How Not to Answer Some of the Most Common Job Interview Questions

National Experts in Resume Writing & Career Coaching

How Not to Answer Some of the Most Common Job Interview Questions

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Congratulations! You’ve secured a job interview with the employer you’ve been vying to get a job with. Before you head in, here’s some advice. We know you’re feeling adrenaline and excitement over the potential opportunity, but what you need now is a clear head to make sure your responses to some of the most common job interview questions don’t come off as cliché. There’s nothing wrong with offering a safe answer, but it likely isn’t one that will help you stand out and secure your spot in the running for the position.

Recruiters and hiring managers go through dozens of interviews each week to find the right talent. If they’ve heard one safe and sure bet answer to the question, they’ve heard them all – more times than they care to hear.

To be a standout candidate, here are tips on how to respond to some of the most common job interview questions:

“What would you say is your greatest strength?”

Wrong Answer: I’m a hard worker or I’m a team player.

 Tip: Don’t resort to answering the question with something so broad that practically anyone else can say the same. Think of specific scenarios you can highlight to showcase your personal strength, and in responding, also relay why it’s been an important trait to have in helping to succeed professionally.

“What would you say is your greatest weakness?”

Wrong Answer: I’m a perfectionist.

Tip: It’s hard to have to point out a weakness when you’re trying to impress the employer, but when asked, don’t avoid the question by answering with a cover-up of what is a strength. Employers are more impressed by the candidate who’s genuine and can confidently speak on their area of weakness. You want to display honesty in your response and express to the employer that you recognize its an area for improvement, and what you are doing or have done to work towards improving it.

“Why do you want to work here?”

Wrong Answer: I’ve heard you offer great benefits to employees or I like the company.

Tip: Answering the question in a manner that shows only self-benefit is not the way to go. Yes, it may be great that the company offers its employees a snack bar and half-day Summer Fridays, but that’s not the reason to give when answering the question. Focus on a response that expresses your alignment with the company’s mission or business. Show you’ve done your research. For example, “I’ve seen how the company has taken over the market in the areas of …., and its plans to expand into the European market. I am certain that my experience and skills in …. can be put to good use in such a position. The opportunity to work with a leader in the space will also ensure I can continue to learn and fine-tune these skills even more to grow with the company.”

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Wrong Answer: Working for ….

Tip: Pause and think about why this question is being asked. Most employers want to see if you have ambition and drive for success. Employers also want to see if you are committed to the career path and working for the company. Research ahead of time and understand the typical career path for the profession, and the typical path followed by the employer. Respond using it as an opportunity to reinforce your message of your unique skill set and how you envision growing to advance with the company with a new set of skills in that time.

Often, questions asked at the job interview by employers simply seek to uncover: 1) your level of experience and your array of skills, 2) whether you make a good fit for their work culture, and 2) your long-term career goals, as they relate to your loyalty to the employer. Remember to always tailor your response showcasing personal insight so that it doesn’t come off cliché, and also that you’re making the case on how you’re the best candidate for the job. For more tips to job interviewing, read: “Things Job Seekers Need to Hit at the Job Interview to Prove They’re the Right Fit.”

Also, remember that the job interview is your opportunity to uncover whether this is really the job and the employer you want to work for. Have questions of your own to ask. Read: “The 4 Most Important Questions to Ask at the Interview.”