Back when I was applying everywhere and anywhere for a Software Engineering job, I applied to a mutual fund investment company. They were very formal and uptight, from the overly detailed 13 page application that I've never seen anywhere else, all the way down to citing the calculations I made for travel reimbursement. During the interview process I talked to 4 different groups of people including the Senior Manager.

It felt like the Senior Manager was trying to find ways to trip me up. He gave a simple coding example and then chided me for trying to explain the details saying "I already know what it does". He reamed me out for not giving the correct definition of the word "refactor". Later, when I was trying to explain to him what I did for a school project, he said "Yes, but what is the value? Were you just coding around for no reason or was there a tangible benefit to this?" The thing is, I decribed to him that my team did field tests of the website and edited it according to feedback, which was rated from 1 to 5. The question itself just didn't seem relevant for an academically motivated, as opposed to financially motivated project.

For reference, I currently have a job, this is for people who encounter the same attitude of a manger as I did.


How do I deal with an interviewer who is trying to trip me up?

  • 7
    I'm not really convinced the examples you give are "an interviewer trying to trip you up." It sounds more like your interviewer was trying to get more detailed information from you rather than mess with you.
    – enderland
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 2:25
  • 5
    Maybe he was trying to get more details, or maybe he just has the sort of personality that you wouldn't want to work with, and you had a lucky escape. I realize that it was one of your first interviews, but, as we often say here, am interview is a two way street, and I have often thought "I don't fancy having him as my boss for the next few years" and declined the offer. Either way, you will never know, things are good now, forget it.
    – Mawg
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 6:37
  • 1
    Value is not just financial. Value can be academic too. He likely didn't mean financial value but rather the problem your work sought to solve.
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 15:08

2 Answers 2


How do I deal with an interviewer who is trying to trip me up?


You count your lucky stars that you didn't get a job in a place that treats people like that and move on.

Chances are the senior manager either

  1. He didn't like you for who knows what petty reason
  2. They already had someone in mind for the job
  3. He's a jerk

Either way there's not much you can do so you wish them luck and move on.


Don't take the bait.

It is always best to remain calm, level headed and professional.

I'd like to present though an alternative scenario to the interviewer not liking the candidate, being unprofessional or pushing the candidate away on purpose:

An interview is a vetting process.
You apply not only to work for a company (they already know your qualifications and experience) but also to become part of a team.
Some companies / work environments put more pressure on people than others, requiring to work as a well oiled machine under difficult conditions.
I don't think it's necessarily a good thing but they very well might start that during the interview to see how a potential employee reacts under stress, pressure and unexpected circumstances.

A mutual fund investment company is not playing around, so who knows what hoops they require their employees to jump through.
The question doesn't even strike me as that odd. He was interested in your motivation of doing the project you did. It does give insight into your character, personal priorities and basic motivations / interests.

If you're uncomfortable you're always free to end the interview and leave and/or voice your concerns.

That too reveals information about your personality.

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