When it comes to preparing for a job interview, there are heaps of advice articles online that share a general consensus of what’s considered good practice for interview success: dress appropriately, watch your body language, manage curve-ball questions, research the company etc.
But sometimes it’s difficult to decipher what not to say, and that’s where we come in.
With a combination of interview nerves, memorised lines and being slightly flustered after climbing three flights to find the interview room, it’s hardly surprising that mistakes will happen.
But if you want to make sure you don’t completely horrify the interviewer with accidental answers, follow these four tips on answers to avoid at all costs.
Overly Rehearsed Responses
Obviously it’s helpful to write down potential questions and answers and revise them so that you’re prepared, but there’s a difference between coming across as prepared and coming across as too rehearsed. If your answers aren’t organic or seem too robotic, an interview or recruiter will think you aren’t properly engaging with the question and they’ll find it hard to glean aspects of your personality that are crucial to informing suitability for the role and company culture.
Instead of memorising exact wording for an answer, use bullet points instead, so that when you’re practising your answers at home, you can have the main ideas nailed but adapt your answer according to the question and the specific job and company.
Remember that a job interview is a professional space, and sharing overtly personal details in this context, especially unprompted, will show that you aren’t a good communicator and that don’t have an understanding of appropriate behaviour. It’s important to show you’re human and to chat a little about personal details that are relevant to the job, but over-sharing can be awkward and has no place in an interview.
Alanna Maxwell, our Head of Permanent Talent for IT and Business Services says:
“Be yourself. Allude to your own life and be confident, but don’t overshare. Telling an interviewer about your drinking habits or your wife’s traumatic birth won’t do you any favours. Be friendly but always professional.”
If you’re prone to responses like “my greatest weakness is that I’m a perfectionist” or “I’m a team player” you could be risking cliché answers and this can be worrying for an interviewer for two reasons. Firstly, it shows that you’re simply mimicking lines you find online and you’re not really thinking about how the question applies to you. And secondly, these answers don’t show much personality or really tell an interviewer anything that they wouldn’t already assume.
Answers like “I’m hard working” or “I’m a team player” convey qualities that all staff should possess, so it seems like you’re stating the obvious. Instead, answers like “I often stay late to finish projects” and “I doubled my sales this quarter compared to last” or “I’ve gone out of my way to organise team events to build interpersonal relationships in the workplace” all show specific skills and experiences that are personal to you.
Instead of the answer “my greatest weakness is that I’m a perfectionist”, tell your interviewer why you’re a perfectionist and why this is a weakness. Something like “I find it hard to let go of projects and hand them over if they aren’t finished, because I thrive on conclusive data to help me learn” shows that you are human and have control issues, but that ultimately you’re keen to progress and put in some elbow grease.
Bad-mouthing A Past Employer
If you’re asked about past employment or why you left, avoid bad-mouthing a company or boss, even if you think you were treated badly. Not only will this seem like you have a negative attitude and you’re blaming other people for your choices, but an interview might worry that you’d do the same thing to their company in the future and tarnish their reputation.
These kinds of questions will arise:
"Was it the employer or the interviewee who was the issue?"
"If this individual was to leave us in a few years, would they talk about us in the same way?"
"Is this person difficult to manage?"
"Will this person have issues with current staff or management?"
Nicky Cura, our Recruitment Consultant for Construction & Engineering says:
“I would agree with Alanna in being true to yourself. Don't just gauge the interviewer and say what you think they want you to say, because if that's not the real you, they will find out very quickly in the job and you'll be back interviewing elsewhere.
Other things I would avoid doing, which happens far too often, is 'trashing' of an old employer. Whilst you might think telling the interviewer how terrible your last company treated you or how bad it was, will justify you looking for a new role, it will also give the interviewer big concerns over you too. There is always two sides to a story, and this will certainly play on the interviewers mind.”
Keen for more job interview advice? Read more of our blogs here.
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