Tag: job interview tips


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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Modern Interview Advice to Make You Stand Out From The Competition (Re-Post)

Many of my clients come to me facing the daunting task of conducting a job search for the first time in 10 to 20 years and a lot has changed in that time. They are unaware of the modern interview advice available to them.

This is because most of the interview advice floating around the Internet is extremely outdated.

Not Your Grandma’s (Or Even Your Mama’s) Interview Advice

In fact, while recently helping a friend with her upcoming job search, I gave her some modern interview advice. She said she’d never heard of it before, and was shocked to learn it was something she could try.

“Do you mean I can actually do that for a job interview?” she exclaimed.

“Yes!” I said.

Modern Interview Advice

The advice I gave my friend was the same advice I had posted when answering the following question on Quora:  “What are some smart interview answers?”

Smart interview answers are ones that show you have the company’s best interests at heart. (And if you don’t really care about the company, you probably shouldn’t be interviewing for a job there.)

You should always make your answers about them, not about you (until it’s time to negotiate an offer, at which point you need to make it a win-win situation).

Steps to Smart Interview Answers

1. Find out the most immediate need.

Find out what the company’s most immediate need is they’re hoping the person in this position can fulfill.

Most candidates will ask this question during the job interview, but by then it’s too late! You must determine this before the interview!

You can do this in a couple of ways:

  1. Do your research on the company (which should be a given…always do your research before going into any interview!).
  2. And ask the person with whom you’ll be interviewing what their most immediate need is (prior to the interview!)

You do this as soon as the interview has been scheduled by HR. Simply email the person who will be interviewing you and let him or her know you’re looking forward to the interview. Then ask the following question,

“What is the main thing you hope the next person in this position will accomplish or help solve?”

(You’ll probably be the only candidate who does this, which will make you stand out in a good way.)


2. Brainstorm a solution.

Use the answer to this question as your foundation for preparing for the interview.

Brainstorm one or two possible ways you can use your strengths to help get the desired result.

Also, think of examples of times you’ve achieved similar results.


3. Create a proposal.

Summarize your ideas and your past examples in a one-page proposal.

You don’t have to have all the details of a full proposal. Just an outline of what you’re thinking will work.

If you don’t have enough information to come up with a solution to the company’s problem, you can at least create a one-page case study of a time where you previously solved a similar issue.

Indicate the challenge you were facing, the action you took, and your accomplishment or the results of your solution.


4. Show and tell.

Bring hard copies of this proposal or case study to the interview with you so you have something tangible to show.

Make sure to bring enough copies for each person with whom you’ll be interviewing.

Introduce it at any of the following points in your interview that feel right:

  • At the end of your answer to the question, “Tell us about yourself.” After you’ve described your skills, experience, and interest in the job, you can say you’ve given a lot of thought to the information the interviewer gave in your recent correspondence and you’ve put together some ideas of how your skills and experience can meet their specific needs. Let them know you’d be happy to share it with them. If they invite you to share it then, do so. If not, wait.
  • At any point in the conversation where the door clearly opens for you to share your proposal. For instance, if they ask how you would handle the problem or issue, then answer that question with your proposal by walking them through your handout.
  • If they ask, “Why should we hire you?” This question usually comes toward the end of an interview, so if you haven’t had the opportunity to introduce your proposal or case study yet, now’s your chance. You can summarize the strengths you have to offer and then say you’ve already given great thought to their most immediate needs and have drafted something you’d like to have the opportunity to implement if hired. Then walk them through your handout.
  • If at the end of the interview you still haven’t had the opportunity, when they ask if you have any questions for them, use this time to remind them of the question you asked prior to the interview. Then show them how you’ve given it thought by giving them your handout and asking if it is something they could benefit from.

Make sure you pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues on how receptive they are to learning more about your proposal. Only bring it out if they express an interest in hearing more about it.

I guarantee you’ll likely be the only candidate who shows up to the interview with an idea or solution in hand.


Taking the time and effort to speak to the company’s most immediate need shows you really care about working for that company, which will make you stand out from today’s competition in a big way!

Want More Modern Interview Advice?

