What you say and do during an interview can be the difference between receiving an offer and being rejected. Sure, you know the obvious pitfalls – like showing up late or dressing too casually – but the following five statements could just as easily kill your chances of getting the job.
“I hated my last boss.”
We’ve all had bosses from hell, but an interview is not the place to bash him or her. You may have been underappreciated and overworked, but you should always take the high road in interviews: “I really enjoyed working at [previous job]. One of the things I appreciated most was being able to grow my skills in [developed skill], but now I’m ready to take those skills to the next level. That’s why I’m excited to work with [prospective company].”
“My biggest weakness is [actually a strength].”
“What’s your biggest weakness?”
Interviewers love to ask this question because it separates the top candidates from the average candidates. Some of the most common – and worst responses – include: “It usually takes me a long time to complete projects because I’m so detail oriented” or “I have trouble saying no to added responsibility.”
Hiring managers aren’t dumb. They can see right through these types of responses. So what’s the right answer? Look at the question a little deeper. What interviewers and hiring managers really want to know is that you’re self-perceptive enough to be able to identify and acknowledge your weaknesses, and that you’re taking action to improve them. Explain a real weakness you have, how you’re improving it and include specifics.
“No, I don’t have any questions.”
Ask a few questions that build upon your company research or inquire about something in which your interviewer has shared with you but didn’t elaborate on, but avoid questions about vacation time and especially salary if a position hasn’t been offered yet (see next section).
“I accept…” (without negotiating your salary first)
One of the biggest interview mistakes women make is accepting an offer without negotiating for a better salary. Women too often set salary targets too low–sometimes as much as 30% lower than men. Find out what the market pays in your industry and city, and ask for more than your salary goal. If the first offer is too low, ask for time to consider it and then return with a counter-offer. Never assume that “no” is final. Negotiating can be tough, but it can be worth thousands of dollars to you.
“I’ve never actually been a manager, but…”
Women frequently hurt themselves in interviews by issuing disclaimers. Beginning an answer with a disclaimer cancels out any positive info that may follow. Always focus on your strengths, and never uncover shortcomings unless specifically asked for weaknesses by the interviewer.