Job Interview Tips: 5 most common job interview questions and how NOT to answer them

by Guest Author, Kanika Khurana

Job interview often spells anxiety for most people. The reason for most is the uncertainty of what may or may not be asked. From technical skill set to personality, as well as language skills, an interviewer looks at many aspects when interviewing an aspirant. While you may prepare for the written examination, the interview is truly tough to prepare for, but not impossible.

Interview, by definition, is a face to face interaction between a person and/or persons. In a job interview, the person or job aspirant is often asked questions pertaining to his specific skill, his past experiences, and more. Apart from checking the eligibility and competence of the candidate vis a vis the job, an interviewer also ascertains the ‘attitude’ of the candidates.

No one can tell you what to say. Most professionals who share job interview tips share disclaimers that there is no ‘true correct answer’. However, many interviewers – be it the HR heads or the Operations Manager, would be able to tell you ‘what NOT to say’ in a job interview.

HR professionals have flagged the answers which lead to an unfavorable outcome. These are accepted widely as the ‘signs’ that the candidate should not be hired. Here are those 5 most commonly asked questions and how ‘NOT’ to answer them.

Tell me something about yourself

This is the most common, and most of the time the first question asked in an interview. The Interviewer seeks to understand your profile and your communication skills. While there are many things you can say, there is one thing you should never say, or rather, do. And that is answer the question with the question – “What do you want to know?”

Many HR professionals and Executives find this as an affront or indecisiveness on the interviewee’s part. This is also the ultimate test of your confidence and you must not come across as a person who has nothing to share.

Why do you want to leave your current organization?

There is more than one ‘Wrong Answer’ for this. Say either of the following and the buzzer goes off in the mind of your interviewer. Here is what you should NOT say:

  • I had issues with my reporting manager (shows insubordination, issues with authority, etc.)
  • I had issues with my team members (highlights you may not be a team player)
  • I am bored in my present organization (shows lack of self-motivation)
  • The organization is toxic (very strong and negative feelings!)

Essentially, any word which reflects negatively is not received positively by the interviewer. Try to keep your answers positive, focus more on why you want to join the company you are giving an interview for rather than why you want to leave the one you are currently employed in.

What are your weaknesses?

This is increasingly becoming a favorite question for the interviewers and usually becomes a trap for most. Especially when you answer – “I don’t have any weaknesses!” It’s the worst reply you can possibly give.

Remember, having a weakness is rather human and suggesting that you do not have any only makes self-assessment your biggest weakness. Further, it might be perceived as over-confidence. Instead, one must be prepared for this question and honestly share the areas of improvement and what one is working on mitigating the same.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What are your short terms and long term goals?

Surprised? Thought this question is not asked anymore? Think again. This classic question is asked to ascertain the goals of the employees. It is also asked to understand the vision of the interviewee and what he/she expects out of the organization.

While the answers may vary, here is how you MUST NOT answer this question:

  • I don’t think that far out into the future.
  • I have not thought about it yet.
  • I want to be a CXO (especially frowned upon is you are applying for a fresher or an executive position. Aiming high is appreciated but the goal, if not realistic, might only highlight that you have not really thought about it!)
  • I want to start my own venture. (This again would be seen as a big negative. As of late, however, this has been welcomed by the new start-ups which seem to find this as an encouraging sign.)

Why do you want to join this company? Why this job?

As frequent as it is for an HR Executive to want understand why you are looking for a change, they also wish to ascertain the reasons (if any) why you are interested in the job. Answering that you are doing it for the money only shows short term goals and is often flagged as they might see you as susceptible to leaving their organization for a better offer.

Also, statements like, “I am looking for better growth opportunities,” and “I want to leave my present organization,” might be too random and negatively perceived.

Best reply is often a well-researched and thought out reply that shares your motivation, intent, and desire for the job you are interviewing for. Any answer that shows disinterest in the company or the job profile and focuses on everything else is not usually the best way to approach this question.

To sum up, interviews should not be considered lightly or ‘speak from the heart’ situations. It should be considered a healthy discourse where one must find ways and means to impress their suitability for the specific job applied for.

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About the author: Kanika Khurana is an Education Counsellor and Journalist with nearly 18 years of experience. Kanika is passionate about providing right information and career opportunities to students.

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