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What to Avoid at a Job Interview

posted Nov 25, 2011, 11:16 PM by Simon Nguyen
Job interviews are among the most difficult and stressful events in one’s life. This is true for both the interviewee and the interviewer. The interviewee obviously wants to make the best possible impression to enhance his or her chance of getting the job. The interviewer aims to learn as much about the candidate as possible, so the correct hiring decision is made.

The added problem for the interviewer is the fact that there isn’t much known about the candidate, except for the unverified information provided in the candidate’s resume. Due to these reasons, interview questions are intentionally crafted in a way that would allow recruiters to gauge a candidate’s ability and level of experience.

The most difficult interview questions are always salary-related ones. In almost every interview, the candidate is asked to disclose his or her salary expectation or requirements. On the surface, this seems like a routine interview question. In reality, however, this question serves as a device to filter out unqualified candidates.

Recruiters expect that you would know how much this position is worth. If one’s salary expectation significantly diverges from the market wage for the position, one should not expect to get the job or a second interview. Candidates with some experience will have no problem with this question. Highly prepared candidates should also get the question right, thanked to rigorous pre-interview research.

The story does not end there, unfortunately. The tough economy adds another layer of complexity to the wage question. Desperate job seekers often make the grave mistake of intentionally lowering their salary requirements in hope to get noticed by cost-cutting employers. But since employers could always cut costs by firing existing employees, wages never play a key role in the hiring decision.

Firms are always looking to hire talented and confident individuals; they are willing to pay a premium for talent. By lowering your salary requirements, you signal to your potential employers that you are either not qualified for the specified job or being desperate. Both are obviously not desirable traits. With just one or two questions, recruiters are able to screen out inexperienced, unprepared, and desperate candidates.

Another difficult interview question is with regards to the candidate’s biggest achievement to date. Contrary to popular beliefs, recruiters are not looking for some grand achievements. Rather, a successful answer hinges on how eloquent you are in explaining your achievements as well as how knowledgeable you appear to be in regards to the subject being discussed. Unfortunately, most people tend to lie about their achievements or greatly exaggerate them. Since these lies are very much instantaneous reactions, they can easily be exposed with some simple follow-up questions.

In short, the key to a successful interview is to be as honest and prepared as one could be. Everything will fall in place accordingly.

Simon Nguyen, MA Economics
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