10 things not to say in a job interviewWith the jobs market more competitive than ever it can be hard work just to get an interview, so once you're actually in front of potential employers you don't want to ruin your prospects with an ill-chosen comment.
Sadly, some job hunters still do speak before they think. Corinne Mills, managing director of Personal Career Management, says she can recall many instances of interviewees saying the wrong thing. "I remember when one man was asked why he wanted the job, he replied, 'Because my mum thought it was a good idea'," she says.
She adds that some job hunters have also been known to say they've applied for a job "because it will pay the rent while I look for a job I really want to do", and a common response to a question about what candidates like to do in their spare time is "go to the pub".
Richard Nott, website director at CWJobs.co.uk, says candidates should avoid discussing religion and politics. "Employers like people who can talk passionately about their own interests as it helps them to get to know you as a person. But we would always advise against sharing your views on these two topics without knowing if the interviewer shares that point of view."
We asked Nott, Mills and Nik Pratap of Hays Senior Finance for their list of the top things to avoid saying at a job interview:
1 "Sorry I'm late." It goes without saying that punctuality is key. Your interviewer doesn't want you to arrive for work 20 minutes late every morning.
2 "What's your annual leave and sickness policy?" It doesn't look good if, before you've even been hired, you're planning your absence from the company.
3 "I'll just take this call." Mills says a large number of candidates think it is OK to take telephone calls, texts etc during an interview. It isn't.
4 When asked, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" never say, "Doing your job." As much as this might be a genuine answer, Nott says candidates should "try to build a response around the experience they would like to have gained and the level of responsibility they'd like to have, rather than threatening the interviewer's job."
5 "My previous employer sucked." No matter how mind-numbingly boring those roles might have been, "speaking badly of a previous employer is not only unprofessional, but also reflects on your character," Pratap says. Your new employer will contact your former employer for references following an interview, so it's never wise to burn your bridges.
6 "You make widgets? I thought you made cricket bats." Failing to research your prospective employer fully is a big faux pas. "Saying you've looked at their website is only marginally better employers expect far more research," Mills explains.
7 "Bloody hell." Never swear in your interview. It can happen, especially if your interviewer is themselves prolific with the profanities, but don't let them set the standard of the interview and remain professional at all times.
8 "I was very good at sorting out PEBs by using ARCs." Don't fall into the industry jargon of your previous employer or assume the interviewer knows anything about your experience, Pratap advises. Instead, speak clearly about your skills and experience to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding.
9 "Do I really have to wear that uniform?" Any criticism of staff uniform will go down like a lead balloon. Do you think your interviewer enjoyed wearing that fluorescent green ensemble when they performed your role?
10 When asked, "What do you expect to enjoy most about this role?" never reply with any of the following: the perks, the pay, lunchtimes, my co-workers or the holidays, Nott says.
The secret to a successful job interviewYour CV has somehow made it through the morass of applications, but the hard part starts here: how do you keep your composure and prove you are the right person for the job?
"If you have been invited to an interview, the job is there to be won," says Rebecca Corfield, author of Knockout Job Interview Presentations. Even if you don't get the job, there's value in performing to the best of your ability an unsuccessful but impressive candidate is often the first to be called back next time a position comes up.
So don't shirk your pre-interview work; follow our expert tips to give yourself the best chance of success.Do
Prepare your answers thoroughly. What points do you want to make about yourself? How will you reply to questions that come up? "If you want to convince a recruiter you are right for the role, then obviously you should first be clear in your own mind why you are right for the role," says James Innes, author of The Interview Book.
Clearly structure your answers. "Make three key points to help the panel understand what you are getting at," says Corfield. Innes and Corfield recommend using real-life examples rather than hypothetical ones to back up your points: "Flagging up relevant examples from your own experience is an ideal way of reinforcing your points," Innes says.
Get over yourself. Everyone feels nervous and self-conscious, so try not to dwell on it. "Nerves don't show nearly as much as you think they do," says Corfield, "so stand tall, breathe deeply and concentrate on your message to deliver it with confidence."
