The 5 Job Interview Answers You Just Can’t Give

No one can predict exactly what a recruiter or hiring manager will ask in a job interview. However, there are many standard  questions that can make or break an interview.

Not because of the question itself, but because of how well you avoid giving a bad answer. A good answer: you will soar to the next level. A bad answer: you’re pounding the pavement, again.

It always amazes me how interviewees often stick their foot in their mouth when it comes to some of the most basic interview questions. To prevent that from happening to you, follow this advice at your next job interview:

Too Much Information is the Kiss of Death

Your answer should be brief and to the point. Any meandering or veering off the path will only lead you astray. While you may think that adding more detail is a plus because you provide more information, all it serves to do is annoy the interviewer and make her think you can’t follow simple instructions. A short explanation will allow for an interesting dialogue that will drive camaraderie with the interviewer.

When Asked About a Previous Employer of Boss… Be Nice!

Even if he was an embezzling scoundrel who came to work drunk and took all the credit for every good thing you did; you will only hurt yourself by providing a negative report. You will look like a whiner, and worse – a troublemaker. When answering interview questions, present things in the most positive light. In the case of an ornery boss, you might say that you didn’t feel his management style was in line with the positive direction you wish to take with your career. If asked for specifics, you can politely say that you had differing work styles and work ethics. Period. There is no need to elaborate beyond this!

The Answer to “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?” MUST Be Targeted at the Employer

If your interviewer is the SVP of sales, indicating that you want his job is not a good idea. (Do I need to tell you that?)  Everything is about your spin strategy. You want to ensure you maintain a positive and proactive brand image. Ambition and drive is a good thing – but it needs to be presented in the right way. Stick with an answer that highlights what you hope to achieve or accomplish. For example, “I hope to close over $50M in new business.” This response demonstrates that you are looking to add value without leaving the impression that you plan to claw your way to the top no matter how many heads you have to step upon.

Thrown a Curveball Question With No Apparent Answer? Don’t Panic!

Do not tell the interviewer there is no answer to the question. Instead, pause, and play along; say something that shows you can be creative and think on your toes.

And… don’t be afraid to add a dash of humor when appropriate. You are, after all, being tested on how well you adapt to a potentially stressful situation, how creative you are with your answer, and whether or not you show poise and confidence… or fall apart.

“Tell Me About Yourself” is NOT an Invitation to Tell Your Life Story

Please: don’t start telling the interviewer about your childhood, spouse, children, church, or any other aspect of your personal life!

While “Tell Me About Yourself” is an open-ended question, it is intended to learn a bit more about you in relation to the core attributes that make who you are. You don’t need to regurgitate exactly what is on your résumé either. The interviewer has that already. Perhaps there is something you have done recently that you would like to share to demonstrate your value. By all means, do so. This is an opportunity to sell the incredible and unique person that is YOU.

If you have a history of blowing it when it comes to interview questions, you may want to consider taking some extra time to rehearse your answers.  Get dressed as though you are going on the actual interview. Use a software program that will allow you to record yourself via mini-cam. Develop and refine your message; this will help you provide the interviewer with intelligent, well thought-out answers!

All this preparation will facilitate your comfort during the process – and enable you to deliver your information with confidence. The result: landing a new job that meets with your personal and professional goals!


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About the Author: Debra Wheatman, is an experienced human capital management strategist with both Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC) designations. She is a globally recognized expert in advanced career search techniques with over 18 years’ corporate human resource experience.

Debra posts regularly on her own site at, and has been featured on Fox Business News, WNYW with Brian Lehrer, and quoted in leading online, print, and trade publications, including, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and CNBC. Connect with Debra on Twitter!



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