Hiring Managers ask interview questions that are designed to give them reasons not to hire job candidates. These trap questions are meant to expose any problems you’ve had in your professional career. For trap questions, sometimes answering honestly is the wrong answer.
For example: If you’re asked about why you’re looking for a new opportunity and the reason is your boss is a total jerk (see #4), it’s not going to be in your best interest to tell that to the hiring manager or the potential boss sitting across from you. The Hiring Manager is trying to determine if you’re smart enough to lie.
Here are ten statements where you might do better stretching the truth in your next interview.
1. Every job you ever had was great.
What you’re really telling the hiring manager or recruiter is that you are a positive person. We’ve all had jobs we disliked, but it’s not a good idea to talk about it. Hiring Managers will think if you hated your last job, you might hate this one. Have at least one positive thing to say about every job on your resume.
2. Every project you’ve ever worked on was successful.
Hiring Managers don’t want to hear about your failures. Since we’ve all failed at some point, the key is to talk about your successes, and spin your failures to sound like successes. If you can’t frame a failure as a success, don’t talk about it at all.
3. You’ve done this type of work before.
Hiring managers don’t want “quick learners,” they want “experienced professionals” who don’t need training. Figure out ways to make your past experience sound like what the job requires. The more examples you can give of being experienced in what the job requires, the more likely you will look like a strong candidate for the position.
4. Your last boss was brilliant.
Your relationship with your last boss predicts your relationship with your next one. Don’t tell the hiring manager what an incompetent idiot your previous boss was. Instead, tell your interviewer your last boss was great, taught you valuable skills, and was an inspirational leader, no matter how big of a lie it is. It may hurt to glorify someone you hated who doesn’t deserve it, but it’s in your best interest, and doesn’t actually help your old boss at all anyway.
5. You’re currently working.
Hiring managers think in terms of supply and demand of candidates. If you’re employed, you’re in demand, and if not, there might be a reason. If you are unemployed, there are ways to fudge it. The easiest is to “self-employ,” either by labeling yourself as a self-employed “consultant,” or a new entrepreneur building your own business. Another technique is to volunteer at a not-for-profit, and list this position on your resume. You can also say you’re currently going back to school to get a better degree, but need to put it on hold and go back to work for financial reasons. The key is not to sound like your are doing nothing.
6. You love to work late.
What you’re really saying is you’ll work late if the company needs you to. If they ask why, say that “if you have to work late, then it’s a really important assignment, and it makes you feel good to know you can contribute more when it’s important for the company.” Employers don’t want someone who sprints for the door at 5pm, and refuses or resists working overtime when the situation demands it.
7. Every co-worker was great.
You’ve never had a single interpersonal problem with a coworker, not one fight, ever. Of course we all have, and the hiring manager knows it. The candidate who talks about past interpersonal problems, or even worse uses them as excuses, is the wrong candidate. Once again, past problems predict future problems in the eyes of a hiring manager.
8. You learned a lot in college.
More specifically, you’ve learned a lot that has prepared you for this exact job. Be prepared to cite the classes and skills you picked up which relate to the job requirements. Don’t invent classes or fake your degree, but show that what you’ve learned in college has prepared you for this role.
9. You almost never get sick.
We all get sick occasionally, but if asked, tell the hiring manager that you’re the type of person who leads a healthy lifestyle, and rarely calls in sick. Even though hiring managers aren’t really supposed to ask about this, some do, especially if you’re an older worker, or show signs of being unhealthy. Whatever you do, never discuss any past medical issues, unless absolutely necessary.
10. You have no personal problems.
We all have problems, but the key is not to discuss them in a job interview. Key examples are financial problems, family problems, and especially legal problems. Personal problems have the potential to affect a job candidate’s work life, and hiring managers are keen to avoid hiring people who have them.