In college or university, soon-to-be graduates eager to enter the workforce are encouraged to attend workshops designed to help them craft impressive cover letters and resumes with the right words that would impress any season recruiter. A list of job interview do’s and don’ts are shared to ensure they give the right impression to interviewers. It’s almost as if graduates are preparing to be part of a screenplay and audition for the next movie blockbuster of their lives. Except, these interviews are real-life, and they’re not all scripted.
After conducting hundreds of screening interviews, our recruiters can almost provide a standard list of answers from the interviewees. Answers were most likely obtained from career workshops or the internet, which were well-rehearsed and answered by default. While we think it is great that effort is taken to prepare for the interview, as recruiters, honest answers that were not rehearsed are a breath of fresh air and certainly get our attention. Hence, we thought to list down three of the top ‘default’ answers we hear too often.
1. I Want To Gain More Knowledge and Experience
Sure, you do! What better way to move up the career ladder than to be able to experience first-hand what the job entails. We understand as we were once first-time employees too. As interviewers continuously assess your traits and capabilities during the interview, they’re also keen to know how you can make a difference and what sets you apart from the other candidates.
Before the interview, do understand the job requirements, and give your answer about your thirst for knowledge and experience some more thought. Were there specific experiences or subjects you’ve learnt that would have given you a solid foundation to start with for the position? That will provide you with an edge. You’re also looking forward to putting theory to practice, which will give you the experience required to hone your skills for the position and, ultimately, for the company’s betterment.
Let’s take, for example, someone seeking a job in Human Resources. She has aced the subject of Labour Law in university. While writing them on paper during exams is simply academic, bringing that knowledge to a job in Human Resources will prove to be aptly vital. Hence, be sure to elaborate and consider answers that will benefit the organisation, not just yourself.
2. I Have Good Communication Skills and I Am a People Person
People and communication skills are crucial attributes. Not just for work but in all areas of your life. Hence, understandably this is something you’d like to mention during an interview. But, perhaps you could elaborate more about how you’ve used this particular skill. Were there any deals you could negotiate in the past during an internship or a university project? Perhaps, for a specific team project, a team member was challenging to work with. Were you able to bridge the gap and handle the situation professionally?
There are many situations that good people and communication skills will prevail but do try to keep it professional. Keep your personal life where it belongs — personal and private. The interviewee does not need to know about that particular time your two best friends had a fallout.
3. I Am a Hard Worker
We’re sorry to burst your bubble. Everyone is, especially when they are all vying for a job. When asked what your strengths and weaknesses are, many opt to mention skills that are common attributes. That way, the answers are deemed ‘safe’, and the interviewee will likely not be judged too much. We can’t blame you but instead, try to add a bit of flavour to these attributes by providing a bit of explanation.
When identifying your strengths, think about having them linked to the position and job scope you’re applying for. Are there specific skills you’ve learnt academically or during your studies that may give you an edge over other candidates? Perhaps you’ve developed some skills that were put into good use? Or some traits that make you uniquely you!
Let’s say you’re applying for a Marketing Executive position, and the job scope includes event management. Perhaps it’s worth mentioning the fund-raising event you were part of, which helped an orphanage. Here’s an opportunity to say how your organisational skills helped bring together faculty members, students and numerous donors for a good cause. While this gives you the license to brag a little about your success, do make it a point not to cross the line.
Weaknesses are a little trickier. After all, nobody likes to point out their flaws. But let’s face it, nobody is perfect and trying to act like you’re all strength and no weakness will only make you sound arrogant. Think about where you lack skills or traits that could use some help. Then, emphasise how you’re working on them. For example, I do have some trouble speaking in front of a crowd. However, I have participated in workshops, courses in university and later via Skillshare to help me improve. I learnt many valuable tips and was made to present to my classmates to obtain a certification of participation. What I learnt helped me greatly, and I hope to continue polishing my presentation skills with more practice. This shows you acknowledge your weakness, but you’re working on improving yourself.
While it is crucial to make an excellent first impression during an interview, it is understandable to be prepared and use rehearsed scripts to help calm nerves and appear confident. However, interviewers do appreciate honesty. While knowing how much truth needs to be divulged is important, try setting yourself apart by letting your own experiences and personality shine during the interview. As you progress through the different hiring stages, there is no hiding the facts and letting the interviewer get to know you for who you are will take you a long way up the career ladder.