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Job interviews: the questions no one should ask and you shouldn't answer

Updated on May 15, 2010

The usual questions only produce predictable answers

If you are interviewing, you will not benefit from asking these three questions. If you are being interviewed you can find out very easily what kind of answer is expected.

  • "What are your strengths and your weaknesses?" : In a job interview the candidate is trying to impress the employer to choose him over other candidates. It is very unlikely that candidates would admit to their real weaknesses, mention their addictions or confess over their personal perversities. Obviously your weaknesses should be those that actually the employer can consider to be an advantage to the company (i.e being competitive, wanting to reach perfection in everything you do, willing to sacrifice personal time to get the job done, being too tolerant, etc). Your strengths would be those characteristics the employer highlighted in the advert for the vacancy.
  • "What are your expectations about this job?" : generally speaking, we all want to have a salary, get some stability and hopefully pay the bills. Of course we want job satisfaction and maybe even a career but precisely because we all know the answer, unless there is a tricky answer expected due to the nature of the job, it's too predictable to waste time asking or replying to something like this.
  • "Tell me more about yourself" : this is the kind of statement beginner interviewers would use as an ice breaker. This is the same as asking your candidate to tell you exactly what you want to hear. It's abstract, generic and incredibly biased. At this stage, interviewers would have seen a CV or job application and that is where they should be concentrating. There are millions of questions you can generate from a document that lists working experience, qualifications, hobbies, professional and personal achievements. Why asking something so pointless?

There are also questions that are politically incorrect and if you are interviewed for a job, suspect any potential employer who uses your opinions to find out what is your personal preference in areas that are not directly related with the job.

  • "What is your sexual / political / religious (etc) orientation?" :If you are asked a question like this, ask the employer why does he/she need to know. Unless there is a legal justification for such issue (and it has been specified in the vacancy advert) your personal choices are yours and are part of your human rights, therefore not a criteria to choose you for a job.
  • "What do you think about your current employer?" : interviewers would word this in a less direct manner but don't be fooled by the question, it is still a way to check whether you would be a trouble maker, whiner or just uncommitted employee. Always answer in an objective and honest way, as you are entitled to an opinion. Avoid airing personal feelings or talking about unfair situations you have experienced.
  • "You live really far away...how would you manage to arrive on time? / You are a single parent, how would you manage a full time job?" : any leading question that highlights how your personal life could affect your performance could be interpreted as discrimination against a candidate candidate on the basis of personal circumstances. Be smart with your answer simply making clear that you wouldn't have applied for the job in the first place if you didn't think you were able to comply with the conditions to be chosen.

There are a few questions that cannot be ignored but deserve to be mentioned:

  • "What's your salary expectation?": employers often advertise the vacancies and put something in the lines of "salary negotiable" "competitive salary". Your salary expectation if you have a brain and want to have fun in life, is likely to be way beyond the amount of money you will be offered for the job, so simply ask how much are they willing to pay and start negotiating. This is when your selling skills become really important to convince your potential employer that you are worth every penny.
  • "Do you know about our company/business? / how much do you know about our company/business?: golden opportunity to shine and show your interviewer you've made your homework and researched thoroughly before the interview. But really...if you apply for a job and have no idea about who are you going to work for then maybe all of the above questions are perfectly fine for you.

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