You’ve got your dream career—or at least a job on the map to it—in sight. The only problem? You’re an interview (or two or three) away from landing the position. According to legaljobs.com, 118 people apply for a single job, on average. On top of that, only about 20% of applicants are selected for an interview.
If you’re a bit rusty when it comes to interviewing, take note: making a good impression and standing out from the crowd are two very different things.
Most people can sail through an interview without completely bombing it, but if you want to make sure you’re clenching the position, you need some fresh responses that highlight your capability—and, of course, you need to steer clear of the bombs. When you’re rehearsing for that interview, be sure these answers are nowhere in your repertoire.
‘I’m a perfectionist.’
While “what’s your greatest weakness?” is kind of a lame interview question, your job is to make sure your answer isn’t equally boring. And while you might actually be a perfectionist, everyone knows that isn’t your greatest weakness. As a rule, any thinly veiled boast is going to be a boring answer to this age-old question.
Of course, you also don’t want to lead with “I can’t keep myself organized to save my life,” or “I tend to be flakey,” so a little spin isn’t just expected—it’s crucial. Answer honestly but avoid admitting to a weakness that’s going to interfere with your ability to succeed in the position.
Alternately, you can start by citing a weakness you experienced in the past, then outlining how you overcame it. For example, “I have really high standards and like to be in control, so in the past it’s been difficult for me to work in a team environment. That said, I’ve been involved in many team-building courses and seminars, and I’m now at a place where I welcome collaboration.”
‘My last employer had a terrible culture and my supervisor was toxic.’
Eek. When you’re asked why you left (or are planning to leave) your last job, do not take the opportunity to air the dirty laundry of your employment past. According to Forbes, speaking badly about your past or present employer is the worst mistake you can make in an interview, as it “reflects far more poorly on you than it does on them.”
Instead, focus on what went well in your last job, then outline the reasons you’re ready for new challenges—and keep personal disagreements and bad vibes out of the picture.
‘Yes, I was wondering about vacation time and/or the employee discount.’
When asked if you have questions about the job, do not—repeat, do not—ask about benefits like vacation time, employee discounts, stock programs and other employee perks. While these are certainly factors you’ll want to consider when deciding whether or not to accept a job offer, leading with this question shows the interviewer you’re more interested in perks than building your career with his or her company.
Instead, focus on questions that show your interest in the position and opportunities with the company. What challenges are they facing with regard to your position? How does the company approach career development? Ask relevant questions that show you’re serious about making a strategic career move—hopefully one with your interviewer’s company.
‘No, I don’t have any questions.’
Well, why not? If you’re serious about your career, you’re going to be strategic with your choice of employer. Sure, not having any questions might make you easy going, but it also signals that you’re not making career decisions with the kind of intention employers like to see.
Ask specific questions about day-to-day responsibilities, your path to advancement, your interviewer’s experience with the company, challenges you might face as you’re learning to work with your new team—the list goes on and on. What you ask doesn’t matter so much as the fact that you’re asking.
‘I’m a huge football fan and can’t wait to see the Rams in the Super Bowl this year.’
Okay, that’s interesting, and a bit of personal information doesn’t hurt, but when you focus on fluff, you’re missing the opportunity to really sell yourself to your interviewer. So when the question, “tell me a bit about yourself” inevitably comes up, be a little more LinkedIn and a little less Instagram.
Focus on your career path, what you’ve accomplished and where you’re hoping to go from here. Of course, if football happens to come up organically, feel free to run that pass into the end zone, but don’t waste an entire answer on it.
A chance to flex your interview skills
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