Ask questions. Almost all interviewers will give you a chance to be inquisitive use this to further demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm. "If not, you'll come across as passive and uninterested," says Innes.Don't
Focus on yourself. The employer is not interested in how this job will improve your career. "Talk about what you are bringing to the job, what special qualities, knowledge or vision you can offer," says Corfield. "Explain to them what a difference you can make."
Be critical of others. "Criticising your current employer is considered one of the top mistakes you can make at interview and could cost you the job regardless of whether or not your criticism is justified," says Innes. "Likewise, avoid criticising current or former colleagues.
Prematurely talk money. It's best to avoid asking questions about pay and holidays, unless of course the interviewer brings up these topics. "It can place too much focus on what you are expecting from the employer, rather than what you are offering them never a good idea," says Innes. The perfect ... interview
You've bagged an interview for your dream job, and you're the best candidate by a mile. But forget any ideas you might have about your abilities shining through of their own accord. Interviewing well is a skill like any other, and it takes knowledge, commitment and hard work to come out on top. Remember, every employer is going to ask themselves two things about you: Are you qualified for the job? And are you enthusiastic? Taking the time to prepare a perfect interview will successfully answer both these questions.
Dress to impress If you look untidy, that's how you'll be remembered. If in doubt, it's always better to be too smart than too laid back. "Wearing a suit or a smart dress sounds obvious, but you wouldn't believe the number of candidates who turn up in jeans and t-shirt. It sounds patronising telling someone to dress smart, but a lot of people coming out of school or university just aren't interview-savvy." Simon Milne, recruitment consultant
Prepare, prepare, prepare! List likely questions in advance. Memorise your answers. Check the time and place of your interview. Find out how to get there - do a dry run if necessary. Research the company you want to work for. Research the person interviewing you - a rudimentary search on the net might throw up some useful information.
Get physical Never underestimate the importance of a firm, confident handshake and positive body language. "I was once told by an employer that they turned down my candidate because he slouched in his chair. You have to look keen and engaged, so mirror the body language of the person interviewing you, lean in towards them at times and don't cross your arms. Always accept a glass of water, it can create a useful barrier during an uncomfortable question and buy you a few crucial seconds while you take a sip. But never take a biscuit they'll often try to throw you with a difficult question the moment you take a big bite." Alice Stenhouse, City headhunter
Use examples It's no good just using abstract terms to talk about how organised or efficient you are. Prepare some examples from your past experience to immediately back up your claims. Emphasise what unique talents you'll be bringing to the company. Don't go too far though - pretending you're some kind of superhero will make you hard to relate to. Show humility - talk about an area you've struggled at, and the way you overcame the problem.
Always be positive "When you're asked why you're moving on, don't start slagging off your old boss. A lot of industries are very close knit and you may be insulting the interviewer's friend. Think of positive reasons make it all about the new company, your new career prospects and your ambition to succeed. "Prepare at least 15 questions to ask at the end five about the role, five about the company, and five specifically about the interviewer. Candidates look at me like I'm mad when I tell them this, but you'll find most of your prepared questions will be answered during the course of the interview, and they're crucial for showing your interest in the role. " Simon Milne.
Ending the interview "At the end, try asking if they have any reservations about you this will give you the perfect opportunity to give an immediate riposte to their concerns and provide you with a clean finish to the interview." Simon Milne.
