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KQs - The Mother of all Interview Questions

July 12, 2011

By: Carletta Clyatt

Use sparingly for maximum results!

Picture yourself in a job interview. You have about 30 minutes to sell yourself to your potential employer, knowing all the while that your responses must be clear, concise and logical. You even rehearsed a few answers on the way to the interview to bolster your confidence. 

With this game plan in mind, how would you respond to the following questions?

• Tell me something about yourself that you have never shared with anyone else.
• Under what circumstances would you lie to get a job?
• What is the one thing you hoped we wouldn't ask you?
• Who was your favorite performer on American Idol and why?
• If you were president, what issue would you address first? 

Welcome to the mysterious, unpredictable realm of KQs, or "killer questions." The verbal equivalent of a flash bomb used by police to distract or disorient suspects, KQs are unanticipated, out-of-the-blue queries designed to throw an applicant off course and test his ability to respond under pressure. This type of interview technique all but eliminates stilted, canned responses, allowing the real candidate to shine through (for better or worse).

While on the receiving end of a KQ, your candidate may do one of two things:

(1) Deliver a coherent, thoughtful answer

(2) Turn into a blithering, sweating mass of protoplasm. Either way, you'll get a read on his poise and ability to think on his feet in fairly short order. 

KQs seem to be gaining in popularity, both in the United States and abroad. A survey by the British recruitment agency Office Angels revealed that 90 percent of employers ask KQs in job interviews, an increase of 13 percent. 

Although KQs can add some interesting twists and turns to a job interview, it's probably not a good idea to use a lot of them in any one session. If you do, you may have to provide each candidate with an air sickness bag and a moist towelette as they approach the conference room door, and we know you're too busy for that. What's worse is that your applicant may not take you or your company seriously if you ask too many offbeat questions. 

Consider interspersing a few KQs among your regular behavioral interview questions to gauge how your candidate responds to an occasional curveball. 

Carletta Clyatt

Carletta Clyatt, a popular seminar speaker, is the SVP at The Omnia Group. She offers clients advice on how to manage more effectively and gain insight into employee strengths, weaknesses and behaviors. For more information about employee behavioral assessments, call Carletta at 813-280-3026 or email:

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