How to answer filter questions: be unafraid. Be very unafraid.

So, you’re making your way through the standard application gubbins – CV, check, cover letter, sparkly and fresh, when BAM. Suddenly you realise your company of choice have added something a little extra into the equation – a filter question, a job-application bouncer, to weed out the unwanted. Be happy. This is a good thing.

how to answer filter questions

Why, oh why should you be so pleased that yet ANOTHER hurdle has been placed between you and the success-laden career finish line? Because sticking in a filter question or two is a very good way for both sides to get a bit more information – and generally speaking, it’s not information that can be found on your CV. Still confused? Read on.


Why companies use filter questions

Generally speaking, we love companies who take advantage of the filter question option. It means they’re curious, that they’re resourceful, and that they’re interested in something beyond the usual candidate box-ticking.

Filter questions are good because they allow companies to get a little more specific, whilst allowing you the time and means to really think about what they’re asking. That’s the only problem with asking very specific (or indeed, more ‘blue sky’) questions at interview – in the heat of the moment, you’re not necessarily going to do yourself justice. The filter questions makes allowances for that. The filter questions let you relax a bit.

What do filter questions generally want to know?

Those it’s obviously impossible to generalise, for the most part we find that filter questions generally fall into two categories:

1) A question that hopes to understand how you tick
2) A question that address some SPECIFIC skillset or industry knowledge.

How do you answer filter questions?

To get a little more specific, here’s an example of the ‘type one’ question:

“A penguin walks into a room holding a sombrero. He needs directions. How can you help?”

Seriously, this is a real thing.

The question might be ridiculous, it might be a lateral thinking puzzle, it might just be a general pondering about how you see the world – the point is, it’s about your brain, and how you use it when faced with something unexpected. And the nice thing about that is, there are no wrong answers. All you can be is yourself.

If your instinct is to answer with something extremely creative, then you should. And if that’s what this company is looking for, then perfect. If they want someone who is hard-wired with logic and technical problem-solving alone, then you are not right for the job, and they will pass. Ultimately, it’s a short-cut to the right outcome.

Take a look over the role, take in what kind of person they are looking for, and demonstrate that you have those attributes in the answer. But be yourself. Otherwise, nobody wins.

So, the ‘type two’ question. An example of the type two might be something like:

“What online ad campaign most impressed you last year, and why?”

Admittedly, this is more likely to come up when dealing with a marketing role, rather than a professional knife-thrower, but you get where we’re coming from. It’s a chance to dig a little deeper into your knowledge of a specific field or topic, and get a sense of how much you know, as well as how you think.

Again, the good thing about asking these types of questions is that it gives you a good idea of how well you would fit in a company like this. Does the question appeal to you? Spark something in your brain? Do you find that you sort of already have a vague answer in mind upon first reading it, though you’d need to flesh it out with fancy words?

Well great. This is probably a company and a job that is going to suit you. Again, it’s about shortcuts. If the question absolutely flummoxes you, or you feel nothing upon reading it, it’s probably not the role for you. There will be applicants out there who really do feel the passion for what this company is looking for, and real passion is hard to fake.

Above all, remember…

If this company is asking a filter question, it’s probably because they want to know the answer. Possibly more than they want to trawl through a lot of CVs.

Don’t see this as a tiny addition to your already impressive back-catalogue, assume that THIS will be the thing to really hook your employers in – and treat it that way. No matter how silly the question may seem, take real time over your answer. This may very well be a potential employer’s first impression of you. Make it bright, make it buzzy, make it personal, and – above all – make it count.

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Natasha Hodgson is the Content and Community Manager over at Enternships. She loves writing about inspiring things, and Nicolas Cage. Luckily, those two things are not mutually exclusive.

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