You will be asked about your strengths and weaknesses inside and outside of work. It’s important to be fully prepared to answer this question so that you’re able to find a happy medium – a response that doesn’t sound like you’re bragging about your strengths or that you’re incompetent with your weaknesses.
The Fix: Tia McKeen, Staffing Manager in Portland, encourages candidates to “call and interview their own references to find out what others perceive as their key strengths. When they are asked this in the interview, they can share what others have shared with them. This way, when references are called, the hiring authority is likely to hear more about these strengths from a previous employer, reiterating what you’ve already shared.
However, it’s important to keep your weaknesses skill-focused. A common response is ’procrastination’, which has a negative connotation. Instead, you could say ‘time management has been a challenge for me in the past, however, I have found that creating a daily to-do list where I prioritize tasks helps me accomplish what’s most important first and keeps me on track for deadlines.”
This includes crossed arms, shaking legs, tapping fingers, or bad posture. Your body language plays a huge factor in selling yourself to the company because it’s a visual representation of how you hold yourself and how you express certain opinions or emotions. NicoleHicks, Staffing Manager in Seattle, finds it “terribly off-putting when a candidate is too relaxed. I’ve noticed some people slouching to the side or resting their head on their hand as if to perform some kind of body language power play. It gives the impression that they are disinterested, condescending, or unprofessional.”
The Fix: Practice makes perfect! Make a valiant effort every day to adjust your back posture when you’re sitting. This trains your body to automatically maintain that position. While mastering posture, focus on keeping your body language open by avoiding crossing your arms and legs. If you do, the interviewer will see you as guarded. Rest your hands together on the table if you need to but you can also use your hands to talk or help you describe something (but don’t do this excessively). Relax and feel as comfortable as you can to produce the most natural body language.
Hicks expects a natural dialogue to occur with a positive attitude. “You can expect that in an interview, you will be asked questions to which the answers may be on your resume. I’m not asking because I didn’t read it already. Likely I may be looking for clarity on something specific but in general it’s an invitation to get a natural dialogue going so I can get to know you as a person. Getting frustrated and annoyed by that fact or including ‘as stated on my resume’ or ‘as we’ve already discussed’ in your response is not a positive way to frame your answer.”
The Fix: Remind yourself that the interviewer is trying to understand you as a person overall and not trying to trick you or be rude. If you find yourself getting frustrated, it’s okay to take a deep breath and a moment to think of an appropriate answer. Show the interviewer that you are good employee material by staying calm and collected during stressful situations.
Particularly when a person chooses to leave a job because of a toxic work environment, they take some of that environment with them when interviewing. Hicks recommends that you “stop being negative – about yourself, former employees, co-workers, etc.” How can your future employer be certain that you won’t bad-mouth their company if you’re unhappy there?
The Fix: Staying positive is easier said than done, but it’s not impossible. Think about the overall outcome of the situation if you were to be positive. You’d maintain good relationships with your previous and future employers, and you’ll start off with a good reputation at your new job. Write out and practice different responses to interview questions that might provoke your negativity so that you’re prepared to answer them professionally, maturely, and positively.
Getting carried away with your voice during an interview is fairly common. We get it, you have a lot to say in a short time, but it’s important to stay relevant to the topic or question asked. Hicks adds, “Everyone should know to not word vomit or provide too much information, but they don’t always do that. Sometimes rambling can be related to a negative attitude but I’ve also listened to family drama, old supervisor’s infidelity, and other totally irrelevant things.”
The Fix: Don’t dig yourself a hole! Once you get started on an irrelevant topic, it can be hard to stop talking because you get more and more nervous that you’ve lost your way in the conversation. When you start going off topic, find a way to connect that experience to the company. This trick makes it seem as though you intended to go off track a bit because you had a point to make. It can also be helpful to talk slowly and pace yourself. This prevents your words from getting away from you.
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