If you’ve gone on an interview lately, chances are you messed up at least one question. You can practice and prepare for hours or weeks on end, but there will always be those interview questions that catch you off guard. Often you may think you are saying what the hiring manager wants to hear, but you end up being completely off the mark.
“There are so many interview questions people mess up,” says Thomas Wharton, a member of the board of directors of OI Global Partners. “Many of them have to do with behavioral questions.”
From not using team in your answer to refusing to highlight any of your weaknesses, here’s a look at five interview questions people often flub and what they should be saying to increase their chances of getting called back in.
1. There’s No “I” In Team
Most hiring companies don’t set out to trick job candidates during the interview process, but they do want to make sure you have the necessary skills and are a cultural fit. Behavioral questions focus on past performance to gauge how you will behave in the future. “Although you can’t prepare for behavioral questions the answers almost never include collaboration and team work,” says Wharton. “It’s usually I did this and I did that.” It’s understandable that you want to be accomplished, but part of being successful is being a good team player, and companies are looking for that. So instead of saying, “I was responsible for increasing revenue by x%” in your last job, tell the hiring manager how you led, motivated and worked with your team to boost revenue.
2. Don’t Bash Your Boss When Asked Why You Left
In many cases, leaving a job isn’t done amicably unless the person is going to greener pastures. Often the stressed out worker has to leave because of the environment or layoffs and is often bitter about the whole experience. That bitterness can easily transfer to a job interview when the hiring manager asks why you left the job. Even if your former boss is the worst person in the world, the last thing you want to do is bash him or her to your potential new employer. “It is vital that people prepare their exit story and spin it as positively as humanly possible,” says Susan Ruhl, a managing partner at OI Partners–Innovative Career Consulting in Denver. “When you denigrate your last employer, regardless of how justified the reason, it makes you seem like the problem, not them.” If you hated your boss and lost your position as part of layoffs, focus on the downsizing during the interview instead of your jerk boss.
3. Tell Me About Yourself Shouldn’t Include Talking About Your Pet
The often dreaded but very common interview question is the tell me about yourself question. For the less experienced, often that question will result in a laundry list of information about their pet or favorite TV show and won’t include a lot about why the person would be an asset for the company. Seasoned interviewees know better than to drone on about their dog Rufus or what happened on Game of Thrones last week. “Often, seasoned professionals go into an interview thinking ‘I know what I do and I know who I am’ and in their head they do….however, when they try to articulate that succinctly it becomes an epic fail,” says Ruhl. “They don’t have their thoughts in order and tend to drone on and on about what they think the interviewer wants to hear.” Career experts say it’s imperative that you prepare in advance an extended elevator pitch that is tailored specifically to the job you are interviewing for.
4. Your Biggest Weakness Shouldn’t Be You Are A Perfectionist
Nobody wants to talk about their weaknesses, unless of course you are a hiring manager, which is why countless people get this interview question wrong. They may think they are being clever saying their biggest weakness is they are a perfectionist or they work too hard, but interviewers can easily see through those canned responses. “The school of thought is now to actually use a weakness but use a weakness that doesn’t spell out poor worker or non-contributor,” says Ruhl. “Don’t say, I never make it to work on time and often miss days because I don’t like my job, say something more like, I tend to have time management issues but continue to develop strategies so that I don’t let my team down.” Keep in mind that this isn’t a trick question, says Amanda Augustine, the career management expert for job website TheLadders. Employers want to learn about what areas you struggled in and more importantly how you overcame them.
5. Not Showing Enthusiasm During The Interview
You may really want the job, but if you don’t express that during the interview the hiring manager is going to have no clue and chances are you won’t get called back for a second interview. Most job candidates can easily tick off a list of their education, work experience and accomplishments but many forget to say why they want to work for that particular company. “The most lacking thing of candidates today is not expressing interest in the job,” says Wharton. “There are a hundred ways to say you are interested but no one does that.”