Common Interview Problems

Overcoming Common Interview Problems

Most interviews will go smoothly. However, when you are competing with several other applicants for the same job, you want your interview to stand out from the rest. Here are 10 common interview problems and suggestions on how to overcome them.

No. Problem Comments and Suggestions
1 Not making a good first impression

Remember how you prepared for your first date in high school? You wanted everything to be just right. It can be helpful to think of preparing for an interview in the same way. You want to look your best, be on time (or a little early), know what you are going to do, and even have some rehearsed lines!

Sometimes, less-qualified people get selected over more-qualified people simply because they make a better first impression. To give yourself the best odds for success, work on establishing a positive first impression. Be friendly to everyone you meet, make good eye contact, use a firm handshake, appear genuinely happy to be there, and be sure you are prepared. The Pre-Interview Checklist in the Job Hunter Pro Tools section can help in this area.

2 Appearing nervous and uneasy

It’s normal to feel nervous about an interview. However, regardless of how nervous you might be, you don’t have to appear nervous to the interviewer. There are two primary ways to avoid appearing nervous: 1) good preparation for the interview, and 2) awareness of signs of a nervous behavior.

Preparation starts with knowing yourself and your job market, anticipating the kinds of questions that will be asked, and preparing accordingly. The better prepared you are, the less nervous you’ll be.

Personal awareness is also important. During the interview, periodically evaluate how you might appear to the interviewer. Are you fidgeting, do you have negative body language, are you avoiding eye contact, are you speaking too softly, etc? Knowledge and awareness are the keys to correcting a nervous appearance.

3 Talking too much or too little

When an interviewer asks a question, they hope to get an answer that addresses their question in enough detail that they can make an informed decision about the applicant’s qualifications. Interviewers are seldom looking for “yes” or “no” answers. On the other hand, they aren’t looking for a complete chapter in your life either.

Because every interviewer is different, you need to take your clues from them regarding the adequacy of your answers. If they are asking for additional details after you answer each question, you should consider providing more details in future answers. If they start interrupting you or are getting a little anxious, you should try scaling back on the length of your answers. Watch the interviewer for clues and respond accordingly.

4 Getting off the subject

Make sure your answers stick closely to the subject matter of the question that is asked by the interviewer. If you wander too far from the subject, it will reduce your effectiveness. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add important facts that you think the interviewer should be made aware of.

Part of your job during an interview is to help the interviewer learn things about you that they might not specifically ask you about. Don’t be afraid to add important details that relate to the questions being asked.

5 Irritating use of repeated words or phrases

If you have ever been around someone who ends every other sentence with “you know,” starts almost every sentence with “Ah,” or uses other verbal fillers, you know how irritating it can be after awhile. Most of us don’t realize we have such habits, and family and friends normally don’t notice or comment about it, especially if they have the same trait.

It takes focused awareness of your words to spot these speech habits. The next time you are having a phone conversation or just talking to friends, see if you can catch yourself over-using certain words or phrases. Periodically check yourself during the course of an interview to be sure you aren’t using bad speech habits.

6 Not preparing good answers to common interview questions

There are several interview questions that are so common that almost every interviewer will ask them. Because they are so common, your answers will be compared to the answers of all other applicants for the same job. For this reason, you want to be especially well prepared to answer these common questions effectively.

One of the most common questions asked is some form of the “Tell me about yourself” question. All applicants should practice a two-to-three minute response to this kind of question. It is also a good idea to spend extra time reviewing and practicing answers to the Common Interview Questions found in Job Hunter Pro's eBook and Tools sections.

7 Dealing with negative issues in your background

Just about everyone has something in their background or work experience that they aren’t proud of. The best way to deal with these issues is to assume the interviewer will ask you questions about them and then prepare answers accordingly.

Start by preparing a list of potential negatives that you may need to overcome in an interview. From this list, prepare written responses that minimize any negative aspects and maximize any positive outcomes. Out of every negative experience comes a “lesson learned” that helps us in the future. You can sometimes use these lessons as positive outcomes of a negative experience.

8 The interviewer asks inappropriate questions

Most interviewers are highly trained professionals in their field. However, like any other profession, there are some who aren’t as skilled as they should be. As a general rule, you do not want to get in a debate with an interviewer about the appropriateness of a particular question. This will not score points for you and could easily eliminate you from consideration.

How you deal with inappropriate questions is a matter of personal choice. My advice is that in most cases, it is best to avoid showing shock or surprise. Simply answer the question to the best of your ability and move on. If you believe there is a legal issue that needs to be addressed, take it up with your attorney.

9 Not providing information the interviewer should know about you, but didn't ask

Don’t assume the interviewer will ask questions that uncover every skill, job knowledge, or work experience that you have. If it is important for them to know about a particular skill or knowledge, you need to be sure it is brought up at some point during the interview. Don't be afraid to ask questions during the interview. It helps direct the type and amount of information that is shared.

Interviewers will often finish an interview with a question like “Is there anything else I should know about you?” This is your opportunity to make sure that nothing important is left unsaid. However, if they don’t ask a question like this, you need to speak up. You can start with: “There is something we haven’t discussed that I think would be good for you to know about me.” You can continue on from there.

10 Not having questions for the interviewer

It is a good idea to ask questions during the interview, and to have at least two or three questions for the interviewer at the conclusion of the interview. It helps demonstrate your interest in the job and often provides an opportunity to add some additional information about your background.

An example of a closing question that can help you out is: “Is there anything about my background that you have any concerns about?” If the interviewer has some concerns, this will give you an opportunity to address those concerns before you leave. If there are no concerns, this is a good sign and you can move on to any other questions you might have for the interviewer. The Interview Trainer section has some sample closing questions you can use.

Common Interview Problems

Key Points

  • Preparation and practice are key success factors.

  • Awareness of nervous behavior or inappropriate speech habits will help overcome them.

  • Anticipate questions that will be asked and prepare accordingly.

  • Keep focused on what the interviewer is asking and take clues from their behavior.

  • Prepare closing questions that will help make final points.