Putting your best foot forward in a job interview isn’t just about saying the right things — it’s also about knowing what not to say.
Whether you respond to questions with cliche answers or ask questions that make you look unprepared, there’s no taking back a comment once it’s been uttered.
When it comes to job interview do’s and don’ts, here are seven interview questions and answers you should avoid.
1. So, what does this company do?
Acing a job interview is all about preparation. Before you meet the hiring manager, take the time to research the company and new position. Then, demonstrate what you learned throughout the interview.
Don’t ask questions that you should already know the answers to. Your questions should go deeper than basic facts and figures. Asking about information that can be found with a quick Google search makes you look lazy and ill-informed.
2. I joined five clubs in college and studied comparative literature.
Often, an interviewer will start with an open-ended prompt like, “tell me about yourself.” But the interviewer isn’t looking to hear your entire life story, nor do they especially care what you did in college if you’ve been working for a few years.
Instead, they want to hear about your professional experiences and skills as they relate to the position. Unless you’re a brand new graduate, college activities probably aren’t relevant to the job. If you did just graduate, stick to related projects and achievements that showcase job-related skills.
3. My greatest weaknesses are working too hard and caring too much.
Many interviewers inquire about your weaknesses or a time you experienced failure. It can be tough to answer these questions. You’re trying to sell yourself as the best candidate, so you don’t want to expose your flaws.
But hiring managers want a thoughtful answer. Answering with the cliche “I work too hard” or “I’m too much of a perfectionist” is an obvious cop-out. Instead of evading the question, strive to answer it honestly without sabotaging your candidacy.
Before answering, consider the core competencies of the job. If you’re applying for a human resources position, you shouldn’t say your biggest struggle is communication. If you’re hoping to be an administrative assistant, steer clear of talking about how disorganized you are.
Be sincere, but also strategic. Highlight a weakness that won’t eliminate you as a candidate. If you’re a computer programmer, for instance, it probably won’t hurt to say you’ve struggled with public speaking.
Follow up your explanation by telling the interviewer what steps you’ve taken steps to overcome your weakness. This will show you’re resilient and proactive about sharpening your skills.
4. My last boss was totally incompetent.
If you’re currently employed, an interviewer may ask why you’re looking for a new job. No matter how terrible your last job was, don’t badmouth it.
Insulting your last company or boss will just reflect badly on you, and it could burn bridges if you need a recommendation in the future. Plus, the interviewer wants to see how you handle challenging situations. They may wonder why you didn’t communicate your frustrations and work to improve them.
5. When can I expect to get a promotion?
A job interview is your opportunity to show how excited you are for the new position. Asking about a promotion right off the bat suggests you’re already looking to move on.
Instead, ask about how the organization helps its employees learn new skills, or how the hiring manager sees the position evolving in the next few years.
But asking about a promotion before you even get the job could suggest a lack of commitment. If hiring managers see this red flag, you might not get hired.
6. What will my salary be?
Some employers don’t have the salary conversation until they offer you the job. It’s not really fair to you, but a lot of companies still do things this way.
While you have a right to know what your salary will be, asking about it too early could rub the interviewer the wrong way. If you’re not sure what the procedure is, you’re better off waiting.
But should the interviewer ask what your salary expectations are, you should have a number in mind. Do some market research so you have a reasonable sense of what you should be making.
7. No, I don’t have any questions.
Of all the common interview mistakes to avoid, this is the most important. When an interviewer asks if you have any questions, always say yes — and come prepared with a few.
You might fear that asking questions makes you look stupid, but in fact, the opposite is true. Not only will asking questions show your interest in the organization, but it will also help you gauge whether you’d like to work there.
Prepare at least four to five thoughtful questions before your meeting. You don’t have to ask all of them, but you’ll be ready in case the interviewer answers them throughout your conversation.
Job interview do’s and don’ts: Do your research to avoid mistakes
To do well in an interview, you need to show you’re prepared and enthusiastic. Common interview mistakes happen when you appear unready or disinterested.
But don’t let job interview do’s and don’ts keep you from showing your true personality. You should still be yourself and strive to make a personal connection with your interviewer. Just be strategic about how you present your qualifications.
For more interviewing tips, here’s how to answer the most common interview questions.
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