How to avoid disaster at a job interview

Posted by: jessicaflavin on Jul 18, 2012 | Tags: , most frequently asked job interview questions | No Comments

Congratulations! You have officially been asked to come in to interview for your dream job. That means that you’ve impressed them on paper, aka your resume! That’s great!

But after the glow of getting the invitation wears off, fear sets in. Big time. Screw up the interview and you’re doomed.

Hi, my name is Jessica Flavin. I am a Degrees2Dreams Blogger writing about everything having to do conducting a smart, innovative job search. I am also a recent journalism graduate of UMass/Amherst, and looking to build a career in social media content creation. When I’m not blogging, I enjoy rock climbing (indoor and outdoor), farmers markets, and road trips. I can be reached at [email protected] or via Twitter at @jayflay21.

Screw up the interview and you’re back to sending out dozens of replies to job postings that never get answered. No pressure, right?!!

Here’s how to avoid ruining your interview with awkward pauses, nervous giggles, and most importantly, the wrong answers. (You’re welcome in advance!)

Firstly, and I am sure that everyone from your mother to your dentist has given you this golden piece of advice, but please, for your sake, and for the sake of your interviewer, dress professionally. It is ALWAYS better to dress UP for an interview rather than down. Even though you may have been rocking your Chuck Taylor Converse shoes since puberty and your fedora is “like, seriously cool dude,” please, just put those items back in the closet and slap on some slacks and a button down shirt and lets get these interview questions goin’.

Secondly, prepare for the interview questions you reasonably expect to get.  If you want to answer all of them well, research on the company BEFORE you go into the interview. Don’t plan on skimming their website from your smartphone as you sit in the waiting room. (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.) An interviewer will appreciate your knowledge about their company;  it shows that you care and that you are smart enough to have done your homework.

Thirdly, you’re supposed to be honest and straightforward during an interview, right? This is a black-and-white situation, right? Of course you want to have your factual information accurate such as past jobs, what you did, how long you worked for them.

But then it gets tricky. While you do want to be honest with your interviewer, you also always want to project yourself in the most positive light possible. In this day and age, we need all the help we can get, am I right? Am I right?

Ok… where was I?

Ah yes, I think showing your good side trumps being completely, disarmingly, embarrassingly honest and straightforward. For example, if your interviewer asks you my personal Worst Interview Question Ever — “what is your greatest weakness?” — you definitely DO NOT want to go on a tirade about how you drank too many Irish Car Bombs at the bar last night, but you just couldn’t resist, because it is, after all, your absolute favorite drink, and you knew that if you drank enough water when you got home you’d be fine for this interview. No, no, no.

Answering job interview questions with the raw frankness of Hannah and her friends on “Girls” would get a “10” for honesty and a “0” for wisdom. Plan your answers ahead to avoid saying something stupid off the cuff.

Let’s also not pull a Hannah from the “Girls” and accuse our interviewer of being a rapist either, OK?  Good.

So if you are asked the dreaded “Weakness” question, go with an answer along the lines of, “I find that I am a bit too organized and I have trouble letting go when cleanliness and organization aren’t up to my standards,” or “I am so committed to my job and I want to always do well so I can become frustrated with myself when I feel as though I’m not able to accomplish this,” something along those lines. If you can give an actual example to make it real, and include how you dealt with it and LEARNED from it, all the better.

So you get past that question with flying colors and you’re thinking that the interview is going pretty well. Congratulations!

Then they  hit you with “The Money Question.”

Watch out! You can kill your chances of getting the job with just one or two words.

When they ask you about the salary you hope to earn or how much might be making at your current job, do NOT throw out a number and think nothing of it. Let me assure you, your interviewer IS thinking about it.

If you think that answering that question with a specific number is okay, think again. It’s not. Any specific answer is a loser: Too high and they know you won’t be happy with their offer if it’s lower than your vision, too low and you’re potentially losing thousands of dollars.

There are two “Death Trap” questions that interviewers will hit you with during a job interview: The “Greatest Weakness” question and the dreaded “Money” question

Instead, try answering it with any one of these gems,

“I have looked at the standard range for this type of position on X and Y sites, and I’m comfortable with those numbers” (shows you’ve done your research but are still savvy enough not to commit to a number.)

“I am sure that what you offer your qualified candidates will be fine with me” (shows faith in the company’s judgment and way of treating its employees.)

“I’d prefer to get further along in the hiring process before we discuss money. Let’s see how much we want each other and how great the fit is before we muddy the water with numbers.” (Shows some savviness in that you’re willing to gamble that they’ll want you enough to perhaps offer more than they might today)

If you follow these guidelines you could be walking out of that interview with a brand spanking job or at least you will have made the cut to move to the next level of the hiring process.

Now’s the time to go home, throw on your fedora and Converse’s and watch an episode of “Girls.”

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By Jessica Flavin, Degrees2Dreams Blogger

What has your experience been with job interview questions? What’s the most unexpected job interview question you’ve been asked?

 Can you share any suggestions of your own when it comes to job interview questions and giving a kick-ass closing statement? Tell us, and we’ll make a list of the best ideas. We might even call you for an interview and feature you here on Degrees2Dreams. Or, would you like to write your own story about your experiences? Send a story pitch to me at ! We’d love to have your contribution.




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