questions has been made popular by the hiring team over at Microsoft – “Why are manhole covers round?” This is a question that is designed to knock the interviewee out of their typical mindset of resume thinking, and force them to quickly think on their feet.

What the heck do manhole covers have to do with computer operators, motel operation, office assistant or whatever job you may be applying for? It doesn’t! This question is often used in businesses where a new employee will come in to work as part of a dynamic team. It is designed to show if the candidate can think of their feet, be flexible, work through a problem and work with others.

Manhole covers don’t have to be round, and that’s the whole point. Can you adapt to this sort of question quickly, punt a good answer off your hip and keep a smile on your face? Most important, this sort of question is designed to help the interviewer see how you respond when wrong. Because the question doesn’t really have a ‘right’ answer, it will help bring out any deep personality flaws that show you will not be good working on a team.

Always answer these types of interview questions with a smile and a confident, “Maybe.” You don’t know the answer; don’t pretend that you do. A good sense of humor here will win you lots of points.

Tricky Interview Question #2:

Where do you see yourself in five years?

This is a question that can easily take a prospective employee by surprise. Job seekers find themselves living in the moment, one day at a time, and often are not giving a lot of thought to a future.

This question can be particularly difficult for someone who has been out of work for a long time, or for someone who has multiple resumes in play. Job hunting is a difficult task for most people, and it can play havoc with your future dreams.

Perhaps one day you are giving up on the job hunt all together and starting to plan your own business. Perhaps another day you are gazing longingly at the yellow rubber gloves in the cleaning aisle of the grocery store and thinking wistfully of a job washing dishes. More than likely you don’t have a clear picture of your future, and this question can both take you by surprise and create a terrible awkward moment in the interview.

So be prepared for interview questions that make you stop and think. If you are taken by surprise with these or similar interview questions go ahead and do exactly what you need to do. Stop and think. Answer honestly with a smile. Remember, tricky interview questions like these could be what lands you the job!


  1. Julius

    I was asked the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” once on my first job interview. I just answered simply with what I know I would like doing at that time. Looking back it was a very naive answer. I never knew why my boss asked such a question before until I asked him 3 years later and told me that there is no correct answer but the answer would tell him if the person have the drive to better himself at his job. Now, it is also my favorite question to ask during job interviews. Guess what I answered my boss back then?

    1. Interview Questions

      Hey Julius,
      Thanks for the input. That is a very popular interview question by employers and like you said, there is no correct answer. They want to know that you have the drive and passion to do your line of work for years to come. Of course, there will always be people who are happy with staying at the same desk job and collecting a check every week, but they aren’t the type of employees company’s are looking for. Because you see yourself advancing in the future, the employer knows that you are going to work hard to achieve your goals – and the harder you work, the better the company does.

  2. Mr Overspisning

    But what is the “right” answer to the last one? I’ve heard that some companies af put off if you answer something hopefully being with them five years into the future as this shows a lack of ambition?

    1. Interview Questions

      You want to focus on where you will be in your career in 5 years, not necessarily what company/location you will be in. If you are applying for an IT Technician position, you want to say that through hard work and team collaboration, you hope to become Manager of the IT Department (or something equivalent) within the next 5 years. Companies want to see that you have ambition and interest in moving up in your career, so be sure to focus on your personal career goals (not the company).

  3. Lu

    Interviews are definitely tricky now a days, because the questions aren’t directed at you to gain knowledge about how experienced, that’s why they get a copy of your resume before your interview, it’s because they want to do a personality check. Anyone can lie on their resume, but you can’t get away from interview question. Your last question is one I have come across time and time again. What company doesn’t want to hear someone respond with, “Here of course!!”. Thanks for the very interesting and useful article.

  4. Lucia@disciplineandchildren.com

    Throughout my coporate life I have been both at the receiving and giving end of the question ” Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” At that time, I was very ambitious and responded that I would see myself taking on more responsibilities within the company-perhaps even moving to another department within the business unit and offer value there. The response clearly resonanted well with my boss and hired me on the spot! A few years later, when I became Manager I asked that same question to a candidate and she responded, “To raise a family and be a housewife” unfortunately for one of directors that killed the interview. Just a piece of advice always respond any interview question with your career and business life.

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