Tag: interview questions


5 Things You Should Never Say in a Job Interview

I get a lot of questions from clients asking what they should say in a job interview when responding to common interview questions. But rarely does someone ask me what they should never say in a job interview. However, this knowledge is just as important (if not more!) than the knowledge of what to say.

I can remember when I was doing my first job search, I really just wanted to answer the question “What is your greatest weakness?” with, “Chocolate.” Of course I knew better! But some people still say things which seem obvious not to say. And then there are those not-so-obvious things.

I could spend quite a bit of time discussing all the things you should never say in a job interview. But for this post, I’m going to focus on the top five things most candidates mistakenly say but should never utter.

Top 5 Things You Should Never Say in a Job Interview

1. Don’t share anything too personal

When answering “Tell us about yourself,” never tell the interviewer your personal history starting from kindergarten! They don’t care where you went to middle school, what your favorite color is, or what your dog’s name is.

Instead, talk about your professional self, including your strengths and experience, your interest in the job, and how you can make a contribution to the company. Show them you can be a problem-solver for them!

This is not to say you can’t use a personal challenge you’ve faced in your life that shows your problem-solving skills or your ability to adapt or be resilient. Sometimes those kind of personal stories can tell the interviewer a lot about your character.

I once hired an intern based on a story she shared about what it’s been like for her to grow up with a sibling with Down Syndrome. She shared this personal story in a professional way and related it back to her ability to perform the job at hand.

Therefore, if you do decide to share a personal challenge, I advise you to follow the same approach. Don’t get too bogged down into the details of your personal situation. Instead, show how you’ve grown from it and how this growth has made you a better person for the job.

2. Avoid generalities

Always avoid speaking in generalities. You want to provide specific examples of how you’ve previously demonstrated your strengths.

I’ve said this time and time again on this blog, but I cannot stress enough the importance of doing this! Your specific examples are what differentiate you from the other candidates.

*To learn how to do this, check out my post The Secret to Answering Behavioral Interview Questions.

3. Never show you’ve not done your research

When asked “What do you know about us?” don’t just talk about what you found on the company’s web site.

Dig deeper by studying the company’s past press releases, annual reports (if they’re a public company), and social media posts to show the knowledge you’ve gained from your research.

4. Don’t be the first one to mention salary

NEVER bring up salary until they do, and even then, don’t try to negotiate until there’s an offer on the table.

If you are being pressured for an amount you’re seeking, always give a range, never a single dollar amount. The range you give should never start with your lowest amount you’re willing to take. Start slightly higher than the starting number in your range because you can always negotiate down, but you can’t negotiate up.

5. Never say yes right away

Finally, don’t say yes to the first offer.

Know that you can typically negotiate salary and most employers expect you to! If you don’t, you could end up leaving a significant amount of money (and benefits!) on the table.

More tips

I teach my clients how to prepare for job interviews and how to negotiate salary through one-on-one personalized coaching and through my latest e-book Foolproof Strategies for Acing the Interview, available for purchase on Amazon Kindle. Also, you can get a free copy with your purchase of my on demand program Steps to Acing the Interview and Reducing Your Interview Anxiety.

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How to Answer “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?”

It’s the interview question every job candidate dreads: “What is your greatest weakness?”

And there’s been a lot of bad advice out there telling candidates they should say things like,

“I’m too much of a perfectionist.”

Or,

“I work too hard.”

I call bullsh*t. And so does the interviewer who’s heard the same canned answer from every other candidate!

In fact, if you respond with anything like the above answers, you’ll likely not be considered for the job. Instead, your interviewers will think you’re being dishonest with your answer. Then, they’ll question your honesty for all your other answers.

You can’t give a canned answer to this question.

And you also can’t evade the question.

Why you can’t evade the “What’s your greatest weakness?” question.

I remember in my first professional job my supervisor Nicolette and I had to conduct interviews to fill a position similar to mine. She and I interviewed one candidate I will never forget.

