Dumb things not to do at interviews

There are a lot of things you should do at interviews. There are also a lot of things you shouldn't do at interviews.

The all time classic is answering the wrong question.

Tell us a bit about your problem solving skills in accountancy.

Well, I've always been fond of chickens…. I mean accountants….

How do you manage on the job relationships?

I specialize in communications. I always make an effort to speak to the right level of communication, and engage the listener, to get my message across. I never dumb it down, though. ….What was the question?

Another sure fire method of career euthanasia is reciting answers you've learned from training. Nothing is more likely to un-convince an interviewer of your skills than quoting standard answers to interview questions.

You'll also do a lot better in any interview by not telling the interviewers something they've just heard from twelve other people.

There are a lot of good reasons for coming up with your own, considered, answers. The days of the so called professional interviewee are long gone.

When answering, it is advisable to look as if you're not trying to dig a tunnel out of the interview room, and actually reply to the questions.

This is from actual personal experience:

Interviewer: Frieda; Tell us a bit about yourself.

Yes. (Cringes in chair)

Interviewer (patiently): You've been working as a temp in this position, haven't you?

Yes. (Appears to be attempting to burrow into chair)

Interviewer (grimly): You've actually been working as our receptionist for about six months, haven't you?

Yes. (By this time you can hear the carpet unraveling in sympathy)

Interviewer (bravely): Frieda, in five words or more, can you tell us why you want this job?


At the end of that interview, the interviewer and we, the panel members, were discussing interview training and counseling sessions.

There's another version of this approach to interviews, which could be considered worse than that, if anything.

It's giving a lot of extraneous information, and talking the interviewers into a state of panic.

Also from personal experience, slightly modified:

Tell us a bit about your problem solving skills on the job. What's an example of you solving a problem at work? How did you do it, and what were the issues and the result of your solution?

Oh, I had a real problem with a customer about an ethical issue with one of our backhoes. I have very strong ethics, strict upbringing, strong values, you know…

(5 minutes later)

…So I told my boss it was a matter of ethics, and our obligation to the customer. My boss, Fred, has strong ethics, and a real work ethic….

(5 minutes later)

So we settled out of court. I'd never do anything that would compromise my morals with our backhoes. Can't be too careful with earthmoving equipment, you know…

The entire interview was like that.

We would have loved to know what he was talking about, it sounded very interesting, but he never got around to telling us. By the time he'd finished that one, we didn't have time to ask.

Nor did we get an actual answer to any of the questions. To this day, none of us are entirely sure of our moral obligations to backhoes, either.

There are some dangers from interviewers, too. Interviewers can do dumb things nobody else could possibly manage.

Inappropriate questions are to be watched out for, because it means the interviewer isn't too well briefed on either the law or the idea of asking relevant questions:

Are you married?

Do you have any kids?

How old are you?

These questions are practically illegal, and entirely irrelevant, in any job interview, but they do still occur.

Another, from personal experience. Even less inspiring is when an interviewer answers the question for the interviewee, with something like this:

The question was: How do you prioritize your work?

Having allowed the interviewee to answer, the interviewer glared at the interviewee, who'd been actually doing the job for a year, and said,

We were looking for the word professional.

That certainly explained a lot to everyone present, with the interviewee and the other panel members looking equally mystified.

Remember, it's not always your fault. If an interview isn't conducted properly, you've got a whole new ball game.

There are dumb things which can happen in any interview.

Just make sure it's not you doing them.