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7 Common Job Interview Questions We've All Gotten Wrong
Dima Sidelnikov / Adobe Stock
Kaitlin Westbrook
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Interviewing is arguably the most stressful part of the application process. Even the most seasoned professionals may be thrown by job interview questions, simply because the questions can vary so much.

Unfortunately, no amount of preparation can remove the need for candidates to improvise in an interview; however, knowing a few common interview questions is always good, and knowing which responses to avoid can be even better.

But how do you know what constitutes a "good answer"? What's the right way to prepare? Before you ever walk into an interview, it’s always helpful to research the business, either on Fairygodboss, Glassdoor, or elsewhere, to find company-specific reviews and interview information.

Additionally, no matter what the role is, it’s always helpful to read articles on job interview questions as well as the answers you should (and shouldn’t) give. Perhaps that’s why you’re here, and if so, you’re in luck. Below are common job interview questions that are both easy to bomb and conquer.

Common Job Interview Questions

1. Tell me about yourself

• What not to say:

When being asked about “yourself,” it’s important to remember that hiring manager is asking about your professional career, rather than about your personal life. Most of us know this, but it can be tempting to add that little bit of spice in order to make an impression on a potential employer.

Rather than doing this in the interview, consider doing it during the application process instead. You may choose to note exciting accomplishments in your resume, portfolio, or cover letter. Interviews provide face time to discuss the hiring manager’s questions, so don’t bring new, personal information into the interview, unless it's somehow related to your work experience, resume, or portfolio.

• What to say:

When this question comes up, you need to sell your professional career and work experience in about a minute's time. What sorts of amazing things did you accomplish to get to this point? What makes you an expert in this field? Why are you the perfect candidate for this position?

During this part of the interview, you have the opportunity to use specific examples, numbers, and events. You could discuss how you increased sales by a certain percentage, lowered the turnover rate, or earned a career-related certification.

2. What are your weaknesses?

• What not to say:

You've probably heard the typical answer: My biggest weakness is caring too much. This cliché is a favorite, mostly because it can be tempting for the interviewee to play the modest angel rather than having to admit to showing a weakness.

While you may feel the urge to position a positive as a negative, it's crucial to avoid the temptation. Although we don’t want interviewers to know our bad habits, we know we’re not perfect, and your potential employer will, too. Everyone appreciates honesty and transparency, and hiring managers are no different.

• What to say:

Consider your professional weaknesses, explain them, then pivot. Pinpoint how you’ve managed to work around some of these weaknesses or challenged yourself to overcome them.

Did you implement changes in order to be a better leader? Did you go outside your comfort zone to improve your people skills? These examples show interviewers you can be both vulnerable and adaptable.

3. What do you know about our company?

• What not to say:

Many of us have applied to unfamiliar companies. When an interviewer wants to know how much candidates know about the business, they often lean toward blatant lying or extreme honesty.

“Oh, I love this company! I’ve always wanted to work here” is an example of being overzealous and overstating your knowledge. “I’d never heard of the company, but I saw it on LinkedIn, and I really need a job" is too honest. In this type of situation, honesty is still the best policy, but you may consider being judicious with your answer.

• What to say:

Rather than admitting your unfamiliarity with the company, consider instead highlighting your skills. You could say something like, “I’ve been researching the business, and I was really impressed with how the CEO did x, y, and z.”

By doing this, you’re showing you can take initiative and have done your homework by spending the time researching the business beyond the information provided in the job description. You can also express your interest in the position and the knowledge you've gained about the company (even if you didn’t know anything about it initially).

4. Where do you see yourself in the future?

• What not to say:

You may be asked to describe where you’ll be in five years, 10 years, or simply the future. This is a tough question for anyone. However, it’s especially tough for job candidates who intend to start businesses or families or those who want to work at many different companies to gain industry experience.

While you shouldn’t lie, you still need to present yourself as a good fit for the company and position. This means you shouldn’t overtly tell an interviewer you plan to be working somewhere else. Additionally, you don’t want to appear smug. For instance, saying, “I see myself managing this company” seems cocky rather than confident. Instead, find a way to prove you’re management material through your experience and answers.

• What to say:

You can show you are worth the risk by aligning your goals with company opportunities. For example, if you want to own your own company in five years, you might say you see yourself managing a team. You may point out that you’re excited about the current opportunity because it will give you chances to lead a team, account, or other aspects of the business.

If you plan on job hopping to gain experience, you might say you see yourself learning several new skills. You can explain that you're not afraid to take professional risks because of your ambitious nature. You can mention an interest in exploring opportunities at the company where you're interviewing, but be careful about letting hiring managers know that you have your eye on something else entirely.

5. Why do you want to leave your current company?

• What not to say:

This question is possibly one of the most difficult job interview questions to answer. You may be tempted to be extremely forthcoming, but you also don’t want to come across as a negative or conflict-seeking person.

Speaking ill of your current position and employer makes you a risky hire; if you insult your current boss or company now, what’s to say you won’t do the same in future positions? Additionally, if you’re eager to air your grievances, you'll look unprofessional.

• What to say:

If you’re experiencing logistical problems with your job or responsibilities, you may want to mention those as your primary reasons for leaving. For example, if you have a long commute to work, or you’re frequently missing out on family activities, you can cite these as unfortunate contributors to your decision.

If you’re struggling with management, you might say you’re looking for a better cultural fit or seeking new challenges that better play to your strengths. If you feel overworked, you might say you’re searching for a healthy work-life balance. There are a number of positive ways in which you can answer this question and still be open and honest.

6. How would you deal with an angry client or customer?

• What not to say:

Most of us don’t enjoy angry people, but support skills are required for many different positions. Having a solid, tested game plan for unhappy customers is an important tool for any interview.

Because of this, it's important to avoid showing negativity toward unhappy customers or clients. You don't want to appear unsympathetic, especially if you'll be in a position to diffuse tense situations.

• What to say:

Because all clients and customers are different, it’s better to cite a specific, personal experience when trying to connect with your interviewer. When it comes to sales and support roles, a connection is especially important.

If you have concrete experience for de-escalating customers or clients, the interviewer may feel you are a better fit for the role. Plus, depending on your storytelling abilities, your story will most likely be more memorable than a generic response.

7. Do you have any questions for me?

• What not to say:

This question is perhaps the most common one you’ll find in an interview, which means it is crucial for you to have an answer—or an idea of an answer—prepared. You don’t want to be caught struggling for ways to respond.

You also don’t want to have one generic question you might ask any business; this can show you’re unprepared or uninvested in the company.

• What to say:

Instead, have a few in-depth questions to ask the employer. Make sure at least one of them is specific to the company. By doing this, you’ll continue to show that you know the company and are interested in its mission.

Make sure you also have a lighthearted question that pertains to company culture or company flow. This will encourage the interviewer to have a conversation with you, giving the interaction much-needed human quality.

The Takeaway

We’ve all had embarrassing flubs in interviews—stumbling through answers or feeling unprepared. And while you can never completely prepare yourself for job interview questions, you can promote confidence by doing some simple research.

By knowing what not to say, we often have a better idea of what we should say, which makes an interview quite a bit easier.

--

Kaitlin Westbrook is a content writer for Vecteezy. She covers business, creative content, professional writing, and more. When she’s not writing, she enjoys movies, baking, and her Pomeranian. You can connect with her on Twitter.

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