How to give the answers interviewers are looking for

14 September 2021

What Not To Say In Your Interview

​When meeting our prospective employers for an interview, it’s only natural that we want to impress. We want to put our best foot forward and give perfect responses to every question, but this can often be our undoing.

Interviewers can tell when you are giving them what you think they want to hear, and have heard it all before. They don’t want carefully scripted answers but to get a picture of the real you, which is why many will ask seemingly innocent off topic questions such as, “What’s your favorite breakfast”, to knock you off kilter.

So don’t feed your hiring manager pre-formulated responses, follow these tips to avoid the classic mistakes.

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“I’m a Perfectionist”

When you are asked about your greatest weakness, don’t give a non-answer. This includes: “I’m a perfectionist”, “I’m too dedicated to my work”, “I care too much” etc. Interviewers will see right through you, heck you would see right through you, imagine if the roles were reversed, how you feel? Another reason why you should never say this is because whether or not you believe the statement to be true, it implies you lack self-awareness.

Instead of using a non answer, describe an actual flaw or a skill that didn’t come naturally to you, that you have worked hard to overcome in the workplace. Pick a skill that isn’t essential to your job, for example if communication and teamwork is critical to your job and you list it as your weakness your potential employer might wonder why you bothered applying.

When you explain how you overcame or are overcoming your weakness you demonstrate not only self awareness in a positive light but also your dedication to self-development, qualities that impress at interview.

 

“I get along with everyone”

This is a common response to a behavioural question, but if you are put on the spot don’t give this sort of answer, not only is it an obvious attempt to not answer the question but it can also give managers the idea that you intentionally avoid conflict.

These behaviourally based questions have a similar angle to the weakness question: what was the challenge, how did you overcome it and what did you learn while doing so? For this kind of question you may talk about a confrontation or conflict you resolved.

Using the STAR method (situation, task, actions, results) is a great way to structure your example. This is hard to do on the spot though, so take the time to read and re-read the job description to prepare a host of answers to questions that may come up.

 

“I’ve always dreamed of landing a job like this”

Did you though? Did you really? This response sound comical at best, sarcastic at worst. No one will believe you and they may take offense. This is particularly true with entry level jobs, if you are ambitious, you didn’t dream of becoming a junior assistant and staying there till retirement! You don’t want to appear unambitious, because this could also be mistaken for laziness. Employers are more likely to hire someone who can become an asset to their company than a dead weight.

So when the interviewer asks why you are interested in the job don’t say it was your only option, and don’t make up a story no one will believe either. Instead find some aspects of the job that honestly attracts you and describe why you find it appealing. This could be the chance to learn a new skill, gain new experience in an industry you find interesting, or join a great company culture.

 

“It was all me”

Stay humble. Arrogance and dishonesty are not qualities employers look for in candidates. So when recounting challenging moments during an interview, avoid the temptation to embellish or steal all the glory in your tale.

Instead be honest, recount the role you actually played in achieving the group goal. Explain what you contributed to the end result and what you learned and took away from the experience.

In general, any attempt at not answering, dodging or disassembling interview questions wont work out well. Your employer doesn’t want to hire someone who takes them for a fool, so keep it honest and truthful, prepare for the kind of questions you may be asked, and keep it relevant.

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