12 Most Ineffective Job Interview Answers (and What to Say Instead)
You believe you nailed the job interview. Your answers were just as you rehearsed: honest and concise. You went home feeling pretty good about this one.
But something goes wrong. You don’t get a call back. There is no offer.
Here, just from the past two weeks, are answers I’ve heard from candidates and mentees to direct questions that – much to the demise of their job search – could not have been more wrong. We also present how those answers could be delivered just a bit better – creating a much different first reaction from recruiters and mentors, and perhaps setting you apart by turning your answers into really good questions and proactive statements…
1. The Victim, part one
BEFORE: “I just need someone to give me a chance.”
AFTER: “I am eager to start this assignment; how do I stack up to other candidates you’ve interviewed?”
2. The Victim, part two
BEFORE: “I’m tired of working where my boss is a jerk.”
AFTER: “I’m focusing on opportunities where I can build a mutually beneficial mentor-based relationship.”
3. The Boomer Blamer
BEFORE: “The Boomer boss didn’t get me, I’m looking to work where my skills will be appreciated.”
AFTER: “I enjoy cross-generational work teams; how does (insert company name here) encourage diversity and collaboration?”
4. The Stepping Stone, part one
BEFORE: “I’m really just looking for a way to pay the bills until I find my passion.”
AFTER: “There are many aspects of this position that match my passions and career goals.”
5. The Stepping Stone, part two
BEFORE: This position is a good place to get a foot in the door. My goal is to move into Marketing as soon as possible.
AFTER: I’m eager to learn from the ground up, contributing and applying my skills wherever I’m needed.
6. The Stepping Stone, part three
BEFORE: This company has a great reputation. Having this on my resume will be a huge career boost.
AFTER: This company has a great reputation for hiring the best and brightest. I’m eager to join them, so I can both contribute to, and learn from, the best.
7. The Late Bloomer
BEFORE: “All my friends already have good jobs, it’s time for me to get going.”
AFTER: “This opportunity is well aligned with my current career goals. I’m anxious to get started!”
8. The Judge
BEFORE: “They weren’t organized at all and I wasn’t getting paid enough; I just put in my time and went home.”
AFTER: “I love the rush of the last-minute, ‘all-hands-on-deck’ projects… I also look for an opportunity to help build a culture where we’re organized and prepared for the unexpected.”
9. The Culture King
BEFORE: “I didn’t get along with any of the people there… just a bad fit.”
AFTER: “I’ve learned from experience the importance of the right company culture. Can you describe the culture here?”
10. The Closed Mind
BEFORE: “I just wanted to do my job… they wanted me to learn things like Social Media.”
AFTER: “I’m a team-player. I also believe in mastering core responsibilities, and then I’m more than eager to contribute however I’m needed.”
11. The Fall Back
BEFORE: “My solo entrepreneurship project didn’t work out, so I need to get back into the real world.”
AFTER: “I had the opportunity to work on some freelance projects and learned a great deal that will help me excel in this position. Let me give you some examples…”
12. The Voice
BEFORE: “They wanted to be surrounded by “Yes Men”… that isn’t me, ya’ know?”
AFTER: “I welcome an environment where open dialogue is encouraged and the end result is a better product, and even more loyal customers. How does (company name) approach direct input from team members?”
Job or internships seekers: what answers have you given that allowed the recruiter to perceive you as a less-than-perfect candidate? How will you answer the questions differently next time?
Recruiters and employers: what are some of the worst answers you’ve ever received, and what would you suggest as a much better answer?