While no one can predict exactly what will be asked, there are many standard interview questions that can make or break an interview. Answer the questions correctly and you will soar to the next level. Provide a poor response and you will be pounding the pavement anew.
It always amazes me how interviewees often stick their foot in their mouth when it comes to some of the most basic interview questions. The biggest rule of thumb for developing good interview answers is to practice beforehand. Work with a friend, colleague, or professional career coach to hone your responses.
- No matter what the question, giving TOO MUCH INFORMATION is the kiss of death. Your answer should be brief and to the point. Any meandering or veering off the path will only lead you astray. While you may think that adding more detail is a plus because you provide more information, all it serves to do is annoy the interviewer and make her think you can’t follow simple instructions. A short explanation will allow for an interesting dialogue that will drive camaraderie with the interviewer.
- If you are asked about your previous boss, NEVER – I repeat – NEVER, bad mouth him. Even if he was an embezzling scoundrel who came to work drunk and took all the credit for every good thing you did; you will only hurt yourself by providing a negative report. You will look like a whiner, and worse – a troublemaker. When answering interview questions, present things in the most positive light. In the case of an ornery boss, you might say that you didn’t feel his management style was in line with the positive direction you wish to take with your career. If asked for specifics, you can politely say that you had differing work styles and work ethics. Period. There is no need to elaborate beyond this.
- If asked where you see yourself in 5 or 10 years, your answer should be thoughtful; consider your audience. If your interviewer is the SVP of sales, indicating that you want his job is not a good idea. (Do I need to tell you that?) Everything is about your spin strategy. You want to ensure you maintain a positive and proactive brand image. Ambition and drive is a good thing – but it needs to be presented in the right way. Stick with an answer that highlights what you hope to achieve or accomplish. For example, “I hope to close over $50M in new business.” This response demonstrates that you are looking to add value without leaving the impression that you plan to claw your way to the top no matter how many heads you have to step upon.
- If you are thrown a curveball question that has no apparent answer, don’t panic! Do not tell the interviewer there is no answer to the question. Instead, pause, and play along; say something that shows you can be creative and think on your toes. Don’t be afraid to add a dash of humor when appropriate.
- If asked to share a bit about yourself, this does not mean you should start telling the interviewer about your husband, children, church, or any other aspect of your personal life. While it is an open-ended question, it is intended to learn a bit more about you in relation to the core attributes that make who you are. You don’t need to regurgitate exactly what is on your résumé either. The interviewer has that already. Perhaps there is something you have done recently that you would like to share to demonstrate your value. By all means, do so. This is an opportunity to sell the incredible and unique person that is YOU.
If you have a history of blowing it when it comes to interview questions, you may want to consider taking some extra time to rehearse your answers. Get dressed as though you are going on the actual interview. Sit in front of a full length mirror or use a software program that will allow you to record yourself via mini-cam. Develop and refine your message; this will help you provide the interviewer with intelligent, well thought out answers and avoid the blunders that come from being unprepared.
Bad answers can cost you. Not only will you be limited in terms of job offers, but you may also find yourself spiraling down into the blues after being repeatedly turned down. Rejection can affect your psyche and interfere with future interview performance. Your preparation will facilitate your comfort during the process and enable you to deliver your information with confidence. The result – landing a new job that meets with your personal and professional goals!