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  • Lori A. Jazvac

Think Creatively: Don’t Get Spooked by Tricky Interview Questions

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

I conducted an in-depth interview coaching session with a mid-level professional aiming for a higher level client service role in the public sector.

My client was concerned about navigating the next stage of the job selection process. She wanted to present her experience and added value in a way that would set her apart from other candidates. So, I provided some valuable interview coaching and tips. We discussed her unique value -- her excellent leadership and customer service skills along with her ability to resolve issues quickly.

Collaboratively, we uncovered strategies for handling potential interview questions. We also explored unexpected or challenging questions that may be asked in the interview. As time progressed, my client answered more confidently and concisely while articulating her value.

Responding to Challenging Interview Questions:

Think Creatively and Critically

Interview questions include many different forms. Common interview questions such as: “Why do you want to change jobs?” or “How do you add value to this particular role?” may be asked to determine your fit within the role and organization.

There are behavioural or situational questions that evaluate your past performance as an indicator of future performance. For instance, “Tell me about a time when you handled an irate client.” Emphasize the Challenge -Action - Result outlining the way you confidently turned around this problem situation into a win.

Let’s not forget about questions that enforce candidates to address gaps: “Why did you quit your last job?” or “What did you dislike about your last role?” Here, remember to take care how you answer and support your response with a positive rather than a negative.

A common interview question is: “Why do you want to work here?" Responding with: “I just finished school and need a job" or "The culture and benefits are good" shows that you haven't thought much about a higher reason for working for that organization.

Rather, consider the difference you would make to that company or organization specifically. This shows that you have done your research and strategically evaluated how you could foster change to address a significant issue or meet an important need. Maybe you would like to introduce an innovative initiative or leverage your leadership skills and passion and knowledge about the company's products to drive growth. This is the time to offer the employer a clear answer on why he/she should hire you rather than the other candidates.

Effective Interviewing Strategies: Think Outside the Box

A useful interviewing strategy when responding to questions is to identify the relevant keywords asked in the question. Consider reframing the response by restating part of the question in the response. This will provide you with a coherent structure and a crisp focus.

Don’t forget to apply the “Challenge/Situation-Action-Result Method” (C-A-R) to respond to the question.

> What challenge did you overcome?

> What action / strategy did you utilize?

> What was the result/impact?

This three-step-method serves as a guiding post for keeping you focused in interviewing. Remember to keep each answer succinct, to no longer than 2 minutes per answer.

How to Address the 'What Type of Animal Would You Be?' Question

But what happens when you, as a candidate, are approached with unusual questions that seem to have nothing to do with the job?

In a survey sponsored by the staffing firm, Accountemps, hiring managers like to ask candidates in job interviews: “If you could choose to be any animal, what kind of animal would you be?”

Indeed, you may wonder what does this have to do with your fit for the role and what on earth would be the right response. But what if there is no right response? Think critically here, and evaluate the question in terms of performing the job at hand.

While most people agree that an interviewer and job candidate’s time is best being spent by asking direct or more common-sense questions, there is a reason for applying this approach. Such questions are not necessarily meant to "trick" the job candidate though, but to evaluate the candidate’s ability to think creatively and critically.

When HootSuite CEO, Ryan Holmes, asked his executive assistant in the interview, “What kind of spirit animal are you?” she responded:

a duck: a bird that is calm on the surface, but always has its webbed feet hustling underneath the water.

The quality of the responses offered by candidates provides the hiring manager an insightful glimpse into the candidate’s personality, their strengths and weaknesses, and problem solving approach. The hiring manager can then identify what authentically matters to the candidate, but more importantly, how that ties in with a higher purpose -- achieving the distinct vision or mission of the organization.


The underlying purpose of these challenging interview questions is to find out:

do you truly want to do the job and are you qualified to do so?


Of course, the task of the hiring manager is to find the right candidate for the role, but to essentially delve into the candidate’s soft skills, including personality traits and work habits, and whether they pose a harmonious fit for the long haul with the organization. The hiring manager can then determine how the candidate really thinks and how he/she would solve a pertinent problem or challenge in their organization.

Therefore, when answering tricky interview questions, don’t only think about how your skills and qualifications align with the requirements of the role or the organizational culture. Go deeper with your response.


Be prepared to identify concrete challenges that exist in the organization and propose what strategy you would use to specifically address these challenges.

For instance, how would you drive growth, reduce costs, or build a stronger team?


Remember where there are challenges, there are opportunities.


If a forward-thinking candidate can demonstrate their passion and expertise to meet these challenges using a specific strategy, they are twice as likely to be considered for a rewarding job offer.


Many jobseekers forget: it's not only about what the company can do for them ­–– but what they can do for the company.


This Halloween, don’t get spooked by tricky interview questions! But remember to take charge with a proactive strategy and holistic interview coaching. Call Creative Horizons Communications for interview coaching.

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