Tag: interview skills


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.

Related Posts:

never say

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!

Related posts:

greatest weakness

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!

Related Posts:

job interview

What You Need to Know About Job Interviews of The Modern Era


Years ago when I used to work in college career services, the interview process for college administrator positions was apparently ahead of its time. A recent article entitled “How You’ll Look For A Job in 2018” says that exercise-based job interviews are becoming more common.

Lindsay Grenawalt, head of People for Cockroach Labs (a computer software company), says,

“Rather than guess if a candidate can do the job based on their answers to behavioral questions, exercise-based interviews ask for candidates to show [what they can do].”

This includes interviews using case studies, individual exercises, and presentations.


My Toughest Job Interviews

When previously interviewing for college career services positions, I had to do much of the same.

I’ve had interviews where I had to do presentations and teach mock classes. Once I even had to create an idea for a program in 45 minutes and then pitch it to a search committee.

I’ve also had marathon interviews. They started with a dinner interview the evening before. Then they picked back up again the next day at 8am and lasted until 4pm.

These interviews involved meeting with just about everyone on campus, including the President of the college and a panel of students. (By the way, the students asked the toughest questions of anyone.)

I’ve had to do pretty much everything but a literal song and dance!


The Advantage of Exercise-Based Interviews

Now, nearly 20 years later, these types of situations are being incorporated into today’s job interviews in a variety of industries.

While these types of job interviews may sound intimidating, there’s good news. They give candidates an idea of what it will actually be like to work in that role on a daily basis.

Grenawalt says,

“Fear not. Because these interviews require a high degree of engagement, they are more collaborative and a better experience overall than traditional interviews in which candidates have to sweat through a series of stress-inducing questions.”


How to Prepare for Exercise-Based Interviews

So how do you prepare for such interviews?

Research

In some ways, you’d prepare similarly to how you would prepare for any ordinary interview by researching as much as you can about the company and the position.

Your research should especially include all the information companies make available on their hiring and interview process. This can also be found on sites such as Glassdoor.com.

If you can’t find this type of information, you can (and should) ask questions about the interview process as soon as you’ve received an invitation for an interview.


Know the problem BEFORE you go into the interview and have a solution prepared.

You also want to ask what the main priority or goal should be of the next person in that position, BEFORE the interview. Never wait until the interview to ask this question!

Find out what challenge or problem this person will be expected to help solve. Once you have this information, use it to prepare for the interview in ways I’ve outlined in my post Modern Interview Advice to Make You Stand Out From the Competition (this ain’t your grandma’s — or even your mom’s — interview advice!).

The approach described in that post will help you in preparing for case studies, presentations, or problem solving scenarios.


Ask the right questions

The other way to prepare for such interviews is to make it a two-way street. You do this by preparing the right kind of questions of your own.

Like I said above, asking what will be the top priority of the new person in the role is NOT a question you want to ask during the interview. (By then it will be too late to ask that.) But there are more appropriate questions you should ask during the interview.

In fact, certain questions you ask can actually help you win the interview! That’s how I landed my very first job offer. I was told I was hired based on the type of questions I asked them!

To find out exactly which questions you should ask in the interview, read my post The One Tip That Guarantees a Good Interview.


Knowledge is the Beginning of Preparation

No matter what type of interview you’re faced with, you can’t go in and just “wing it.”

You have to be prepared.

Knowledge is the beginning of that preparation. Become knowledgeable of the above items, and you’ll shine!

Click here for more interview prep tips.

Related Posts:

job interviews

16 Embarrassing Job Interview Mistakes That Will Make You Look Unprofessional

CNBC has a new show called The Job Interview. It exhibits real people interviewing for real jobs with real employers. There are 20 cameras capturing all the nerve-wracking nuances of an interview. And all the mistakes. Those of which you can learn from and not make in your own interviews.

However, if you don’t have the trained eye of a career coach, you probably won’t pick up on many of the mistakes just by watching the show. So, I’ve taken the first episode and broken it down for you to see the little things most job candidates don’t know they’re doing wrong. And to be fair, I’m also pointing out some of the things they’re doing right.

