This is the ‘tricky’ job interview question most people fail
Like death and taxes, job interviews are an inevitable - and often dreaded - part of life.
And as the coronavirus crisis continues to wreak havoc on the economy and job market, the stakes are even higher than usual as more workers compete for fewer roles.
On top of all that pressure, social distancing and COVID-19 lockdowns mean more and more employers are ditching traditional face-to-face interviews in favour of virtual ones, which bring a raft of new challenges.
That's why Aussie recruitment firm Talent Web has just launched a virtual interview program, In Focus, which is designed to help jobseekers put their best virtual foot forward.
Talent Web's Jason Ajai told news.com.au a recent jump in job interview-related online searches showed Aussies were facing an uncertain job market at the moment.
In fact, he said there had been a recent spike of around 30,000 searches for general interview tips per month and an 80 per cent increase in searches for common interview questions in the past month, while other internet users were after information on redundancy packages and CV advice as well as specific online interview tips.
"This is a forced, new medium for jobseekers - whether you like it or not, jobseekers will have to improve their online, virtual interview skills to ensure they're better prepared than the next person who applied for the role - and the challenge is that with more jobseekers in the marketplace and less roles, it's even more important to get it right," he said.
Mr Ajai said in his 30-year career he had seen many blunders, and estimated around 60 per cent of people were "poorly prepared" for job interviews.
And when it comes to online interview slip-ups, he said most related to tech problems.
"Tech can be tricky sometimes - if you forget to charge your device and it fails halfway through the interview, it is a disaster that could absolutely cost you the job," he said.
"Especially when you take into account the fact that there are now more people to choose from, if you stuff up, they might just go straight to the next person."
Another mishap was poor setups.
"Poor lighting means people can't really see your face on their device - and if they can't see your face, they can't see your eyes, they can't engage and they can't get a sense of whether you're smiling or using any mannerisms - that's a big trip-me-up," Mr Ajai said.
"Another problem is poor camera angles - if people are setting up their phone on their desk five inches below their face, it means the interviewer gets a view of up their nose.
"And then there's poor framing - if your face is not squarely in the frame your head will be cut off," he said.
He said the best advice was to prepare thoroughly and be ready 10 minutes before the interview starts to troubleshoot any issues that arose.
"Make sure you're fully charged, turn your notifications to silent and make sure you're in a quiet room - and if you're in a place that doesn't lend itself well to an interview, such as in the kitchen or laundry, choose a virtual background that's appropriate for an interview," he advised.
"Virtual interviews require different skills than you would need in-person."
Finally - and perhaps most critical of all - was the challenge of establishing a connection.
"Many people can't engage and find it difficult to be open, warm and to show their softer side," Mr Ajai said.
It's a problem that's especially important to rectify in virtual interviews, as jobseekers have less opportunity to strike up a rapport with their potential boss-to-be.
"With in-person interviews, we used to use the walk from reception to the interview room as a chance for a bit of an icebreaker - you'd ask, 'How are you, how is your day?' - but that doesn't exist virtually, so you need to try and engage and build rapport in other ways," he said.
Another challenge is that virtual interviews typically last half the time of an in-person one, leaving the interviewer with the challenge of "forming crisp, concise responses and delivering them in no more than a couple of minutes".
"Body language is another hurdle - as we only get to see the person's face, we miss the opportunity to see their overall body language," Mr Ajai said.
"Visual cues are harder to pick up on and so concentration, an appropriate posture and a focus on not fidgeting are also things interviewees must consider.
"Lag times also pose an issue - in person you can clearly see when someone ends a question or comment and seeks a response, but in a virtual setting this is harder to pick up and so talking over people can be an issue."
One trick to creating warmth and connection virtually with a complete stranger is to stick something personal - such as holiday or family photos or a note from your kids - on your computer out of view which will help you to "tap into your emotions" and come across better on-camera.
It's also essential to maintain eye contact - and not to fall into the trap of looking at the interviewer's face on the screen instead of at your laptop camera.
"Many of us do interviews while looking at our screen - but in order to engage (with the interviewer) you need to look at the camera. Your eyes are the portal to who you are, but if you're looking away I won't get that," he said.
'TRICKIEST' INTERVIEW QUESTION
Mr Ajai also shared two notoriously difficult interview questions that most jobseekers consistently failed to nail.
The "trickiest" one asks interviewees to "Describe a significant achievement you have been responsible for?" followed closely by "Can you describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way?"
Mr Ajai said the questions regularly tripped people up as employers were looking for three separate parts to a response, which many people ignored.
"People find these tricky because they miss critical elements of the answer," he said.
"These questions should have a Challenge, Action and Outcome as part of the answer and the response needs to be delivered crisply within just a couple of minutes."
In other words, to ace these questions you'll need to succinctly explain a problem you faced, your course of action and how that decision solved the issue.
Originally published as How to ace 'trickiest' interview question