The one thing you shouldn't say in an interview.. or should you?




It started with an observation of one of my research participants being interviewed. Yes, I got to be a fly-on-the-wall observing the interaction between the hiring manager and my research participant - an immigrant from one of the former Soviet Eastern Block countries. He was well educated, a professional in his own country, he dressed well, and moved here recently so he can, in his words "have a freer life." The interview started in the usual manner..


What makes your experience unique for this role? He answered eloquently.


Describe an example of when you've been able to overcome a particular challenge in xxxx. He used the STAR model.


I thought it was going smoothly until this question was posed by the interviewer: Here's a scenario of xxxx, what would you do in this situation?


Now we've all heard this type of question, we're given a scenario to determine if we're able to respond using our experience, background, academic and professional acumen to be accountable, share what we've learned, provide a first and second level response and then deliver the whole piece in an authentic manner.


Nope that's not what happened here. Instead, my study participant frowned and said:


"That is the wrong question to ask me!" indignant of why a simple question was asked of him. "THIS is what I think YOU SHOULD ASK ME." He then proceeded to provide a totally different scenario that is more convoluted than needed for the line of questioning occurring before him. He then said "I WILL NOW ANSWER THE QUESTION FROM MY SCENARIO." You could see him burn through his response in a loud tone and a staccato cadence.

I did not react. I kept telling myself, "I was a fly-on-the-way and I'm here to just observe."


Now you could say that he was digging his grave by the way this came down but if I stepped back and reflect, I also realize there's a cultural implication that came with his response. He explained this as, ".. by providing a better and more complicated scenario, I am highlighting how good I am and how I have a really unique expertise that they should consider [me] for the role."


So my question to you as you consider the situation and his cultural background: Is this an appropriate response or not? If you say it's not, is there a better way to respond?

I have an idea on how he should proceed but I want to hear from you first. You can message me, post a response below, or even send me a DM on Insta or Twitter.





What saddens me though is how frustrated he continues to be when he doesn't get a job he truly thinks he is qualified for... and then asks why he keeps getting rejected.


How would you counsel someone when you hear their job search frustration?

I look forward to your input.



PS All my research participants have consented to all the activities that I'm posting here and in this case, the company and the interviewer also consented to being part of this study. So no worries on any legalities of this interaction.


Tags #interview #hr #humanresources #behavioralquestions #jobsearch