When Nicolette asked the candidate what her greatest strength was she immediately had an answer. But when asked what her greatest weakness was, she feigned the inability to think of anything at all. It was as if she never expected this question.

The candidate kept staring down with her eyebrows furrowed like she was trying hard to think but couldn’t come up with anything. She wouldn’t give an answer and asked if she could pass on the question and come back to it later, probably thinking Nicolette would forget. She didn’t.

When Nicolette later came back to the question, the candidate did the same thing. She sat silently with that “thinking hard” look on her face. Nicolette had no problem waiting through the awkward silence. It was like they were playing chicken to see who would speak first!

I don’t think the candidate ever did answer the question. We eventually ran out of time and had to begin the next part of her interview, a presentation she had to give to the rest of the search committee.

I remember how frustrated Nicolette was with the candidate afterward. She said to me, “Everyone has weaknesses! She should’ve been able to answer the question with something!” This left a bad taste in Nicolette’s mouth.

The candidate did some other things in her presentation which knocked her out of the running for the position, but her evasion of the question “What is your greatest weakness?” was the beginning of the end for her.

How to appropriately answer “What’s your greatest weakness?”

So if you can’t avoid the question or give a BS answer to “What are your greatest weaknesses?,” how do you answer it without putting yourself in a negative light?

There is a way! Here’s how:

1. Understand why it’s being asked.

First, it’s important to consider why the interviewer might ask this question. It’s not always to try to trick you or to try to make you look bad.

Sometimes the employer needs to know what kind of support or training you might require when first hired.

2. Listen to the question.

Second, listen to the question and answer it the way it’s being asked. If the interviewers only ask for one weakness, only give one. If they ask for weaknessES (plural), then show you can follow directions, but only give two!

(Believe me, this is not the time to start making a laundry list of your negatives!)

3. Avoid canned answers!

Third, do NOT give a canned answer like the ones above.

Just don’t.

Ever!

4. Never negate your strengths!

Fourth, do NOT give the same answer you gave for the greatest strengths question. I actually see people doing this all the time. They’ll begin their answer with,

“Well sometimes my strength is my weakness because…BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.”

The last thing you want to do is negate your strengths!

5. Never answer with a trait.

Fifth, do NOT give a personality trait as your answer.

Why? Because traits are ingrained and are difficult to change.

Instead, give a SKILL since skills can easily be learned.

No one person possesses every skill, so you probably have a few examples to choose from, allowing you to answer honestly.

Just make sure it’s not a skill heavily required for the job. Instead use one only slightly related to the job.

6. Follow up with a positive.

Sixth, once you briefly give your answer, then follow up with a positive on how you’re either trying to overcome your weakness or how you’re able to compensate for it.

An example would be if you aren’t good at Excel and you won’t be required to use it much in the job. Here’s how you might word this:

“While I have experience in using MS Excel, I’m not as well-versed in the more advanced features of the program. Therefore, I’m currently taking an online tutorial to familiarize myself with Excel’s advanced functions so I can use it more fully if necessary.”

Always make sure whatever example you use for your answer is an honest one that doesn’t have too negative of an impact on your candidacy for the job.

More interview help.

There are other common interview questions just as challenging as the question, “What are your greatest weaknesses?” For example:

  • Can you tell us about yourself? (This one is never as easy as you it sounds!)
  • What are your greatest strengths? (There is also a method to answering this question you should know!)
  • Can you tell me about a time when…?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • And tons more!

I teach you appropriate ways to answer each of these questions in my on-demand program Steps to Acing the Interview and Reducing Your Interview Anxiety.

The program also includes:

  • Strategies to give you the confidence to overcome the fear and stress of interviewing.
  • What you’ve been doing wrong in past interviews and how to correct it.
  • The best and most productive way to prepare for your next interview.
  • Questions YOU should ask in the interview.
  • How to win the interview in each stage: before, during, and after.

I encourage you to check it out well in advance of any upcoming interviews so you’ll have time to prepare the best possible answers and land the job offer!

