Avoid This Lethal Mistake When Job Interviewing

One answer can influence company potential — plus nine more pivotal responses.

Posted Jan 11, 2019

LightField Studios/Shutterstock
Source: LightField Studios/Shutterstock

One of the most anxiety-provoking encounters in life can be talking about yourself, especially when the stakes are high, such as when you're interviewing for a new job or an internal promotion. The place where many people misfire is answering questions based on the interviewer’s expectations and what you think will land you the job. Some people mistakenly bend the truth with hopes of nailing the coveted new position.

One common interview question is: “Why should we hire you?” The inclination of many is to tailor the response to reflect company values. While regurgitating the company’s mission statement or internet “About Us” page may work in some situations, the strategy likely won’t sell you as an exceptional candidate. Falsely aligning your developmental plan and interests with company rhetoric is a huge mistake — because you may be unconsciously misrepresenting yourself and creating huge issues if you get the job offer. 

According to the job search editors at www.themuse.com, the answer to the “hire you” question should convince the interrogator “that you'll really fit in with the team and culture.” Unfortunately, unless you are an exact fit and being completely honest, exaggerating or embellishing your response is the worst thing you can possibly do. My 22 years as an HR executive included me firing over 1,000 individuals, most of whom were not terminated due to skill deficiencies. Instead, those let go were a “poor fit,” meaning their espoused alignment with the company culture and their actual beliefs and behaviors were a mismatch.

Slidebot/used with permission
Source: Slidebot/used with permission

Instead of telling interviewers what you think they want to hear, convince the other party that you are prepared and have high integrity. First, do your research. Know what the company values, and take some time to source out someone who works or has worked in the organization. One tactic I use is to go to the bar or restaurant closest to the company location. Sit there on a Friday night and listen attentively. You will likely overhear plenty of work chatter and maybe have an opportunity to network with a current employee.

Also, keep in mind that many companies have a set list of candidate questions. From the company’s perspective, standardized questions allow for consistency and comparison during the assessment process. Some of the toughest questions and potential answers are listed below. Be sure to think about your answers to these questions before the interview process begins!

Why are you leaving your present job?

My current position effectively uses my skills and abilities, but I need more. I want to significantly impact company operations beyond the scope of my current job.

What will you miss most about your current company?

The working environment is very professional. The culture is conducive to bringing out the most in employees, and I enjoy that type of environment.

Describe what you feel to be an ideal working environment.

One where people are encouraged to reach goals and attain objectives. A business where people are treated as fairly as possible.

How would you evaluate your present company?

Where I currently work, people are given recognition for their contributions. The company has provided me the opportunity to learn and grow while achieving results.

What do you consider to be a pressure situation?

A pressure situation for me would be when someone is risking harm or injury.

If you were to leave your present company how would people remember you?

People will remember me for the impact I had on the business/department. Give examples of how you created, improved, or changed operations.

What type of manager is most conducive to your strengths?

I prefer leaders that hold you accountable for your impact and results.

Tell me about a time when you became upset at work.

I get upset at work when I don’t have enough to keep me busy.

What are the drawbacks of working in a team?

Gaining team consensus takes longer than individual plans, but the extra time is worth the effort.

If you could make one change in your current company, what would it be?

Give an honest answer that shows your ability and understanding of multiple business issues, from several points of view. Focus on responding to the needs of customers or clients.

Bottom line, the interview and assessment process can be anxiety-provoking and troublesome, even for the most seasoned job seeker. Keep in mind that your skills and experience may not mean you are the best fit for the job. One long-term success strategy is to be honest and forthright during the interview process. Avoid pandering (telling them what they want to hear), and do not anticipate which qualifications the interviewer is assessing based on each question. The goal of the interview process is not to find the most experienced candidate, but instead to identify a person who can thrive within the company. Corporate longevity is based on compatibility, just like any other productive, fulfilling, and satisfying relationship.  

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