Nerves are to be expected in an interview; it’s understandable. However, those jitters can cause you to say the wrong thing and cost you a job.
I want to allow college students to have the tools they need to prepare for life after school, so I spoke to three people on hiring committees to find out exactly what interviewers don’t want to hear – the Director of Eastern Washington University’s Early Head Start, a home-based Supervisor for Early Head Start, and a social worker for the state of Washington.*
Some of the ideas on this list may seem obvious, but you would be surprised to how often they happen in interviews. Starting off strong we have:
No matter how passionate you are about a question, interviewers do not want to hear you swear; it often comes across as unprofessional. Sometimes we slip up, but try to keep your speech PG, at least until you’re out of earshot.
When an interviewer asks, “Tell us a little bit about yourself” it’s really to break the tension. They’re not actually asking for a full list of interests, and definitely don’t want to know how much you love to party on your days off. Instead, give them a brief introduction to who you are. For example, “On my time off I really enjoy cooking, reading and spending time with my family.” Try to frame yourself as positive and professional.
- inflation of qualification or experience
Never lie about your experience. Your hiring manager will know you lied when you can’t do your job correctly. Once you’ve done your research on the job posting, you should be able to confidently say that you can complete the skills needed to fill the position. If you are lacking in a specific skill, let your interviewer know that you are a fast learner and are eager to take on the task. Give them examples of why you are qualified for the job but don’t lie about having specific skillsets or experience.
- “I left my old job because I didn’t get along with ___.”
This is one of the last things your interviewer wants to hear. They don’t know you yet, and this answer makes it hard to decipher if you were a large part of the drama. This can tell your interviewer that you’re hard to get along with, not a team player and will leave this job at the first sight of conflict. However, you should be honest. If you did leave your last job because of a conflict, tell your interviewer that it wasn’t the right fit anymore. Alternatively, you could say:
- “I’m looking for advancement opportunities.”
- “I’m changing careers.”
- “I want a new challenge.”
Honestly, just no. This will never land you a job. It will almost always guarantee that you won’t get it. You don’t need to lay on the charm if you’re qualified for the position.
- “I don’t have any questions.”
Always ask a question at the end of an interview. It’s a big red flag to an interviewer if you don’t have any questions about what they’re looking for. Here are a few big questions that interviewers love to hear.
- “What qualities/characteristics are you looking for in an ideal candidate?”
- “What does the timeline look like for filling this position?”
- “What’s your favorite part about working for this company?”
- “I can’t think of any times I overcame conflict in a previous job.”
Your interviewer doesn’t want to know the details of every disagreement you’ve had in past jobs. They want to know how you resolve conflict. Again, try to frame yourself as a positive person. If your conflict was with a boss, coworker, or customer, tell them what solutions you came up with to solve the issue. If for some reason you’ve never dealt with a workplace conflict, tell your interviewer what you would do in the situation. In most cases, if the workplace culture allows it, you should go to the person of conflict directly.
- Generic answers
When your interviewer asks you a question, take a second to think about the answer that everyone will give. Don’t answer your questions a certain way because you think it’s what the interviewer wants to hear. That leaves no room for emotion or personal connection in your response. If your response sounds like every other candidate, you’re missing a chance to stand out. For example, a generic answer to “Why should we hire you?” is “I’m a team player, a hard worker and a fast learner.” Instead, point to something that makes you unique that directly relates to the job; tell them what makes you different from the other candidates.
- “What does this job entail?”
When you apply for a job, you should know exactly what the position looks like. Before your interview, you should have researched the job duties to see what they entail. Asking this question makes you look unqualified because you haven’t looked into the position.
- “I really want this job because it pays more money than my current job/I really need the money.”
I know, this is what you’re probably thinking when they ask you why you want the job. That’s why everyone wants a job. It’s not necessarily a bad answer, it’s just obvious. Instead, think about why you would be good at the job, and frame your answer around that. Example: “I want this job because it’s my passion to work with kids/I’ve wanted to be this forever/I see myself succeeding in this role because…”
Thank you for reading this article. I hope it helps you prepare for those interviews and allows you to feel confident in your abilities. If you liked this, check out our Instagram for more articles and updates!
* These ideas do not necessarily apply to every job or interviewer but are a general consensus from three people with experience in the interviewing field. Ideas expressed are the personal opinions of those interviewed and do not reflect the specific agencies they work for.