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What Is the Best Way to Describe Yourself in a Job Interview?

It can be difficult to talk about yourself in a job interview. A lot of people feel uncomfortable discussing their strengths in an interview because they feel like they have to be good at sales to sell themselves.

Or, they feel like they’re bragging and they were taught it’s rude to brag about themselves. I always say it’s not bragging if you can back it up.

But if you still feel uncomfortable describing and selling yourself, here are six ways to do so without it feeling like bragging.

1. Use Others’ Words

If it feels awkward for you to talk about your strengths, try instead to use other people’s words. Think about the feedback you’ve received in the past from your supervisor, co-workers, or customers. What are the good things they’ve said about you and your work?

Then, word your responses to interview questions with the phrase, “My co-workers always comment on how I…” Or, “My supervisor says I’m good at…”

2. Give Examples in the Job Interview

Always use examples to illustrate what you say you’re good at. Do this by telling a story about a time when you’ve performed a certain task or skill, focusing on the positive results from your efforts.

Your stories are unique to you, and therefore set you apart from the other candidates who possess the same skills. Your stories are what make you memorable.

It’s best to organize these stories using the CAR method as described in my blog post “The Secret to Answering Behavioral Interview Questions.”

3. Exhibit Problem-Solving Skills

Show your problem-solving skills since you’re likely being hired to solve a specific problem.

If you can figure out before the interview what the main problem is they want the new person in the position to solve, come up with some ideas on how you would go about solving that problem.

Or, prepare a case study to share about how you’ve previously solved a similar problem in your past experience.

4. Show and Tell

Provide some tangible samples of your past work in the form of a professional portfolio. You can put together a hard copy of your portfolio to take with you to the job interview, and also have a digital format you can link to from your LinkedIn profile and resume.

When putting together a professional portfolio, remember to always choose quality samples of work over quantity. Also, make sure you’re not including anything your previous or current employer would consider to be confidential.

For more information on how to prepare a case study or present a professional portfolio, check out my on-demand program The 3 Super Powers of Successful Job Seekers.

5. Be Positive in the Job Interview

Always describe yourself in a positive light, even when asked about your weaknesses. Be honest, be humble, and show how you are overcoming or compensating for your weaknesses.

Then, know when to stop talking about your weaknesses (always keep this topic brief).

*Stay tuned for my upcoming blog post on how to answer the interview question, “What are your greatest weaknesses?”

6. Make It About Them

Focus on what’s most important to your audience, not necessarily what’s most important to you.

This requires knowing your audience and what they’re looking for most in a candidate. The list of required skills from the job ad is a good clue to what they’re interested in discussing.

Talk about those skills and how you’ve demonstrated them. Don’t spend too much time talking about a skill you have that’s not listed as a strong requirement for the job.

Also, make sure when answering questions (or when asking questions of your own), you present your thoughts in a way that shows you’re putting the company’s best interest above your own.

For example, when asked why should they hire you, don’t babble on about why the job would be good for you. Instead, talk about why you would be good for them.

I once had a client who, when I did a mock interview with her and she answered this question, she said they should hire her because it would be the next best step for her career and it would be a closer commute for her. We quickly corrected her response to show what she brought to the table that would benefit the company instead.

Another example is, instead of asking if a company provides work-life balance for their employees, ask, “How do you support your employees in ways that allow them to give their best to their jobs and the company?” This shows you’re not just thinking about yourself.

Job Interview Finesse

Interviewing can be tricky and nerve-wracking. It’s a delicate balance of putting your best foot forward and also making sure to interview the company, all the while remembering to put yourself in their shoes. With the above tips and other tips in this blog, you’ll learn how to handle the interview process with finesse!

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The One Surprising Tip That Guarantees a Good Interview

If you’re going through a job search, you know how competitive the interview process can be. And you’d probably like to know some ways to increase your chances of beating out the competition for an offer.

Below is a proven interview hack that’s been tremendously successful in my own career.


My Favorite Interview Hack

My favorite interview hack is winning the interview with the questions YOU ask!

