Answering Interview Questions - Avoid These 4 Common Mistakes

There are four common mistakes people make when answering interview questions, and most people make at least one of them.

The most frequent mistakes are when people:

  1. Arrive for the job interview unprepared
  2. Say too much
  3. Don't say enough
    or
  4. Provide answers that are too vague and general to have any impact

How to Answer Interview Questions - 4 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Lack of Preparation

Too many job seekers believe that their answers will sound unnatural and over-rehearsed if they prepare responses to common interview questions and practice answering interview questions prior to the actual interview.

They mistakenly think that if they just be themselves, they will do well.

Unfortunately, that's not the case. While you should never try to be something or someone you're not during a job interview, good preparation will help you to present to the employer the very best of yourself.

Employers ask difficult questions during interviews, and if you haven't taken the time to think through the answers to some of these questions beforehand, you'll struggle to present your ideas in a way that is memorable to employers and puts you in your best possible light.

Related Article: How to Answer Difficult Interview Questions

Saying Too Much

Saying too much doesn't mean providing answers that are too long, and giving too much detail. Most people don't make that mistake. What people often do in job interviews, however, is say too much in terms of offering negative opinions and stories about past work experiences.

When answering interview questions, you should never, ever talk about a situation that you are angry or frustrated about.

It's fine to talk about problems at work when asked about work-related challenges, as long as you were not the source of the problem and you resolved the problem effectively.

If you are still angry at a boss or co-worker, do not talk about that person or situation during a job interview. Find other examples when asked about challenging situations or people at work.

If you're unsure about how to avoid talking about negatives in a job interview, you can review an example from real life with a reader's comment about this type of interview question and my suggestions for how to handle the situation.

Not Saying Enough

When you read advice about answering interview questions, you often read that you should keep your answers short. I really suspect that the people who give the advice to keep it brief have never actually heard very many people in job interviews.

While the occasional person provides far too much detail when answering questions, and you don't want to ramble on in an interview, very few people actually do that.

The vast majority of people say far too little when answering job interview questions.

They either haven't prepared their answers ahead of time, so they are unable to give thorough answers, they have read advice to keep it short, so they mistakenly feel they shouldn't say much, or they feel uncomfortable (as though they are boasting) sharing their professional accomplishments.

When you answer job interview questions, be sure to provide the interviewer with good details that demonstrate your ability to do the job. Remember, employers invite you to job interviews because they want to hear all about your professional accomplishments as they relate to their hiring needs, so you are not wasting an employer's time by providing good details about why you would be a good fit for the job.

The best interview answers provide enough detail to give the employer compelling reasons to hire you. Most people really don't have to worry that they are saying too much in a job interview.

Being Too Vague or General

"I'm a people person" or "I'm a team player".

These are clichés that employers hear over and over in job interviews. These vague answers to interview questions just don't allow you to stand out from the competition and don't provide the employer with any real reason to hire you.

When answering interviews questions, whenever possible, provide specific examples of situations you have encountered on the job to illustrate the skills and experience the employer is looking for in a new employee.

Specific examples will be remembered. They allow the employer to imagine you effectively handling challenges on the job, and this kind of specific answer will definitely stand out from the competition.

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