You’ve managed to score an interview for a dream job. Before you splurge on power pumps or a chic suit, do your homework. Why? Besides the obvious blunders like lying on your resume or bringing your mom along, job seekers often make colossal mistakes answering questions during interviews as this comical Fast Company Studios video demonstrates.
To avoid common interview fails like speaking in clichés, sounding desperate or essentially telling the hiring manager that you are going to use this job to find another one, Mindy Deardurff, the director of the Undergraduate Business Career Center at the University of Minnesota, advises students to practice with a mentor or via Skype with your most honest friend until you come across as natural and confident.
Here are some other ways to respond to common interview questions:
- "Tell me about yourself." Work chronologically backwards through your resume and share highlights from your past that relate to the position. Start with a leadership role, school or volunteering, one experience from past job and end on your most recent and best experience. Then add an interesting personal note that’s relevant to the company’s principles. “I told a prospective employer that I grew up in a town of 92 people which taught me to be a hard worker and a part of a strong community,” says Deardurff.
- "Why are you a good fit?" Use the job description to answer the questions. Have a specific story, focusing on your actions and results, that proves you meet the qualifications.
- "What’s your biggest weakness?" Don’t say, “I’m a perfectionist.” Instead, be honest but use the characteristic, “I’m very analytical,” for instance, to illustrate that you are a good fit for the job. Recruiters also want to know that you’ve learned to compensate for your limitations to get the job done.
That advice your mother gave you about thank you notes still applies. “An email thank you note is definitely appropriate,” says Deardurff, “but a handwritten, thoughtful letter can be really powerful.”
Molly Blake is a California-based freelance writer. Find her online at mollyblake.com.
This article was originally published Feb. 20, 2015 at 4:08 p.m. ET.