For more modern interview advice, check out the paNASH on-demand program The 3 Super Powers of Successful Job Seekers. It includes proven job search strategies that blow all the cookie-cutter strategies out of the water!

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

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The Secret to Answering Behavioral Interview Questions (Re-Post)

“Tell me about a time when…”

UGH! Behavioral interview questions.

No job seeker enjoys answering these questions. Myself included.

They’re just as dreaded as the “What’s your greatest weakness?” question.

I can remember back in grad school doing my first mock interview with the career center on campus. It was very intimidating, even more so than any real interview I’ve ever had.

They recorded it which of course was even more horrifying. And I was really bad at answering the behavioral interview questions.

It was actually this experience and what I learned from it that made me decide to go into career advising.

A year later I was working as an intern in the same career center. Eventually I became the director of a college career center and then started my own career coaching business.

You have more experience than you think

I remember my mock interview like it was yesterday.

A few years ago I found the video and watched the cringe-worthy performance (through my fingers). I’d used the same example for every behavioral question because I thought I didn’t have any other “real” experience to pull from.

After all, I was just a lowly graduate assistant with only one assistantship under my belt.

But now I realize this wasn’t true.

I could’ve pulled from so many other experiences for more variety of answers:  my part-time jobs from college, my work as an orientation leader at my undergrad, my leadership role in my student organization, my class projects. I could’ve even pulled from my work on my passion projects.

The tried-and-true method vs. modern experience

The formula for how to answer behavioral interview questions hasn’t changed much since my grad school days.

But the way people work has, therefore giving job seekers a new way to sell themselves in an interview.

Here’s what I mean. When answering a behavioral interview question, you always want each answer to follow a method similar to the “CAR” method:

  • C:  State the CHALLENGE you faced.
  • A:  Describe the ACTION you took.
  • R:  Indicate the RESULTS of your action.

But unlike what you may have thought in the past, your examples don’t have to all come from traditional job experiences.

Today, people have side-hustles, freelance assignments, passion projects, and greater access to creative pursuits.

These bodies of work may be very different, but they all demonstrate your creativity, project management skills, and problem-solving skills. All things employers seek in potential employees.

The secret to answering behavioral interview questions

The secret to answering behavioral interview questions perfectly is to gather relevant examples from ALL your sources of experience (paid, unpaid, volunteer, stuff done for fun, etc.).

Then, tell a single interesting story for each question that connects the dots for your listener.

Show how your “soft skills” used on your own projects will benefit the company on their projects. Hard data (quantifiable results) and testimonials (qualitative results) will drive home your points, so always include them in each answer.

Also, anticipate further questions. When practicing your examples, listen for holes in your information triggering a need for clarification or more details.

A friend or a career coach is more likely to help you recognize those holes, so get assistance.

By addressing those areas right away, the interviewer won’t have to keep probing. You’ll be a hero because you made their job easier by providing all the important info without being asked or reminded to.

The best way to prepare

There’s no way to prepare for every commonly asked behavioral interview question. There are just too many.

The only way to really predict which ones you’ll get is to look on Glassdoor to see if there are any interview questions listed for your particular job opening. However there’s no guarantee they’ll ask the same questions this time around.

Instead, the best use of your time and energy is to look at the list of required skills in the job ad, and come up with a different story for when you’ve previously performed each skill. This is more manageable since this list is finite.

Always choose stories that show your success in performing the skill.

By focusing on the list of skills, you’ll have enough examples to use as answers for the unexpected questions. Most importantly, you’ll be able to connect those dots from your past experience to your future experience.

Don’t forget to use the CAR method when drafting your stories. Doing so keeps your stories organized with a beginning, middle, and end.

Pulling from ALL your experience is a great strategy for someone who has a lengthy gap in their employment history.

It’s also a good approach for recent grads with little to no professional experience. Click here to see how this has worked successfully for Tanner Christensen who landed a job as a product developer at Facebook with very little experience.

For more job interview tips, sign up for the on-demand program, Steps to Acing the Interview and Reducing Your Interview Anxiety. You’ll learn how to answer other commonly asked interview questions, questions you should be asking, and more, resulting in more job offers!

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