Interviewing Tip #3: Reframe Inappropriate Questions

One hiring manager loves this question: “If you had a magic wand, and three wishes, what would they be?” My three wishes deal with enough money to buy a sailboat, paying someone else to drive my kids to their doctor appointments and lacrosse games, and buy books whenever I want. I don't want to tell a hiring manager that answer, nor does the manager want to hear that answer.

If you hear an irrelevant or other inappropriate question, help the interviewer reframe the question. Here are possibilities to turn around an irrelevant question:

  • “Well, I’m not so sure about magic wands, but when I’ve seen problems at work, here’s what I did….”
  • “I haven't noticed that wishes or crystal balls work at work [make sure you grin here], so here's what I did when I wanted something to happen….”
  • “Oh, the usual things, to end world hunger and bring about world peace. I've never seen a magic wand at work, so here's how I used my initiative to accomplish something…”

When interviewers ask about magic wands, they're really asking about problem-solving skills, responsibility, or initiative, or some other personal quality. They just haven't figured out how to ask the question. Your job as an interviewee is to help reframe the question so you can answer it.

There are lots of other irrelevant questions. Post or email your favorite irrelevant question, and I'll suggest ways you can answer it.

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