(3) Questions That Kill An Interview

(3) Questions That Kill An Interview

Interviewing for a job is not something most of us enjoy. It is an uncomfortable scenario where what you say can either move you toward a new job or have your résumé thrown into the circular file! The hiring managers and recruiters are often on the offensive making you feel as if you are being interrogated for a felony.

You need to be prepared to answer some of the toughest questions and do it with ease and confidence. There are some questions that recruiters focus on that are the most difficult for some and can be deal breakers if not answered properly. We have all been there knowing that one of these dreaded questions will surface in the interview.

Here are three of the toughest questions asked in an interview:

1.) Why did you leave your former position? Recruiters want to know why you left your former employer as a way to determine if there were any issues with you and your former company, so this is a tricky one to answer especially if you did have some issues with your former boss and company. My “go-to” response is “I accomplished all I was hired to do and the opportunity for further growth was not available within this firm.” This is really a “no-answer” but it works. And it doesn’t lead the interview into what could be a negative discussion on you and your former company.

2.) Do you have your college degree? When you are short of an undergraduate degree and it is required for the position, you need to address this honestly, but carefully as to not have your lack of a college degree used against you. I encourage my job candidates to say, “I did not finish my education due to: family issues, lack of money or started working in your industry, all of these work. Then add, “I have extensive experience and have taken courses to keep my education in my industry current.” This is the best you can do with this question and if they are only going to hire a college graduate, you’ll never get the job, anyway.

3.) Why did you switch jobs so often? Companies don’t like “job-hoppers” and anything less than two years is too short for many companies, especially if you have a few positions in a row that are under this time-frame. A good response for this would be, “The one company was not a good fit for my skills and the other company did not present the position I was hired for properly. It turned out to be something totally different than what I was told when interviewing.” You get the picture, just be straight-forward and do not get nervous when answering these questions. Be matter-of-fact about the circumstance and you may negate their concern over your “job-hopping.” You may also add that you are confident that this position you are interviewing for is the right fit for your experience and skills.

Poorly addressing any one of these questions can keep you from getting a job. Take time before your interview to make sure you have solid answers to these questions as they apply to you. Once you feel comfortable with these questions, it will free you to shine in the rest of your interview by focusing on the value you can bring to a company.


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  • For younger workers, I might include the idea that they were still finding their feet, looking for work that related to their strongest skillset, and gaining real world experience across a broad spectrum to compliment formal learning as answers to the "job hopping" question. I think that most HR people recognize that the reality of the work world is much different than the classroom, and enthusiasm isn't always enough to create a mutually beneficial, long term employer/employee relationship. If I were interviewing, I would find those explanations acceptable provided the candidate was not looking for a position that was exactly the same as the others that they had left.

  • In reply to Sue Fitzpatrick:

    Thanks for your comment, Sue. Job hopping is always an issue, no matter what age they are. I interviewed thousands of people as an executive recruiter and I can tell you if someone has had three jobs in two years, there was an issue. But, not necessarily the job candidate's fault as some industries like media and technology start-up firms have high turnover. But, at some point you need to stay with a job for a couple of years to maintain your credibility in the workplace.

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