Top 10 Interview Questions and Sample Answers1. Tell me about yourself. Be brief! Keep this answer to 30-45 seconds max or you will lose the employers attention very quickly. Remember, tell me about yourself doesnt mean they want your life story. Summarize your skills and experience in a way that make you stand out and show why you are the best person for the job.Sample Answer: Hello, my name is Brian Murphy. I am a law enforcement professional with a degree in criminal justice and active Top Secret security clearance. My qualifications include fifteen years of experience in international and homeland security and outstanding leadership capability managing large security teams. My experience also includes knowledge of patrol, search and rescue and investigative and criminal procedures. I am a sharpshooter with expert marksman qualifications as well. I would like to discuss how I can bring these skills and experience to your company.2. What about this job interests you? The interviewer is listening for an answer that indicates youve given this some thought and are not sending out resumes just because there is an opening. Be clear about why you are interested in the job and the value you can bring to their organization.Sample Answer: Ive applied to companies where I know I can get excited about what the company does. Your company is one of my top choices. This job is really attractive to me because it combines my interest and experience in logistics and security with work in a more global business environment.3. What are your career goals and where do you see yourself five years from now? The key here is to focus on your achievable objectives and what you are doing to reach those objectives.Sample Answer: Within 5 years, I would like to become the very best mechanic your company has on staff. I want to work toward becoming the expert that others rely on. Hopefully, this will allow me to take on greater responsibilities with the company if the opportunity arises. I am also working towards additional certifications in the field to enhance my career potential.4. Why are you leaving the military? or Why are you leaving your current job? When answering this question, always focus on the positive: You are looking for a new challenge, more responsibility, more experience or a change of environment. Never be negative about your former or current employers or talk about negative experiences you had there.Sample Answer: I feel that the time is right for me to transition the outstanding skills and experience I obtained during my last four years in the military to the civilian job market. I received great training and/or education in the Army and have been given job assignments that have enhanced my technical skills, leadership ability and taught me how to meet deadlines and multi-task in a very fast-paced and often stressful environment. I can bring these same skills to your organization.5. What are your strengths? This is one question that you know you are going to be asked so be prepared! Concentrate on discussing your main strengths. List three or four proficiencies such as your ability to learn quickly, determination to succeed, positive attitude, your ability to relate to people and achieve a common goal, etc.Sample Answer: I have very good organizational and time management skills, but my greatest strength is my ability to effectively handle multiple projects and deadlines.Sample Answer: My strength is my flexibility to handle change. As a front line manager at my last job, I was able to turn around a negative working environment and develop a very supportive and productive team.6. What are your weaknesses or areas you would like to improve? This is another frequently asked question. Everyone has weaknesses, but when answering this question in a job interview, stay away from personal qualities and focus on professional traits. Describe what steps you taken to overcome your weaknesses so that you can demonstrate areas of improvement.Sample Answer: I am always working on improving my communications skills to be a more effective presenter. I recently joined Toastmasters which I find very helpful.Sample Answer: Sometimes I have trouble delegating duties to others. This has sometimes backfired because Id end up with more work than I could handle. Ive since taken courses in time management and learned more effective delegation techniques and Im happy to say that my last several team projects were a great success.7. What are your salary expectations? Do your research and know your bottom line. Research the industry standard for the positions you are applying for in your geographic area. Whenever possible, try to defer the salary question on the first interview so that you dont under or over sell yourself. If pressured, be prepared to give the employer a salary range.Sample Answer: Im sure that your company offers a fair, competitive salary for someone with my education / training, skills and experience. I am also willing to negotiate for the right position.Sample Answer: I will need more information about the job and the responsibilities before we can discuss salary, but it would be great if you could give me an idea of the salary range you have budgeted for this position.8. Have you ever had a conflict with a superior or colleague? How did you handle it? Almost everyone has been in this situation. If you say no, intervieweres will usually dig deeper until you can give then an answer. The key is to show how you reacted to the conflict and what you did to resolve it.Sample Answer: I think that everyone at some point has had a conflict at work whether its with a supervisor or co-worker. Ive found that when Im in a difficult situation, it helps to communicate with the other person, understand their perspective and try to work out a collaborative solution whenever possible.9. Why should we hire you? Be prepared for this question because this answer will sell your story. Know clearly what you bring to the organization such as your knowledge, skills, experience, education/training and personal qualities that demonstrate why you are the best person for the job. Be able to show how you add value to the company. Always qualify your answers with quantifiable results you have achieved in previous jobs or assignments. This will add tremendous credibility!Sample Answer: I think I am a great match for this position. My degree in management coupled with more than 10 years of experience managing 100+ employees and delivering top notch training, helped me to improve staff productivity by 30% and reduce employee turnover. I believe that I can do the same for your organization and would be a great addition to your team.10. Do you have any questions? Always be prepared to ask the interviewer a few questions as well. This helps to demonstrate your preparation and interest.