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The Top Three Biggest Interview Traps and How To Be Sure You Don't Fall In.

09.02.09   |   Job Search & Career   |   Amanda Musto, Marketing Manager at Treeline Incorporated

3 biggest interview traps and how to avoid them1. The Negative Sell:

  • "You are probably overqualified for this position" "This position, is almost 100% New Business Development, all you will do all day is make cold calls."
  • "There are other positions open in Marketing or Account Management that you might be more interested in, would you like me to get you in touch with those hiring managers?"

One of the most common traps is the "Negative Sell." The negative sell can come in many different forms, but most commonly hiring managers will bait you with other positions internally that may or may not be open to try to get to the bottom of your primal interest. You may be telling the interviewer that you are willing to hunt for new business but would much rather work as an Account Manager? Are you unemployed and getting desperate, thus willing to take a role that you are overqualified for? Are you an experienced Sales Person, tiring of the rat race, and thus looking for ways to get out of sales all together, (i.e: a Product Marketing, training, or something else). Or are you an entry level sales person that ended up in sales purely out of default, still under the assumption that marketing, advertising or PR, would be the "sexier" career choice?

In the market that we are currently in, where interviews are hard to come by, the key to overcoming this trap and ensure a positive interview you must have the following: Tact and Focus.

Be tactful and show focus to the job you are interviewing for:

(Example Reponses)

"Everything I've learned about your organization leads me to believe this is certainly a company I want to be a part of. I am here today to focus on learning more about the Account Executive Role. I feel strongly, that based on my experience I could be both happy as well as highly successful in the role. Do you have any questions or concerns that would lead you to believe I was not a good fit for this role, and is that the reason you are suggesting other avenues to take?"

There certainly are instances when you go into a company, interviewing for one role, and ultimately end up getting an offer for a different role. The above response would allow for that while not disqualifying you for the role in which you initially applied.

2. The Bad Cop

Another very common trap in sales interviews is what we like to call Bad Cop. You have had one or two interviews and great rapport with all the people you've met with until.....THE BAD COP. Right off the bat, this interviewer is confrontational. You show up on time, and they say you are late. You answer their question and they always have a rebuttal. No matter what you say, you just don't seem to say the right things. They object to everything you say, and purposely don't answer your questions...they may even get up and leave the room while you are mid-sentence. At the end of the interview, they may flat out tell you that you are not a fit.

If this hasn't happened to you yet, then consider yourself lucky. This tactic is used by hiring managers and many times by outsourced consulting firms who are hired by the hiring company to simulate a challenging prospect you may encounter while in an actual sale. This can commonly look like a terrible interview but it is in fact a trap the interviewer is trying to get you to fall into.


The key to this is to anticipate what might be coming and remember it is not a personal attack, this is an interview trap. Just like in sales, you have your awesome prospects, and those that...well... are not so awesome. Great Sales People find a way to win over any audience. So keep your cool and remember their challenging personality could simply be a trap to gauge how you would handle yourself. Take your time overcoming their objections in a non-defensive way. Ignore their blatant disrespect by spinning conversation back to positive aspects of your background whenever possible. Of course, no one wants to work for a jerk, however, get through the interview by treating it like a sales call, don't let your feathers get ruffled and then later in the process probe and qualify who this person is and in what capacity would you work together.

3. The Comfort Zone:

Oh, the comfort zone...how easy it is to sink right into the casual conversations about your weekend activities, how much you hated your last boss, or the fact that you are really looking for a sales role that pays the most money but requires the least amount of work. The Comfort Zone might as well be a hole full of quick sand because when you fall into The Comfort Zone there is no talking yourself back out. You're done.

At first read, you may say, "I know better than to do this," however it is easier trap to fall into than you may think. The more experienced your interviewer, the more artful they are in creating, "The Comfort Zone". Even with all of today's technology, sales is still about people and ultimately, people buy from people they like and trust...they also hire people they like and trust. Thus, within that conquest to relate to the hiring manager, to get him/her to like you, it is one's natural inclination to walk down the same conversation paths as the hiring manager.

The key to this isn't unlike any of my other advice....it is all about preparation. Be cognoscente that these traps exist, so you are on your toes, looking out for them and tactfully sidestepping them. Definitely relate to your interviewer, but avoid all potential topics of controversy or inappropriate nature. You can have a very dynamic conversation, full of positive affirmations, head nods, laugher and eye contact without saying anything damaging!!!!

After all, "failure to prepare is preparing to fail." Think of a mouse trap....it only works if it catches the mouse off guard. Once the mouse knows that it is there, the mouse can easily take a different path to bypass the trap. Some mice even get skilled enough to take the cheese out of the trap without it closing on them. These Mice go happily on their way with a belly full of cheese. So, next time you're gearing up for your next interview, put some time into anticipating these common traps and others.

Interviewing is a skill. With a little preparation, you will soon find yourself facing interview traps with confidence and leaving interviews not overcome, but leaving with offers!

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