Interview questions - what not to say

Interview Tips | What not to say

This is a guest blog from Mitch Sullivan from Copywriting for Recruiters and it is about job interviews and what can sometimes go wrong with them.

So, over to Mitch….

One part of me wanted to write something that offers interview tips, knowing there are many unemployed people out there desperate for any insight that might help them land a job.

Another part of me (the loudest part) wanted to just lampoon the process. So, in the spirit of compromise, I decided to embrace both these opposing forces.

Okay, here goes…


The performance

The internet is full of interview tips for jobseekers – much of it insisting that the candidate needs to “brand themselves” properly, treat themselves as a product and sell their way into the job. This is all well and good if you work in sales or marketing, but less okay if you work in data analysis or accountancy.

Naturally, what most of this well-intentioned advice is trying to do is encourage the candidate to commercialise their approach to getting employment. Nothing wrong with that if being commercial is a key component of the job.

But where it starts to become a problem is when it reaches the stage where someone has to become some kind of performer – the very nature of which is to disguise or to conceal true identity.

How often have we heard the expression “He/She didn’t perform well at the interview”? I’d wager more times than we’ve heard “He/She doesn’t have the skills/knowledge we really need”.

Putting on a performance is fine if those traits that were performed are real and can be backed-up once you’re hired. But the nearer you get to being diversionary about the type of person you really are, the more you’re probably storing up problems further down the road.


Just be yourself

For me, the safest advice out there is to just be yourself. It’s probably about the only thing any of us are ever going to be able to do perfectly. The other thing is that when you tell the truth, you never have to remember anything.

Now, being yourself isn’t always going to work. For example, telling the interviewer that you’re a big fan of Richard Curtis’s films can wait until after they’ve made you a job offer.

Okay, now we’re easing into the less serious part…


Candidate howlers

Below are some interview howlers that candidates have made – fresh from the mouths of hiring managers and recruiters.

These are obviously clangers that are only made by a tiny percentage of the job-seeking community, and so in deference to their pointlessness, I’m going to list them here and add some insight as to what these actions might say about them:

Wearing shorts and sandals to the interview: They smoke pot.

Answering their mobile during the interview: Their time is more important to them than the interviewer’s. While this is probably true, the best time to affirm this is a few months later when they’re asked to work late on a Friday night.

Arriving late: They haven’t learnt to tell the time yet.

Arriving early: They’ve got nothing better to do.

Lying about skills/experience/knowledge: They’re potential CEO material.

Failing to research the employer in advance: They’ve already got a job that they’re reasonably happy with and the interviewer should be researching them rather than the other way round.

Interrupting the interviewer: They’re a mind reader.

Failing to make eye contact: They think the interviewer is ugly

Making continuous eye contact: They’re a trainee serial killer.

Asking to use the toilet halfway through the interview: They’re a lot older than they stated on their CV.

Sounding desperate: They’re desperate.

Shaking hands too firmly: “Screw you”.

Shaking hands too weakly: “Screw me”.


And from the interviewers

In the interest of balance, here are some examples of the more unusual interview questions that have been asked by hiring managers and recruiters, along with some suggested answers.

All suggested answers are used at the interviewee’s own risk:

How would you explain a database in three sentences to your eight year-old nephew? “He already knows more about database technology than me.”

How do you stack a dishwasher? “I take the clean stuff out first.”

Why are manhole covers round? “Because the holes are round.”

Pepsi or Coke? “No thanks. Have you seen the shit they put in that stuff?”

If you won the lottery, would you quit working? “Depends where I was working.”

OK, let’s say you were working here. “Yes.”

What was the last book you read? “How To Deal With Dumb Interview Questions.”

You’re not taking this seriously, are you? “You started it.”


On a more serious note

Unless the interviewer is a psychologist with a PhD and a licence to practice, digging deep into the depths of a candidate’s psyche is at best a ridiculous waste of their time and yours – and at worst flat out illegal.

Beware of interviewers who don’t just stick to what their business objectives are and whether the candidate has the ability to meet this business objectives.

The best job-hunting advice I’m aware of is this:

The best time to find a new job is when you already have a job. That way you’ll be more able to play the interview game on your terms.

Thank you Mitch – Copywriting for Recruiters

Career Advice, Employment, Interview Advice, Recruitment