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The Scariest Interview Questions—and The Best Ways to Respond

With the crunching leaves of fall, come jack-o'-lanterns, vampires, and witches. Yet, none of those probably terrify us as much as a job interview. Here are a few of the scariest questions you can be asked in an interview—and guidance on how to respond.

What is this gap in your career history? It is natural to feel embarrassed about a lapse in your employment. The reality is that such a career hiatus is fairly common. When responding to this question, don’t obfuscate. At the same time, you don’t need to feel pressured to tell everything. If it’s something appropriate to share, you may do so. When responding to this question, show how you learned and benefited from the time away.

What is your salary requirement? Talking money is always nerve-wracking. You want to avoid leaving money on the table, but also don’t want to make an unreasonable ask. This question is scariest when it comes early in the interview process. It’s best to postpone this discussion until a more suitable stage of the interview process. A savvy response could be, “I’d be interested to hear the range you have budgeted for this position. I’m happy to discuss salary requirements when responding to an offer.”

Do you plan on having kids soon? Unfortunately, sometimes interviewers will ask a question that is wildly inappropriate. Knowing how to respond to something out of left-field requires poise. An interview allows you to get to know a company, just as they get to know you. Though not an automatic disqualification, an improper question may raise a red flag about the type of supervisor or organizational culture at an institution. A deft way to respond to this question would be a gentle redirect: “I pride myself on not allowing my personal life to interfere with my job performance. One aspect of the position I did want to ask you about is the team dynamics.”

What is the scariest question you've been asked in an interview? Share your spine-tingling tale with us on social media.