Top tips for tackling trick job interview questions from Reed Chairman

The trick question seemingly designed to trip you up or at least shatter your already shredded nerves

A new book by James Reed, chairman of job site Reed, titled “Why You? 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear Again” offers insight into the context of some of the most challenging questions you might encounter as a candidate.

Reed encourages us to decode the questions we might face in order to understand what our prospective employer really wants to know.

One of the most difficult questions cited by Reed is “would you rather be liked or feared?” This is essentially a trick question because of course both options are wrong! The author categorises these kind of questions as character questions, designed to reveal our aptitudes and our potential leadership style.

An understanding of the intention behind the question on the part of the employer will facilitate our understanding as to how to answer. In this case Reed advises that we take the middle ground, responding that we would rather neither be liked nor feared, but aim instead to be respected.

Although it is usually advised never to avoid giving a straight answer in job interviews, Reed explains that these sorts of character related questions afford a fantastic opportunity to frame a more creative response and demonstrate how skilful we are at maintaining composure in the face of these apparently confrontational “moral dilemma” questions.

So, Reed’s advice to anyone facing the dreaded “would you rather be liked than feared” question is to acknowledge the parameters by first explaining why you would prefer not to fall into either category. For example you could explain that you feel fear to be a terrible motivator and a negative attribute to any team, based as it is on irrational behaviours and manipulation within personal relationships.

You could then continue to talk about why being liked is also not enough; it is all very well being the fun guy and everyone’s best friend, but sometimes tough decisions need to be made, and you need to cultivate strength in the face of unpopularity.

To conclude your response, Reed recommends that you explain that you would aim to be respected rather than liked or feared as this bridges the two extremes: the ability to connect with and relate to people on a personal level whilst simultaneously being able to get the job done in a way that benefits the team as a whole.

The key then, to approaching many of these trick questions is really to view them in a positive light, designed not just to trip you up, but to give you the chance to demonstrate your integrity and as Reed puts it, your ability to make clear, conscious decisions in line with the positive values you will bring to the company.

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