Answering Multi-Segment Interview Questions

By Suzy KedzierskiFour business executives having meeting in boardroom

Have you ever had an Interviewer ask you three distinct questions – simultaneously?

During a recent interview, I was asked: “Can you tell me why you applied for this job, what appeals to you most about working here, and what strengths you bring to the table that will make you successful at it?”

It seemed to me that those were three separate questions, and, it struck me as odd that they had been strung together, rather than each being asked and answered independently.

So, I checked with Kathy Bernard, Director of Communications and Social Media at www.Getajobtips.com & Linked Lightning, to see if she thought this was a common interview technique.

“Sounds to me like he (the Interviewer) may have gotten nervous and asked them (the questions) all at once, possibly because he is inexperienced, or, not good at interviewing, or, perhaps he was doing it to make you feel insecure,” said Bernard, who explained that this line of questioning is not a common interview technique.

Sometimes inexperience can be a factor in interview sessions, since many Hiring Managers have never been trained on how to actually conduct an interview. However, in this instance, I didn’t feel that was the case.

My Interviewer was a Society Executive Director within a large, 400,000 member non-profit association. He came across as a strong leader and a genuinely nice guy. He even mentioned that, just a few years ago, he had been in my shoes, conducting his own job search.

Therefore, my assumption was that he was experienced at asking and answering interview questions and had intentionally spit out the questions in rapid-fire succession to evaluate something else ­in my answer – perhaps to test my memory or ability to focus.

Bernard came up with several more possible explanations for this kind of interview technique.

“If he (the Interviewer) did ask multiple questions all at once, on purpose, perhaps he did so to make you feel inferior/uncomfortable, or, to see how you’d respond when stressed,” said the nationally recognized interview preparation expert.

“Perhaps he was testing your ability to multi-task or remember things when under pressure. He could also simply be seeing how well you handle being thrown a curve ball,” she added.

Tips for answering a multi-segment question

Should you find yourself in the same situation, beyond simply answering each segment of the question, keeping your responses short, and wrapping up by inquiring if you answered the question fully, Bernard offers the following tips:

  • “This type of situation is a good reminder to have pen and paper ready to jot down, at least, a thought starter word about each question, or, to study memorization techniques ­– such as remembering one word from each question ­– to remind yourself of the full question.”
  • “I would suggest answering the questions in order, first to last.”
  • “Do your best to appear confident; and, if you need to ask the Interviewer to repeat a question, don’t over-apologize.”
  • “I also think it could be fitting to ask the Interviewer three questions, very quickly, when it is your turn to ask questions. It would be interesting to see how he or she responds.”

She added one final thought. “I would be cautious about joining a company that seems intent on making job candidates feel uncomfortable in the interview. That could be just the tip of the iceberg of how they treat employees all the time.”

Kathy Bernard’s LinkedIn profile shows that she has over 2,335 endorsements and 33 recommendations. For more of her insights on job hunting, register for her free newsletter at www.Getajobtips.com.

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