Interviewing for a new job can be one of the most stressful events in your life – unless you are prepared and confident about your ability to make a good impression. We have discussed your resume, personal appearance, and some communication techniques. Today, I would like to address the technique for interview damage control.
They’re out there, those interviewers who purposely attempt to trip you up with difficult questions and the dreaded “tell me about your weaknesses.” Well, don’t worry; there is a way to overcome the manager from hell. The key thing is preparation and determination. It isn’t that they really want to damage your chances for getting the job; they simply want to find the best candidate with the strongest ability to handle pressure. Therefore, if you rise to the challenge, you will naturally stand out from the crowd.
More specifically, when the employer asks tough questions, he or she is looking for the following:
- Do you lack the knowledge or skill to do the job?
- Do you have skill or knowledge deficits (how serious)?
- Are there elements of the job you can’t perform?
- The quality of your past performance.
- What areas need improvement?
- What level of risk does hiring you pose?
- How motivated are you to do this type of work?
- Have you performed similar work?
- How did you feel about it?
- Dislikes, how much?
- How well will you fit in?
- Incompatibility, serious?
- In what past environments have you been happy?
When you look are aware of the information that they need to make a good hiring decision, you can easily be prepared for the difficult part of the interview. Also, in your evaluation of these questions, you have the responsibility to decide if you really are qualified for the job. Don’t waste the company’s time by applying for a position that you know is not right for you; don’t waste your time either.
No Negative Statements
I want to give you an example of how you can specifically answer a question that addresses your negative points without sounding negative.
Interviewer: What is your worst flaw?
You: I’m too lenient with the people I manage. (Okay, let’s fix that answer.)
Alternative: Sometimes, I may have the tendency to be a little more lenient with subordinates than I should. I feel that it is important, however, to give the people who work for me a certain amount of freedom in determining how to do their work. This keeps them challenged and motivated.
Do you see how the second answer admits the flaw but also brings out the positive at the same time? This statement is short, concise, and doesn’t over-explain the problem. Notice the use of words like “sometimes, tendency, and may have.” These words give the impression that the problem can be corrected easily. Review the following list of words to find positive alternatives for your negative points.
Negatives Have Positive Opposites
Overly detailed Thorough, reliable
Cautious Careful, accurate
Intense Focused, motivated
Disorganized Creative, free-thinker
Slow Methodical, careful
Impersonal Focused, goal-oriented
Argumentative Principled, confident
Stubborn Dedicated, persistent
From Bad to Worse
“Why did you get fired from your last job?” If you find the interview going south because of this question, you need to have an appropriate, defensive strategy to bring things up again. This isn’t the time to be evasive but an opportunity to be professional and forthcoming about your experience. If you were fired, it doesn’t mean that you are a bad person or employee. A simple misunderstanding or even an illness could be the reason for your last job separation. It’s up to you to give an intelligent answer that doesn’t render a fatal blow to your candidacy.
When explaining a bad experience, try to show respect for your past employer even if you really hate their guts. The last person your new boss wants to work with is someone who will turn on them in a crisis or disagreement. Also, be prepared with names and contact information for anyone who can verify your side of the story if necessary. Good references can go along way if you feel the perspective employer is questioning your character and integrity.
The good thing about knowing your weaknesses is that you can begin to improve yourself through diligence and understanding. It isn’t enough to direct the interviewer’s attention away from your shortcomings; you must take the initiative to make progress in these areas and be willing to do so at the hand of a new employer. Remember, nobody is perfect. And, fortunately, you can learn and grow from every new experience, including the interviews. Good luck with your job search!