Here’s the 20-minute episode, along with my commentary at various time markers. See if you pick up on the same things I’m noticing. What can you learn from what you see?

job interview

(Sorry, the full episode is no longer available on YouTube. Here’s the link to the on-demand version of the episode.)

What NOT to Overlook (3:06)

One of the qualifications for the job is someone who is detail-oriented. You’ll notice how the interviewers are pouring over the resumes, looking for the smallest of mistakes to determine if each candidate is indeed detail-oriented or not. One interviewer noticed how on one resume the text was off just half a space.

My clients wonder why I nit-pick their resumes. This is a perfect example of why I do. As I’ve said in previous blogs and in my video guides, employers are looking for reasons to throw out your resume. Not reasons to keep it.

What NOT to Wear (4:27)

For the type of job this woman is interviewing, she should really be wearing a blazer over her sleeveless top. Always dress professionally and in a way that is customary to the particular industry.

How NOT to Shake Hands (4:48)

While this candidate is dressed appropriately, he did not give a good handshake. Always give a firm handshake. Anything too limp or too strong leaves a bad impression, as the interviewer indicates.

What NOT to Assume (4:58)

The candidate’s response as to why he gave the female interviewer a gentle handshake compared to the firm one he gave to the male interviewer shows his lack of understanding of business etiquette. In business, gender is neutral.

The other thing this candidate did wrong when beginning the interview is he swiveled and rocked in his chair. You’ll see this mistake a lot throughout the episode from many of the other candidates as well.

If you’re ever offered a seat in a swivel chair in an interview, resist the urge to swivel!

What NOT to Say (5:10)

This candidate starts off strong with her response to “Tell us about yourself,” but almost crosses the line with a little too much personal information.

You want to avoid discussing marital status, children, and other personal matters since it is illegal for the interviewer to ask you for this type of personal information. While her sharing of this info didn’t seem to cause a problem in this case, it could very well be a turn-off for other interviewers because they may fear being accused of making hiring decisions based on the personal information the candidate provided.

What NOT to Ask (5:35)

This candidate says she did her research (like all candidates should), but if you listen to the first thing she said she knew about the company, you’ll see she made her answer all about herself. She talked about how convenient it is for her that the company is located close to her house. You’ll soon see too just how poor of a job she actually did on researching the company!

Another faux pas committed by this candidate is she came out and asked a very personal question of the interviewers. Just like interviewers should avoid asking candidates personal questions, so should candidates avoid asking the interviewers personal questions!

What NOT to Avoid (7:05)

This candidate did a good job of establishing rapport with the interviewers early in her interview.

Be yourself without getting too personal with the interviewer. If it becomes clear in the interview you have some of the same interests in common, feel free to use that as common ground to build rapport with the interviewer.

How NOT to Answer “What do you feel is your greatest strength?” (7:22)

Do you know what each candidate did wrong in answering this question?

None of them gave an example of how they’ve previously demonstrated their strength. Always answer with specific examples, never in generalities. Providing examples makes you stand out in a positive way and makes you more memorable to the interviewers.

How NOT to Answer “What would be your greatest weakness?” (7:30)

So what did all the candidates do wrong in their answers to this question?

They all listed a personality trait as their weakness instead of a skill. Why should you never answer this question with a personality trait? Because personality traits are more ingrained in us, and therefore take a long time to unlearn, if ever. However, a skill is something that can be quickly learned or improved upon.

There are several other ways screw up your answer to this question, and several ways to answer it well. Click here to learn more about how to answer “What’s your greatest weakness?”

How NOT to Behave (8:24)

We’re now about to see how the candidate who said she’d done her research actually did NOT do a good job on her research. She said she doesn’t have the desire to go back into accounting, ALL WHILE INTERVIEWING FOR AN ACCOUNTING POSITION! (REALLY?!!). She didn’t have a clue that the company or the position was related to accounting.

Plus her negative, flippant attitude about the industry and her inappropriate laughter about leaving a previous job were completely out of place and a turn-off to the interviewers.

