Stump the Interviewer

Posted by on June 7, 2012

This week on campus I hosted a game show called, “Stump the Interviewer.”

There were three levels of interview questions. The first level had ‘basic’ questions, the second had ‘trap’ questions, and the third level consisted of ‘stress’ questions . Brave contestants took their shot at a random question from each level  in hopes of making it through all three rounds and Stumping the Interviewer.

I was very impressed to have several students make it through all three levels of interview questions. While reading the questions, I recalled my initial interviews after college and wished that someone would have explained the these types of interview questions and what the interviewer was looking for.

Here are the three types of interview questions used in the game show and my theory as to why they are asked in interviews.

The first type of questions are basic questions. Basic questions are designed so the interviewer can get to know you a little bit more. They are also designed to test your interest in the position and to see how well you prepared for the interview.  Examples of basic interview questions are: What are you career goals? What are your strengths? Tell me about yourself. What do you know about the position and why would you be a good fit?  Since many basic interview questions are not industry specific, it’s easy to prepare before the interview. Remember to practice your basic interview questions and keep them professional. They don’t want to hear about how you like to take long walks on the beach.

The second type of questions are what I like to call trap questions. Trap questions, if you are not careful, can easily create a down spiral effect during an interview. Examples include: If you could change one thing about your last job what would it be and why? What is your biggest weakness? Who is your least favorite boss and why?  The trick of getting out of trap questions with your image in tact is to avoid being negative or bad mouthing
anyone.  It is also a good practice to keep these answers short.

The third type are stress questions. Stress questions are used to test a candidate’s ability to think of their feet, to make a quick decision, and to problem solve.  Example questions include: What do you think of garden gnomes? How do you load a dishwasher? If you were a vegetable, what kind would you be and why?  These are all types of stress questions. Usually they are unrelated and more often than not the interviewer doesn’t care how you
answer them,  just that you give an answer that is positive and shows your personality.

Thank you to all the “Stump the Interviewer” participants. If you have any questions or would like to practice your interviewing skills, please contact Elaine Vandenburgh in the Career Services Department at

Thank you for your Interest in Minnesota School of Business.