If you’re engaged in a job search, the adage: “honesty is the best policy” is a good one to follow. However, it is important to be discerning and thoughtful about what and how much to reveal. Everyone has a big story to tell. But, don’t tell all when a snippet will do.
Here are a few examples of questions that could come up during any job search and real-life responses that could cost you your next job opportunity:
- Why did you apply for this particular job?
Honest, but not the best reply: “I love Maine and have always wanted to get back to sailing.”
While this may be true, your personal motivation should not be stated as the first and primary reason for applying. Be prepared for this commonly asked question by indicating a strong match between your skills and experience and the qualifications required for the job.
- Why did you leave your last job?
Honest, but not the best reply: “Well…Let’s just say that my boss and I did not get along.”
Whenever possible, keep your comments positive, particularly when it comes to past employment experiences. Even if you did not see eye to eye with your supervisor, stating this might cause the interviewer to question your ability to get along with authority figures. Instead, find a way to say that it was time to find a job that offered different working relationships where you had more autonomy (or whatever else might be pertinent to you).
- What are your salary requirements?
Honest, but not the best reply: “I’m flexible.”
These days, employers seem to want a ballpark figure of an applicant’s compensation expectations. While you may be somewhat flexible about what you’d accept for compensation, you need to do your homework.
Research what this type of position pays in the marketplace and indicate a salary range that is consistent with your experience and expertise. When you’re offered the job, then negotiate a specific salary that’s aligned with your relevant competencies and the value you will add.
- What are your weaknesses?
Honest, but not the best reply: You respond with a list of shortcomings only your mother would know!
A brief and concise response is key to this question. If you are confident that you have what it takes to do the job, focus on that, rather than any weakness that is not relevant to your getting the job done.
- What do you want to do? (Asked during networking, informational interviews, or by someone who wants to help you out.)
Honest, but not the best reply: ” I really don’t know.”
When someone offers to help you with your job search, they need to have some clues about your goals. It is not necessary to name a specific job title (in fact, this could limit and narrow your search); instead, state the key competencies you want to use along with some thoughts about the type of work environment or interest area in which you’d like to work. Let them tell you what comes to mind as possible matches for you. Then ask for an introduction to someone they know who would be a good contact.
In order to put your best foot forward during your job search, anticipate these types of questions. During conversations or job interviews, breathe, and pause a few seconds before answering difficult questions.
Being reflective might allow you to discern between an honest, but naive response and a frank, but wise one.