Five things you should never reveal in a job interview
March 7, 2016
Job interviews are conversational. And they should be: two people are trying to get to know each other a little better to determine if they would be a good fit to work together. But don’t let the sometimes casual nature of chatting cause you to let your guard down. You are being judged on everything you say, and there are some things you should never communicate to your employer.
Here are the top five:
That you see this job as a stepping stone to advance your career.
- Most people change jobs every few years now, so every role we take is really a stepping stone. However true that might be, it’s not what employers want to hear in job interviews.
Many candidates will explain that they are interested in a position because they “want to get their foot in the door” of the industry. This is a terrible answer. Once you’ve gotten your foot in the door and jumped to the next opportunity, the employer will be right back where they started. They’ll have a vacant position they need to fill and have to start hiring all over again.
While it is great to work for an employer who wants to see advance in your career (and of course the good ones do), at the hiring time they’re not looking to advance your goals. They’re looking for someone who will make their life easier – who can and will do the job that they need done.
You need to demonstrate that the job at hand is a great career move for you – and not just a jumping off point for what you really want to do.
- Most job interviewers will ask you about your strengths and weaknesses. This is to see if you can handle tough questions and speak eloquently under pressure. It is also aimed to reveal how self-aware you are. Have you taken a look at yourself, and do you know your own talents and areas for improvement?
What they don’t expect is for you to actually list weaknesses that would disqualify you from the job. You should be smarter than that. One recruiter recently told me that the only reason he asks the ‘greatest weakness’ question is “because crazy people sometimes answer it.” So he can weed them out right away.
Think of an actual weakness, something that isn’t an essential requirement for the job, and explain how you became aware of it and are working on improving upon it. This shows that you are reflective, willing to learn, and striving to get better.
- Most of us have had bad bosses or negative working relationships at some point in our career. Often this is the reason we’re changing jobs in the first place. But you never want to say that in an interview.
Speaking negatively about your past work experience will only make you look like a complainer. Regardless of the situation, say it was a great learning experience for your career at the time, but that you have outgrown the role and are excited about taking on new challenges. (Such as offered by the job you’re interviewing for.)
Hiring managers want to hire positive, optimistic, happy people for their teams, not potentially negative, downers who could drag the culture down.
- Of course you need the job. Unless you are living off a large inheritance or lottery windfall, you need to earn a living. (And in one of those cases, why are you even at this interview?) So let that go unspoken. Employers don’t want to hear that you really need the job (because you’re going broke, because you’re fleeing a negative work situation, because you’re unemployment insurance is running out, because no one else has been willing to give you a chance, etc.)
Need like that makes you sound desperate, lacking in confidence, and like you would take any gig you can get. All of these things make you a poor choice of hire. Instead think about what you can offer, what you bring to the table. The job interview is really about the employer’s needs and how you can help them.
- Everybody gets nervous in job interviews. It is an inherently stressful situation. That’s kind of the point of them. On the job there will likely be stressful situations too. You will face occasions where you have to react under pressure, think on your feet, and communicate in a friendly, professional manner under less than ideal conditions. Prove you can do it.
So you need to project confidence. Practice talking about your past work experience and accomplishments in a conversational manner in advance. Be aware of your body language. A firm dry hand shake, proper eye contact, and a warm smile can go a long way to projecting confidence. (Studies have shown that smiling actually makes you feel more confident as well.)
In a job interview, you want to communicate that you’d be an asset to the employer for your skills and a great member of the team for your winning personality. Coming across as negative, nervous, or needy will only hurt your chances of getting hired.