Perfectly wonderful managers still often ask job applicants brainless and done-to-death questions because their companies require it. Here are answers to ten of the dumbest interview questions still hanging around. Modify the answers below to suit your situation.
Why do you want the job?
This is a silly question. It’s only a job interview — you don’t necessarily know whether or not you want the job! It’s a dumb question, but you have to answer it.
Try this answer: “I came to the interview today because I’m very interested in designing traditional and social media PR campaigns. I’d love to hear more about what you’re working on here!”
Any time you can end your answer to an interview question with your own question (or, as in the example above, an invitation for your interviewer to speak) that’s a good thing. As much as possible, your goal is to get the interviewer off the boring, traditional script and into a warm, human conversation.
With so many talented candidates, why should we hire you?
This is a ridiculous and insulting question, because you will not meet the other candidates for the job, whereas your interviewer (or somebody who works for the company) will.
Sometimes, HR people say that you’re not supposed to take that question literally! It’s an opportunity for you to talk about your talents, but that is just as insulting as the original question.
Here’s how you can answer this question: “That’s a great question! Maybe the best way for me to answer is by telling you what I think the job entails and how I’ve handled similar situations before. Will that work?”
When the interviewer says “Sure,” explain what you think the job is all about, and share a story or two about times in the past when you surmounted similar challenges.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
It’s pointless to have a five-year career plan, these days apart from the plan, “I’m going to keep learning and growing!” because the old-fashioned working world is gone. We don’t always get to decide how long our jobs will last or where we’ll end up.
You can answer this question with, “As I look ahead five years, I can say that I’m interested in pursuing my love of database design and my passion for data visualization — but that can change, of course! I expect that if I’m alive five years from now, I’ll be exploring a project that interests me with smart and curious people. How about you?”
What’s your greatest weakness?
With luck, we will soon reach the point where employers are desperate enough for talent to stop belittling job applicants with intrusive, impolite questions like this one.
You can answer this question with “My weaknesses? Well, apart from chocolate (ha-ha!) I’m always eager to meet and talk with as many subject matter experts as I can, so I can learn everything I don’t know about any topic, and there’s a lot more to learn — lots to learn about your business here, for instance!”
Why have you been unemployed so long?
Tell the story of the great things you’ve been doing since you left your last job. You have nothing to apologize for. If you’ve been taking it easy, that’s fine — you deserve it!
“I left so and so during the reorganization in April and since then it’s been a whirlwind — I fulfilled a lifelong dream of globetrotting and I’ve been looking at my next best career move as well, of course. I’m looking at opportunities across our region and it’s been extremely positive and confidence-building to meet so many great people on the job search trail!”
What’s your current or most recent salary?
Don’t give up your current or most recent salary — it’s nobody’s business. Say this instead: “I’m focused on jobs in the Rs. 100,000 range for this job search — is this position in that range?”
Which other employers are you talking with?
Here’s another question that asks you to give up confidential information. Don’t do it! Say this: “Each one of the employers I’ve met has asked me to keep my interviewing process confidential and of course I’ll keep this conversation confidential, too.”
What would your former manager say about you?
Why would anybody consider your former manager such a great authority on you? That’s a very ignorant assumption. You may have quit the job because your boss was an ill-mannered half-wit. Put a happy face on this question and say something like: “He’d say that I brought my best and that our discussions — His and mine — helped both of us think more deeply about important issues.”
What do you bring to our team?
You don’t have to praise yourself in an uncomfortable and unseemly way to answer this foolish question. You can simply say, “I’m excited to meet your team members and learn more about them, but for now I can say that I’m likely to add to the database design experience on your team, the project management experience of the group and a passion for helping everybody succeed.”
How badly do you want the job?
This question comes from the old-school mindset “The person who wants the job the most is the person to hire.” While it’s not a great idea to hire someone who seems to have little interest in the job, being desperate or begging for the job is hardly a sign of competence.
It’s just the opposite. The more confident someone is, the less they need to beg. The confident person knows they’ll get a job working for somebody. They don’t have to plead their case, and they’re not willing to do that.
You can answer saying, “I’m confident that I can make a positive difference here. That confidence makes me want to learn as much as I can about your situation and to share my background and my perspectives with you. I’m eager to keep talking and see whether we’ve got a match!”
It’s a new day in the talent marketplace. Smart employers know that great employees don’t grow on trees. Remember that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you, and keep in mind that only the people who get you, deserve you!
Article adapted from Forbes