You’d be surprised how many people think these are fine responses.
Believe it or not, most interviewers aren’t trying to trick you. They want you to do well in the interview, and be the candidate of their dreams. As the interviewee, however, it’s easy to overthink – or underthink – a question and respond in a way that raises a red flag. Our job-search experts at Ladders have gathered 6 of the top flag-raising phrases candidates say in interviews, and we’re telling you what you’re really saying to the interviewer.
You say: I’m a highly motivated, proactive problem-solver.
They hear: I have no noteworthy skills. Rattling off a list of industry jargon and phrases that anyone can say (but can’t prove) shows your interviewer that you couldn’t think of a solid skill related to your profession to use to describe yourself. Lean on your elevator pitch here and show why you’re the best candidate for the role.
You say: What’s your vacation policy?
They hear: What do I get out of this job if you’re so lucky to hire me? The company is hiring you because they have a need. Your job as a candidate is to prove that you are the person who can meet their needs and help the company meet their goals. Prove that you can grow the business, improve processes, and contribute to the bottom line. Save the perks talk for negotiations after you’ve been offered the job.
You say: My greatest weakness? I’m a perfectionist.
They hear: Nothing. You haven’t given the hiring manager any insight into what you’re like as a worker, or how you power through your own shortcomings. This is your opportunity to show how you can grow as a person and team member. Be honest, share a flaw you’re aware of, and explain the steps you’re taking to overcome it. Providing a fake weakness makes you sound rehearsed at best, like you have something to hide at worst. Here are a few more tips for answering this tricky question.
You say: My last boss? Terrible.
They hear: I’m unprofessional. Everyone has gripes about their job or employer. But no matter how bad your situation was, you should never, I repeat, NEVER badmouth an employer. This makes you sound like an unprofessional complainer, and potentially difficult to get along with.
You say: What do you do around here?
They hear: I didn’t do any research! The most important thing you can do as a candidate is research the company you’re interviewing with. Search online for employees who could potentially be interviewing you, and get an understanding of their background. If you’re not prepared for the interview, what else might you be unprepared for in the future?
You say: No, I don’t have any questions.
They hear: I’ve heard enough, I’m not interested.
There’s no way you know everything about the job, culture, and company at the end of an interview. So by not asking questions, you’re signaling that you don’t care to learn more. Arrive with a list of probing questions in tow that prove you’re prepared, interested, and can continue an engaging conversation with your interviewer.