Man peering up from behind desk

There’s an urban legend that Microsoft liked to test the analytical thinking of its potential recruits, asking them brainteasers to see how they handled them. Legend has it that when Nobel Prize winning physicist, Richard Feynman, was interviewed, Microsoft asked him to explain why most manhole covers are round (as opposed to square). Perhaps offended, perhaps pedantic, and almost certainly untrue, the scientist was reported to have replied, “Why are round manhole covers round?! Round covers are round by definition! It’s a tautology.” For those among us who haven’t won our Nobel Prizes yet, our answers may have to be a little less abrasive when we come up against challenging interview questions. Here’s a few of the toughest that our clients ask so that you can be better prepared:

What do you like to do for fun?

This one comes up a lot but warrants special consideration. Character is important to companies that are hiring. You can bet that the at least one other candidate is as qualified as you, if not more qualified. Character questions separate the wheat from the chaff and show interviewers if you will be a fit in the company’s culture. Do you like to party? Gamble? Watch UFC? Sure, no one will judge you for doing these things once in a while but do you really want them to define you? PG-13 hobbies that show you are reliable and driven will do a better job of displaying your fine character. Have you played soccer with the same team for five years? Do you volunteer? Do you love to spend time with your kids? Share these kinds of activities with a potential employer.

What will you bring to this company that we do not have already?

Pride and vanity are your stumbling blocks with questions like these. Oversell yourself and your pride might make you look conceited. Give away your best ideas and your vanity will have cost you your best work before you’ve even been hired. The simplest solution is to discuss your record of offering your previous employers what they didn’t have. Not the same achievement at three different companies—but new, innovative ideas tailor-made to each business. By doing this you’ll demonstrate that you’re an out-of-the box thinker who quickly discerns what is missing in an organization.

Tell me about your most recent/current role

No matter the circumstance do not badmouth your current employer. No one wants to hire someone who is disloyal. Pick out the duties that you do like in your current role. However, show that you are capable of taking on more than what you are best at there. You have fulfilled your potential; you are continuously exceeding expectations with no increase in salary or responsibility. That is why this opportunity seems like the right move—you are seeking an employer who is ready to get your very best.

Do not over complicate the interview process

Honesty and the ability to demonstrate your successes go a long way in job interviews. James Reed’s book, Why You? 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear Again is in agreement with this. So stay calm when the tough questions come up. The answers to interview questions should be simple if you are well prepared.

…And by the way, manhole covers are round so that they can never fall into their own hole (unlike a square one which has a diagonal longer than its sides).