I came across this question in an interview once.

"What is one thing you wouldn't want us to know?"


I was completely unprepared for it and muddled through with a generic "I sometimes worry about the quality of my work even if there's no reason to" answer.

Any other suggestions?

jrumple's picture
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To me this sounds like a variation of the classic Interview Weakness Question. Listen to How to Handle the Interview Weakness Question episode.

This is also an opportunity to bring humor into the interview. If you've never laughed during an interview, you have no idea how much better it makes you feel for the rest of the interview. It's the last part of 5 Ways to Master Horstman's 3rd Law of Interviewing.

I'm NOT saying tell a dirty joke. I'm NOT saying drop a smartaleck remark. Something simple like, "As much as I wouldn't want you to know it, you may have already seen it on Google. <chuckle> This is why I live as if everything I do is being evaluated." Then go into your answer for the Interview Weakness Question.

Colorado Springs

tlhausmann's picture
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Hmmm. I'm not so sure this is akin to the weakness question.

I would pause for a moment and simply ask how this question is relevant to the position under consideration.

twaldo's picture

Jack, normally I would agree with you about it being akin to the weakness question. If memory serves me correctly, they had already asked the weakness question.

I do like the notion of using humour. I'm interviewing for another position with this company, so perhaps I will just have two answers for the weakness question and use that approach.

jib88's picture

That is an odd question. To my mind, if you are really going to answer the question that was asked (which I try to do in interviews), you have two choices: 1) Lie  2) Say something stupid.

1) If there is really something that I wouldn't want the interviewer to know, then I wouldn't tell them that thing, I would tell them something else. Hence I would be lying. 2) If I do tell them something I don't want them to know then it is probably something stupid to be telling them.

I can't think of a single (work-related) thing I wouldn't want an interviewer to know that I would feel comfortable telling them.

The weakness question is different, because I don't care if someone knows I have a weakness (provided that weakness isn't compulsive embezzlement). Everyone has weaknesses and should be working on them, has made mistakes and should have learned from them, etc.

What's the interviewer trying to figure out with this question? Maybe they're only trying to see how you react to a difficult question in a stressful situation, in which case an answer to the weakness question should suffice. The weakness question is much better to my mind, as you can get something genuinely useful out of it as an interviewer. Too bad that recruiting in general isn't very good (more people need to listen to M&M on this)



jhack's picture

It is quite like the "weakness" question, but much less likely to provide the interviewer good data on your likely job performance, and very likely to cast the hiring firm in a poor light.

If you get this question again, consider talking about a bone-headed mistake you made early early in your career, what you learned (don't do that), and how you wish it had never happened. It's job-related, it's no longer relevant, and you surely wish you hadn't been asked to reveal it.

That answer meets the MT criteria: it answers the question directly, it is truthful, and you look good.


John Hack

markwalsh99's picture
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I would use an amalgam of John and Jacks's advice and say that I was a secret ABBA fan....but now you know. Use something different if you feel there might be subliminal connotations to your answer. Anything that you can dismiss and move on.

MH has often said that you're not that good and they're not that stupid, but in this instance, I'm not so sure. Just exactly what knowledge is this question supposed to elicit?


ShannonCorin's picture
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I think it may be a very smart question. Depending on how a prospect responds to the question one could garner if they are honest or deceitful, optimistic or pessimistic. What would be the first thing to pop into your head? That you cheated, lied? Or have an obession or addiction? Would it show on your face or body language? Would you become defensive or offended? I think it's like when a cop sees someone run from them for no apparent reason they give chase because they must be guilty of something. Otherwise why run? I don't think it's so much on how you answer the question as it is on how you react to it.