Avoid These Bad Answers to Job Interview Questions


Being unprepared for a job interview is usually the kiss-of-death for that opportunity.

Some of these answers are funny (unless the job seeker really wanted the job), and some of them are a little scary.

MUCH better to be prepared and avoid giving these answers in job interviews, assuming you are hoping for a job offer!

Opportunity-Ending Answers to Common Job Interview Questions

These answers to 5 common job interview questions demonstrated either a complete lack of preparation on the part of the job seeker, or a complete lack of understanding about how to be successful in a job interview.

Regardless of the cause, the result was the same: opportunities lost!

Do you have any questions?

Job seekers often shoot themselves in the foot when answering this question, as you’ll see in these responses. Would you want to hire the people who gave any of these answers? Neither would I.

Yes, you should have questions! But not these:

  • No. [Done.]
  • Will I need to pass a drug test before I get hired? How much notice will I have? [YIKES!]
  • Do you do background checks? [Why is that a concern?]
  • Will you be checking my references? [Why is that a concern?]
  • How often do people get raises here?
  • Do you cover sick days? How many can I have each month?
  • How much vacation will I get?
  • How big is the employee discount? Is there a limit on how much I can buy? Is it OK to resell?
  • Would you like to go out for a drink after this? [Flirt after accepting a job offer and starting to work, if appropriate]

Most of those answers were premature or downright scary. Don’t think that having no questions to ask is a show of respect, as some people mistakenly believe. Instead, having no questions demonstrates a lack of appropriate interest and also a lack of understanding about what an appropriate question is.

For better answers to this question, read How to Answer the Do-You-Have-Any-Questions Question.

What do you know about us?

This question is often asked at the beginning of a job interview, and employers view your answer as a signal about how interested you are in working there. It’s not a hard question to answer, if you are prepared.

Don’t give these answers:

  • Nothing. [So, you applied because ???]
  • You’ve got this job open.
  • I hear you pay well.

Read How to Answer the What-Do-You-Know-About-Us Question to get it right when you have the opportunity.

What is your greatest weakness?

This is a very common question to be asked, but you do need to be prepared or you will shoot yourself in the foot (see below!).

These answers are losers:

  • I don’t have any. [Amazing and unbelievable!]
  • I have so many, it’s hard to pick just one.
  • I’m not a good speller. [Secretarial job]
  • I hate dealing with difficult people. [Customer service job]
  • I’m bad with math and spreadsheets. [Analyst job]
  • I’m not very good with the newer versions of Microsoft Office. I like Office 97 best.

Read How to Answer the Greatest-Weakness Question to be well prepared for this question.

Why Do You Want to Work Here?

This is your chance to demonstrate what you know about the employer and to show the interviewer(s) what you bring to the job, emphasizing the benefits to the employer (not to you) for hiring you. A little flattery about the company — if you are sincere — is appropriate here, but don’t go overboard.

These answers are shallow and completely focused on the benefit to the job seeker:

  • My mom said I had to get a job. [Highly-motivated job seeker!]
  • Because I’d look GREAT in your uniform!
  • This is a short walk from where I live now.
  • I understand you give employees great discounts.

Prepare for this question by reading How to Answer the Why-Do-You-Want-to-Work-Here Question.

Why should we hire you?

This question is an opportunity to make a personal sales pitch, focused on the benefit to the employer, not the benefit to you for having the job (the employer understands how you will benefit).

Most of these answers are worrisome:

    • I don’t know. [Neither will the employer.]
  • No one else will hire me.
  • I’m unemployed.
  • I’m desperate.
  • I need the money.
  • I need a job.

Read How to Answer the Why-Should-We-Hire-You Question for tips on handling this one.

Tell me about yourself.

This question is not an invitation to confess your greatest hopes or your biggest sins. But it is another opportunity to show the employer how your skills and experience match up with the requirements of their job. Having nothing to say may be interpreted by the employer as lack of interest and/or lack of preparation.

These answers did not inspire the interviewer to recommend hiring these job seekers:

  • There’s not much to tell. [Professional spy?]
  • My real job is rock musician. I’m the drummer. But our agent quit, so we don’t have any gigs scheduled the rest of the year. We’re looking for a new agent, and I hope to get back to that soon. That’s what I really do. [Ahhh…. This is just temporary for you — good to know!]

Be sure to prepare a good answer. Read How to Answer the Tell-Me-About-Yourself Question so you’ll handle this one well.

Bottom Line on Bad Answers to Interview Questions

Being prepared is the best way to be successful in your job interviews. Read Pre-Interview Preparation for more information on doing your best in your next job interview.

For more about handling behavioral interviews, panel interviews, and telephone interviews, as well as preparing for job interviews, see the article list on the right.

Susan P. JoyceAbout the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.
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