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The right (and wrong) answers to common job interview questions

What should you say about why you left the job you hate? What should you ask at the end of the interview? In this episode of Secrets of the Most Productive People, we tackle some of the most awkward moments in job interviews.

The right (and wrong) answers to common job interview questions
[Photo: seb_ra/iStock]

“So, tell me a little about yourself . . .”

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I’ll admit, like nearly every hiring manager on the planet, I usually start most job interviews with some version of this question. But I know from the times I’ve sat on the other side of the table, this seemingly softball question can be nerve-wracking. It feels a little like a personality test. But here’s a hint: Your answer shouldn’t be your life story, shouldn’t take you more than a minute or two to tell, and should focus mostly on the career path that led you to want to work at that company.

On the new episode of Secrets of the Most Productive People, we help listeners figure out exactly what to say (and what to avoid) in sticky situations like the following:

  • How to talk about your last (or current) job when you hate your boss
  • How to find clues about the work culture
  • What kinds of questions you should ask the hiring manager at the end of the interview

We also hear some job interview horror stories from a few listeners—including one that ended with shaking a baguette instead of the manager’s hand.

While you can’t control everything that will happen, here are three ways to make a good impression at a job interview.

1.  Build a rapport and relationships with everyone you meet during the interview process. That includes the receptionist, the team member who spoke to you while you were waiting, and of course, your interviewer. Remember that everyone you interact is forming their first impression of you, even when your interview hasn’t officially started.

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2. Have anecdotes and statistics ready. If you listened to our previous episode, you know that the more you can quantify, the better. Make sure can articulate these in your interviews as well. The interviewer might have glanced at your résumé, but an interview is your opportunity to remind them why your experience and achievements makes you a perfect candidate for this role.

3. Ask smart questions. It’s a red flag when a candidate doesn’t have any questions at the end of an interview, because it can give off the impression that they’re not interested in their role. When you ask specific questions, that tells the hiring manager that you’ve put a lot of time and effort into learning more about the company, which is a characteristic that any manager would want to see in an employee.

You can find the episode on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcherSpotifyRadioPublic, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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About the author

Kathleen Davis is Deputy Editor at FastCompany.com. Previously, she has worked as an editor at Entrepreneur.com, WomansDay.com and Popular Photography magazine.

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