How to Shoot Yourself in the Foot in the Interview
1) Stop using generalities, like “I’m a problem-solver” and “I’m a real team player.” Generalities about strengths are ignored, forgotten, or not heard. When interviewers evaluate a candidate they recall the examples and stories the candidate used to prove a point. From these examples they conclude to what degree the candidate possesses the strength or attribute.
2) Never say “I don’t have any weaknesses.” Everybody has weaknesses. The point of the question isn’t even about weakness, it’s an attempt to determine your character, honesty, and self-awareness. On the surface, saying you don’t have any weaknesses implies you’ve stopped growing, can’t learn anything new and can’t be coached. Openly stating a weakness, and describing how you’ve learned from it, indicates a willingness to get better.
3) Don’t give answers that are too short or too long. In an interview, you’re judged not just on the content of your answers, but also the quality of how they’re presented. The best answers are 1-2 minutes long. If your answers are too short you’re assumed to lack ability or insight, or interest. Worse, you force the interviewer to work too hard. Interviewees who talk too much are considered self-absorbed, boring and imprecise. Worse, after two minutes the interviewer tunes you out and doesn’t hear a thing you’ve said.
4) Don’t ask “what’s in it for me” questions. At the beginning of the interview, assume you’re the seller, even if you’re the hottest, in-demand candidate in the world. Asking self-serving questions like “what does the job pay?” or questions about benefits and related superficialities, are an instant turn-off. It’s certainly okay to ask about these things once the interviewer signals that you’re a serious candidate for the job.
5) Don’t look at your resume. During the interview you must not look at your resume. This is a sign you’re either nervous (which you probably will be), or you fabricated something. Interviewers expect you to know your work history completely, including companies, dates, job titles, roles, responsibilities and key accomplishments. To help recall these important details, write them down on a few 3X5 cards before the interview.
How to Gain an Interviewing Advantage
1) Be prepared. An interview is more important than any major presentation you’ll ever make. You need to be just as prepared. Part of this is reading about the company, the industry, the job description, and the LinkedIn profiles of the people you’ll be meeting. But this is just a start. Knowing yourself, your resume and work history inside-out, your strengths and weaknesses, and preparing to ask and answer interview questions is the hard part.
2) Ask insightful questions. Interviewers judge candidates on three big areas: the candidate’s first impression, the quality of the answers, and the quality of the questions. Great questions can often overcome weaknesses in the other areas. The best questions focus on the impact and challenges of the role, and the relationship of the job to the business. (see information at bottom of this sheet)
3) Convert the interview into a past performance review. If the interviewer seems to be box-checking skills and experiences, ask about the major performance expectations for the job. Then give examples of your biggest accomplishments to validate you’ve done work that’s comparable to what needs to be done.
4) Prove strengths and neutralize weaknesses. Write down all of your strengths and weaknesses. For each strength come up with 1-2 actual accomplishments you can use as examples to prove the strength. To neutralize a weakness, describe how you converted it into a learning experience, or how you manage to deal with it.
5) Ask about next steps. Towards the end of the interview, ask where you stand, and find out the next steps. If the interviewer is vague or non-committal, you’re probably not going to be called back. In this case, ask if there is something missing in your background or skill set that the job requires. Once you know this, you might be able to minimize the concern by describing some comparable accomplishment that was previously not considered.
For most hiring managers, the interviewer is more about box-checking and validating skills, combined with a big dose of gut feel and intuition. A savvy job-seeker can turn the odds in his or her favour by being prepared, recognizing that the interview isn’t a lecture or a series of 30-second responses, and asking insightful, business-oriented questions. Preventing what can go wrong, is a great way to ensure things go right.
The most important thing you must do in every interview is to ask great questions.
The key is to ask great questions- not to ask questions that you should know the answers to already (“What does the position entail?) or questions that make it all about you (“What is your vacation policy?”)
Here are 10 great questions you can use or make your own on your next job interview. Obviously they're generic and should be tailored based on circumstances:
Of course, the more research you do in advance, the more you can ask specific questions about the company’s recent news, blog posts, product launches, plans, etc. But here’s the bottom line:
Here are five questions great job candidates ask:
Maybe your top performers work longer hours. Or maybe flexibility and creativity is more important than following rigid processes. Or maybe landing new customers in new markets is more important than building long-term customer relationships. Or maybe spending the same amount of time educating an entry-level customer is as important as helping an enthusiast who wants high-end solutions.
Whatever the answer may be, great candidates want to know because 1) they want to know if they fit, and 2) if they do, they definitely want to be a top performer.
“What are the one or two things that really drive results for the company?”
Employees are investments, and every employee should generate a positive return on his or her salary. (Otherwise why are they on the payroll?)
In every job some activities make a bigger difference than others. You want your HR staff to fill job openings... but what you really need is for HR to find the right candidates because that results in higher retention rates, lower training costs, and better overall productivity.
You want your service techs to perform effective repairs... but what you really need is for those techs to identify ways to solve problems and provide further benefits -- in short, to generate additional sales.
Great candidates want to know what truly makes a difference for your company... because they know helping the company succeed means they will also succeed, on multiple levels.
“What do employees do in their spare time?”
Happy employees 1) like what they do, and 2) like the people they do it with.
Granted this is a tough question to answer. Unless the company is really small, all any interviewer can do is speak in generalities.
Even so, great candidates want to make sure they have a reasonable chance of fitting in with the culture -- because great job candidates almost always have options.
“How do you plan to deal with...?”
Every business faces a major challenge: technological changes, competitors entering the market, shifting economic trends... there's rarely a moat protecting a small business.
So while a candidate may see your company as a stepping-stone, they still hope for growth and advancement... and if they do eventually leave, they want it to be on their terms and not because you were forced out of business.
Say I'm interviewing for a position at your bike shop. Another shop is opening less than a mile away. How do you plan to deal with the new competitor?
Or say you run a poultry farm (a major industry where I live): What will you do to deal with rising feed costs?
A great candidate doesn't just want to know what you think; they want to know what you plan to do -- and how they will fit into those plans.
Finally, a new piece on how to succeed in an Interview :
For more helpful tips take a look at our career advice or options below:
- INTERVIEW TIPS & PREPERATION
- CV WRITING
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- RESIGNATION ADVICE
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- Job Profiles
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