How Not to Answer Common Job Interview Questions

Sandy Writtenhouse 09-10-2017

Just like things you should not put on your resume, there are ways not to answer job interview questions. The problem is that often times people are unprepared, overly nervous 3 Tips That'll Instantly Wipe Out Job Interview Anxiety The hardest part of getting any job is usually the job interview. These three tips will help you get through the process unscathed, and with a new job. Read More , or do not do their homework.


In addition to heeding proper etiquette during job interviews, make sure you don’t say the wrong thing on your next job interview by checking out these common questions and bad answers.

Tell Me About Yourself

Not technically a question, your interviewer will likely begin by asking you to tell them about yourself. You may be tempted to tell your life story, provide details about your family life, or bring up your medical history. This is not the type of information a potential employer wants or needs to know if you are a fit for the job.

bad interview
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In addition, avoid these types of answers:

  • Rambling on and on for too long
  • Simply rehashing your resume
  • Explaining failures
  • “What I really want to do is…”

This is your opportunity to introduce yourself and show why you would be the best person for the position. Glassdoor, a popular job search site, suggests this answer to the question:


“A narrative that outlines your work experience thus far, why it’s relevant to the current position, where you want it to take you and, if you have time left, a couple short details that shed light on who you are as a person, such as interests and hobbies.”

What Are Your Strengths?

One of the largest mistakes you can make with this question is to be unprepared. Asking about your strengths is a common interview question How Job Interviews Have Changed Over the Years Over time, job interviews have changed. The way in which we pitch ourselves for a job now was vastly different one hundred years ago! Read More . Do not expect to answer with vague, generic answers like “I’m a good learner” or “I’m a team player.”

Instead, make a list ahead of time of the strengths you possess that match the requirements of the position. Along with those positives, prepare examples. Then, you can discuss your strengths with examples of how they helped you to achieve success in the past.

Your interviewer will look for strengths that match the company’s needs, help you to stand out from the other candidates, and demonstrate how well you will perform the job. Leading job search site offers this advice:

“When it comes time to toot your own horn, you need to be specific. Assess your skills to identify your strengths . . . Make a list of your skills, dividing them into three categories: knowledge-based skills, transferable skills, and personal traits.

What Is Your Biggest Weakness?

This can be a tough question to answer during a job interview. And, you should prepare this answer before the interview as well. Avoid answers like “I can’t think of one” or “I’m a perfectionist.” Non-answers, as well as broad ones, are not what your potential employer is seeking.


It may be obvious but also stay away from answers that put up red flags. Saying that you have punctuality problems, but that you purchased a never-fail alarm clock is simply a bad answer. You also do not want to answer with weaknesses that make you look incompetent, irresponsible, or completely wrong for the job.

job interview nervous
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The best way to answer this question is with honesty and positivity. Explain your weakness and describe ways in which you are working to overcome it. The team from financial advice site The Balance has this to say on the topic:

“You always need to be prepared to share a weakness so you can demonstrate that you are committed to professional growth and have self-insight.”

What Do You Know About Our Company?

This might be one of the easiest questions to answer during an interview — if you do your homework How to Prepare Yourself for a Programming Interview The best advice for programming interviews. Any interview can be daunting. Do you know enough to pass? Will your solutions be good enough? What if you choke? Apply these five tips. Read More . The worst answers you can give are those that show the interviewer you have no clue about their company. Answers like “Not much really” or “I hear the pay and benefits are good” are horrible.


It is so simple to research a company you are interviewing with on the internet. There is no excuse to go into your job interview knowing nothing at all about it. Plus, if you are interested in a position with that company, don’t you want to know more about their business?

As job search site Job-Hunt states:

“This question is often asked at the beginning of a job interview, and employers view your answer as a signal about how interested you are in working there. It’s not a hard question to answer, if you are prepared.”

Why Do You Want This Job?

Answering this question with “Because I need a job,” “I’ve been unemployed since X,” or “Your location is close to my house” each show desperation and overall disinterest. Sure, you may need the job, but the interviewer will most certainly move onto the next candidate quickly with these answers.

Other bad answers include negativity regarding your current employer or company and having no solid reason at all.


job interview question
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Use the research you obtain about the company and their services with the match of your skills and the position’s qualifications to answer the question. Discuss exciting new products they have introduced, show your enthusiasm for the position and company, and most of all, stay away from generic responses.

Again, from Glassdoor who received feedback from human resources professionals and career coaches:

“A few better answers? ‘You are a leader in the _____ industry and I want to be aligned with an organization [that’s] on the cutting edge and leading the pack,’ ‘[your] mission of ______ is aligned with my personal values,’ . . .”

Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

This dreaded job interview question often throws interviewees off but is asked all the time. When asked where you see yourself in five years, an answer such as “I see myself in this position” show a lack of ambition rather than excitement for the job.

The Financial Diet website also believes you should refrain from:

“A generic or uninspired answer. Also, answers that reveal that this career path or company job is just a temporary stop for them.”

Instead, discuss how you plan to develop within the company to show your drive Supercharge Your Next Job Interview with These 11 Free Tools It takes skill to ace an interview. There are plenty of apps that will assist you with the task of supercharging your job interview skills. Let's look at each step of the interview process. Read More . You can talk about how you would like to be a part of growing both the position and the business. If your answer shows your intent to stay within the company while having a solid career plan, this will show your ambition and that you will be a good investment.

Do You Have Any Questions for Me?

You probably already know what a bad answer is to this question: “No.” When a potential employer asks if you have any questions, have some ready. Just make sure they are not questions like “Do you do background checks and drug screens?,” “How much vacation time will I receive?,” or “Is there a discount on products?”

quiet job interview
Image Credit: DmitryPoch/Depositphotos

If you did your research on the company as explained above, then you can certainly have a list of meaningful questions prepared. In addition, there are likely things about the position that were not discussed to this point. Make sure you have a list of those too. An absence of questions can equate to a lack of interest in the eyes of the interviewer.

According to Fast Company who received help from hiring managers and recruiters on this subject:

“The answer to this question was unanimous–hiring managers and recruiters believe that one of the biggest job interview sins is not having any questions at the end of the interview.”

Which Question Do You Find Most Difficult?

Some people can stay calm and remain relaxed during a job interview Tips You Can Use to Own Your Next Job Interview Does the thought of even going to a job interview terrify you? It doesn't have to! Read More . At least, they appear to do so. But a job interview is one of the most stressful situations a person faces.

Do not let common questions like these throw you off. There is more to getting ready for an interview than having a clean appearance and being well-spoken. Plan, prepare, and research so that you can enter your next job interview confidently.

Which question asked during an interview is the most difficult one for you? How do you prepare to answer it ahead of time? Share your thoughts and suggestions with us below!

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Related topics: Careers, Interviews, Job Searching.

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  1. Davyd
    November 10, 2017 at 1:20 am

    If someone asks you to self-incriminate by telling them your weakness (mine is poor lip-synch), question whether you want to work for a firm that has amateur HR, and uses the most ineffective form of candidate screening (the unstructured interview).
    Here's the correct answer:
    "There are a couple of challenges that I'm working on right now that will add to the capability that I can contribute to this role...[two good ones where you are doing courses, working with a mentor, who could be any friend relative or colleague, keeping a self-coaching journal...etc."