Job interview minefield is full of self-implosions
Don’t give away negative information
The job interview is a potential minefield for those who would just like to get down to doing the work instead of talking in vague abstractions about why they should be hired.
Some people don’t interview well regardless of the circumstances; some become tongue-tied when under the microscope. Others have a real problem tooting their own horns.
Knowing that some human resources professionals use the interview process to trip people up intentionally — to worm out information the job seeker would rather not divulge, or to discover how they perform under stress — sets up an antagonistic, untrusting atmosphere from the start. One interview expert says it doesn’t have to be that way.
“Recruiters report that high numbers of job seekers blab negative information without realizing they’re making a farewell address to a job opportunity,” says Joyce Lain Kennedy, author of Job Interviews for Dummies, now in its fourth edition. “With the proper preparation, you can begin to give slam-dunk answers to any interview questions.”
There are certain questions which are virtually guaranteed to explode under the unwary interviewee. Kennedy gives some advice about how to get around them safely.
Why have you been out of work for so long? How many others were laid off? Why you? — The interviewer wants to know what’s wrong with you. Don’t tell him or her, especially if you’re still angry with your former employer about being let go, which could raise doubts about your self-control. “Shake your head and say you don’t know the reason because you were an excellent employee who gave more than a day’s work for a day’s pay.”
If employed, how did you find the time for the interview? — The real question is: “Are you lying to your employer about your whereabouts?” Make it clear that you’re taking personal time; that you only interview for jobs when you think you’re a terrific match; and if a followup interview is necessary, maybe it could happen outside of working hours, Kennedy says.
How did you prepare for this interview? — Real question: Do you care enough about working here to do a little research about us? The best answer should also be a true one: that you started with the company’s website and went on from there.
Where would you really like to work? Doing what? —Real question: Are you applying for every job you see? and also: Are you going to stay with us long enough to be worth our investment in you? “Never, ever mention another company’s name or another job,” Kennedy says. The appropriate answer is “this is where I want to work; this is what I want to do.”
What bugs you about your co-workers or bosses? —Real question: Do you play well with others? Kennedy advises that you “develop a poor memory for past irritations,” mention how your bosses were knowledgeable and fair and that you seem to get along with everyone.”
Describe how you solved a problem. — Real question: Describe how you solved a problem. The problem with this question, says Kennedy, is that people have trouble coming up with something. So prepare an answer, knowing the question will arise. Time management is a good subject.
Describe a mistake you made and how you fixed it. — Real question: Do you learn from your mistakes? Kennedy says people often err here by delivering a litany of their bad points. Prepare an answer — describe one well-intentioned goof and what you learned from the experience.