What NOT to Judge (13:20)

As shown here, interviewers aren’t perfect and they too can make embarrassing mistakes in interviews. Remember they’re human just like you are, so don’t let them intimidate you to the point that you can’t perform and sell yourself to the best of your ability.

In fact, I notice how my clients become less nervous about an interview when I remind them that the interviewers are also nervous. Interviewers are typically nervous about making a wrong decision and therefore costing the company a lot of money, unintentionally letting an illegal or inappropriate question slip out, and making you feel more nervous than you probably are.

Remember that it’s an awkward situation for all involved. Instead, it should be treated as a meeting where the interview is a two-way street (you’re there to ask your own questions too to determine if the job is a right fit for you). Approaching it this way can help you relax.

How NOT to Fail the Test (14:13)

Here you’ll see the third or fourth test the interviewers have given the candidates. Always be prepared for potential tests.

For example, if you’re going into sales, you’ll probably have to sell something to the interviewer. If you’re going into a job that will require you to give presentations on a regular basis, you may be asked to prepare a presentation for your interview.

Years ago, I had a day-long interview where in one part of the afternoon I was given 45 minutes and certain parameters to come up with an idea for a new program that could be implemented throughout the organization. I then had to present on my idea and why it would be a good program for the organization.

I didn’t get the job, and later found out that no one got the job. It made all of us candidates wonder if the company held interviews just to get ideas without having to pay a salary for them. This can and has happened before, which is a very unethical practice on the part of a company. If you ever sense this is what’s going on in one of your interviews, consider it a red flag!

What NOT to Include (14:39)

When given a test, never say, “I don’t like being put on the spot,” like this candidate did.

What NOT to Leave Out (17:04)

This candidate gave a good response to the question of “What would this job mean to you?”

So did the candidate at the 17:15 mark. I liked that she said, “I have a lot to give,” instead of “I feel like I have a lot to give.” “I have” shows more confidence than “I feel like I have.”

However, as the interviewer I would want to know how has she given a lot and been an asset in her past experience? What are some examples of her giving her all and being an asset to her previous company? I’d want to hear stories about times when she’s demonstrated these qualities. Again, these stories are what makes a candidate memorable.

What NOT to Forget (18:18)

Here are the things the interviewers were most attracted to:

  • Positive attitude
  • Someone who “gets it”
  • Someone who “wants it”

No matter how negative of an experience your last job was or your current job search is, leave all negativity at the door. Interviewers can sense a negative attitude very quickly so do what you can to improve your attitude before walking into an interview.

Be the person who gets what the job is about, what the company stands for, and what they’re trying to accomplish. This comes with doing your research and understanding what problem they need the new person in this role to help solve.

Always indicate you want the job you’re interviewing for by coming out and saying so. However, if you don’t really want the job and you’re just interviewing to gain interview practice, this is an unethical practice (just like the one on the interviewer’s part in my personal example above), and therefore you shouldn’t be there.

This may sound harsh, but as you saw, interviewers can be harsh about very small things. I’m trying to help you get into the mind of the interviewer so you can be successful in your next job interview!

How NOT to Overreact (20:26)

Even if you don’t get the job offer, you never know what still may come of your experience. Here, because this candidate showed such a positive attitude, another door has been opened to him. The interviewers are setting him up for an interview with another company they think he’ll be a good fit for.

A friend of mine interviewed for a job and didn’t get the offer. Six weeks later, she got a call from the company asking if she was still interested in the job because the person they originally hired didn’t work out.

Things like this happen all the time which is why it’s important to stay positive, send your thank you notes after your interviews, and be gracious even when rejected. You never know how things might turn around down the road.

More Job Interview Tips

Based on the little edited snippets we saw of the actual interview, they hired the candidate I would’ve hired. However, in episode 2, they chose a different candidate than the one I would’ve chosen. Can you figure out why, based on what you learned above? Watch here and let me know!

For more interview preparation tips, check out the video guides in the Steps to Acing the Interview and Reducing Your Interview Anxiety on-demand program.

Related Resources: 

job interview