Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
June 10, 2024 ·  6 min read

The Coffee Test & 6 other Invisible Tricks Job Interviewers Use to Vet You

Job interviews can be stressful. You can prepare all you want and guess what you think they might ask you, but they always seem to ask you something you didn’t think of. We want you to nail your next interview and land that dream job, so we’re going to offer you a few tips. These are seven secret tricks that employers use in job interviews to see if you’re fit for the job.

7 Tricks Employers Use To Test You During Job Interviews

Wouldn’t it be nice if job interviews were always just perfectly straightforward? No guessing, no out-there questions, just simply regular inquiries about your past experience and what you will bring to this new job. Unfortunately, job interviews are about as straightforward as people are. Employers aren’t just trying to see if you are qualified for the position, they’re also trying to see if you will gel with the team and have similar values. They’re not just trying to learn what you can do, they’re trying to figure out who you are. 

For this reason, they often use some pretty clever little tricks to figure that out. Many of these tricks you won’t even think about or notice. Thankfully, we’ve caught on and are here to give you the inside track. Keep these in mind the next time you head in for an interview and you’ll be sure to knock it out of the park.

1. The Coffee Trick

Have you ever been in a job interview and they’ve offered you a beverage – coffee, tea, juice, soda, or water? While yes, they are trying to be polite, but there may be another reason behind it. They are waiting to see what you will do with the cup at the end of the interview. (1)

Will you ask them what you should do with the used cup or where it should go? Will you take it directly to the kitchen, wash it, and put it away without being prompted? Or, will you simply leave it there for someone else to take care of? The managing director of Xero Australia Trent Innes spoke openly about how and why he uses this tactic. He says it’s all about hiring people with the same values, and that starts from small things such as keeping the kitchen clean.

“We really want to make sure we have people that have a sense of ownership,” he explained. “Culture comes from the ground up.”

2. The Waiting Game

The waiting game – or purposely making you wait past your scheduled interview time to start – is a stress interview tactic. Stress interviews are ones in which employers put recruits in purposely stressful situations to see how they will react. They want to see how you react to stress and how you think on your feet.

Employers know that you are likely to be at least a little bit nervous heading into your interview. For this reason, keeping you waiting for 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or more allows them to test you. This is a situation in which you have no control and is controlled by someone superior to you. How will you react? When you finally get to the interview stage, will you be calm and collected? Or, will you be flustered, stressed, or even appear a bit annoyed? How you handle this situation will tell your potential future employer about you.

3. Aggressive Behavior

This is usually in the form of aggressive questioning, but can also be in the way the interviewer asks you the question. Raising their voice while asking tough questions like “why were you fired from your last job?” or “what makes you think you are qualified for this job?” can be off-putting. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, then it is working. (2)

This style of questioning is meant to make you feel that way. They want to see if you can stay calm and think clearly in situations where someone is angry or is asking tough questions on the job. If you can handle it in the interview, you can likely handle it in real life, too.

4. How Rude

Another stress interview tactic is when the employer is being rude or dismissive – they will likely even act disinterested in you. Perhaps they will keep checking their phone, take a call, or fiddle through papers. They may also interrupt you, saying things like “you lost me halfway through. Can you start over and get to the point this time?”

The interviewer is testing both your confidence and patience. Don’t backtrack – calmly repeat your answer, stick to your response, and clarify anything that may need it. If they have questions, calmly respond to them. This way, you are showing them that you can remain calm and respectful in tough situations, but you are also confident enough to stand your ground.

5. Random Questions

Sometimes, an employer might ask you a really random question. Things like “if you could redesign a clock, how would you do it?” or even “I’d like you to jump out of the window now”. They’re putting you on the spot to test how creatively you think. If you’re sitting there thinking that you aren’t creative, don’t sweat it. They’re not asking for anything crazy, they’re looking for an answer with valid reasoning. If you can justify your reason well, they’ll be happy. 

Don’t forget in this situation, you can ask questions yourself. Ask for clarifications or specifications. Ask what the benefits would be – both company and personal.

6. More Than One Opinion

We often think of the interview as beginning when we sit down in the chair across from our (hopefully) future employer. The reality is in many businesses, the interview has already begun before you reach that point and often isn’t immediately over when the questioning is. 

Many employers will ask the receptionist, driver, or whoever your first point of contact was how you were. For situations where you are flown in or they have a driver pick you up, they will ask the driver and whoever assists you on the way how you were. This goes beyond simply not being rude, but how interactive you were. Did you chat with them, were you scrolling on your phone, or were you quiet the whole time? Our suggestion is to make polite small talk at the very least, as uncomfortable as that may be for you.

7. Introduces You To Your Potential Coworkers

Some employers may introduce you to others in the office after the interview. While you might be thinking “oh, I’ve got this one in the bag because they’re introducing me to the team!” think again. After these interactions with future colleagues, the employer will then ask them what their impression of you was. Their opinions are important as they are the ones who will be working with you on a daily basis. Be friendly and be yourself. 

The Bottom Line

Interviews are tricky, and you should expect them to at the very least ask you some tough, out-of-the-box questions. Be prepared and don’t forget to take your time, breathe, and think of your response. They are going to try to fluster you a bit. If you are aware of this ahead of time, you will be mentally prepared and ready to handle whatever they throw at you.


  1. Would you pass this interview ‘coffee cup test’?Yahoo. Business Insider. June 3, 2019.
  2. Stress Interview.” Wiki Job. September 17, 2021.