Beware the forced choice interview question

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Jul 30

Forced choice interview questions put you into what my old debate days called a “dilemma”– no matter which way you answered, you lose. Pick one of two opposing choices and pick your poison. Let’s get some help on this forced choice interview question.

Examples of forced choice interview questions

“What is more important to you, the money or the job?” Great, if I say money, the hiring manager doesn’t think I’m motivated to do the work. If I answer with the job, the manager doesn’t think I’ll be upset with a smaller money offer for the job.

“Do you prefer to work alone or with others?” Swell, I can like to work by myself and be thought of as a poor team player with no collaborative abilities or work so well with others I can’t get anything done by myself.

Traps, traps and more traps.

How to answer the forced choice interview question

There are two ways of avoiding the dilemma to this type of forced choice question. One way is to say “yes” to both. Unlike debate, sometimes both sides of the forced choice are good values to have.

For example, the money or the job is easily answered by saying “both.” “The work that I do is important for my self-satisfaction that comes from accomplishment and the money is just as important as it supports my family.” Yes, hiring manager, I want the good work and I want the good pay. Get over it.

Or, in working alone or with others, the answer can also be both. “I like working alone when I need focus and productivity to complete my work. But I like working with people to brainstorm ideas, help get better solutions to problems and help others for what they need.” Let me work the way that makes me the most productive to accomplish the department’s goals. Hello.

A second way to answer the forced choice is to pick a third option that isn’t presented by the interview question. “Do you work better with a manager that gives you free reign to complete your work the way you want or do you like being micromanaged to get your work done?”

What a great choice, don’t you think? For that type of question, you ignore both options presented and offer up a third alternative to answer this question. “I like a manager that provides clear direction, is open to seeing early versions of the work so we can make sure I’m on track, and to help clear obstacles that might prevent me from getting done.” And then, because it is such a crappy question, you follow your answer up with “And how do you manage your people?” Seriously, you need to know the answer to that one no matter what.

Forced choice interview questions try and put you at polar opposite positions so that a hiring manager can more easily categorize you from the question. But you don’t know which answer is the right answer for this particular hiring manager — and most people are not one option of the forced choice question or the other. Most people either have a balance between the choices or all about something completely different.

What other forced choice questions have you been asked in an interview?

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.