I vividly remember my interview for my very first job out of grad school.

I went in with a list of questions based on my research of the job and the organization. My list was pretty long, so I assumed I wouldn’t have time to get all of my questions answered.

However, they didn’t have a lot of questions for me. Therefore, I had the time to ask all my questions on my list. And I got to ask additional ones that came up in conversation.

I left the interview thinking I probably wouldn’t get an offer since they didn’t ask me very many questions.

But a week later I got the offer! When I accepted it, I asked my interviewers what made them choose me from the other candidates.

Their response:

“It was the questions you asked. Your questions showed us not only how knowledgeable you are, but also how much you care about the people you’ll serve in this role.”


The Questions You Should Ask

So, what kind of questions should you ask in your job interviews?

There are six categories of questions you should ask (because interviewing is a two-way street!):

1. Questions you need to have answered to determine fit/questions related to the organization’s culture.

For example:

“How do you foster an employee’s connection to the organization?”

“How do you motivate your employees?”

Or even “Do employees typically eat lunch together or at their desks?” (this one will tell you a lot about the company culture!).

You need to ask any question (within reason) that will help you decide if the company’s culture is something you can devote 40+ hours of your life per week to.


2. Questions that come up in the research you do on the company.

Of course you probably already know how important it is to research a company before your interview. Doing so will result in questions that will be specific to the company. These questions will also make it obvious you did your research, and therefore will show you have a genuine interest in the company.

And don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions, especially if they exhibit your work ethic.

For instance, in my interview, I wanted to know how one of the practices I would be required to carry out in the job wasn’t in direct violation of a federal law common to that industry (which it initially seemed to be). This gave them the chance to explain their legal and legitimate loophole that kept them in compliance with the law.

I think this was the question that impressed them the most.


3. Questions to determine future opportunities for advancement.

For example, “What opportunities are available for advancement?”

This helps you know if you might have a future at the company and shows you’re interested enough to want to stay long-term.


4. Questions to determine their hiring timeline.

Okay, these questions are really just for you and your own sanity.

When candidates go on interviews and then don’t hear anything back either way, they freak out.

Yes, it’s stressful, and also rude of the company to keep you hanging.

So, before you leave the interview, you should ask:

  • What is your deadline for making an offer?
  • How firm is that deadline?
  • Are you going to notify each person being interviewed of the final decision as a courtesy, or just the candidate receiving the offer?

This way you won’t spend your time and energy fretting over what they decided.


Here’s where it gets good!

These last two types of questions you should ask are the real hacks!

5. Questions to show your initiative and to help them visualize you in the job.

For instance:

“What results would you like to see from me in the first 90 days of the job?”

“What will be the first projects I’ll work on once hired?”

Or “When we sit down to discuss my performance a year from now, what will success look like?”

Wording questions this way helps them picture YOU as the person in the job!


6. Questions to get them to verbalize what they like about you.

In #5, it was all about helping them visualize. Now you need to get them to verbalize!

You want them to convince YOU why they should hire you, which will in turn convince them to hire you. (Yeah, that undergraduate degree I got in psychology is really paying off here!)

For example, “What part of my resume stands out to you the most?” or “What made you choose to interview me out of all the other applicants?”

Some career coaches will recommend you ask questions such as, “Are there any concerns you have about my qualifications?”

While this question is good in possibly providing you an immediate opportunity to address any of their concerns, it can also backfire on you. 

Remember, you’re supposed to highlight your strengths in an interview. Not draw attention to your weaknesses. This question is dangerous in that it immediately draws the interviewer’s attention to your weaknesses.

Instead, you want to ask questions that force the interviewer to not only focus on your strengths, but to also get them to repeat your strengths back to you. Doing so further convinces them of your capabilities.


Always Have Questions!

You should always have questions of your own prepared for an interview because interviewing is a two-way street.

When you’re asked, “What questions do you have for us?” never say, “None.” If so, you’re for sure to lose the job to someone who shows more interest with their questions.

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