There are many different ways to blow a job interview and turn off an employer, from turning up late to dressing unprofessionally. But of course, the heart of an interview is how you respond to interview questions.
Subpar answers can make you seem unprepared, uninterested in the job, or lacking the necessary qualifications to get the work done well.
Bad answers (or even mediocre ones) may also reflect negatively on your attitude, work ethic, or ability to work well with others.
That's one big reason it's so important to prepare for interviews in advance and practice your answers to common interview questions. Doing this will make you come across as confident and qualified, making you an appealing applicant to interviewers.
Examples of Bad Job Interview Answers
Take a look at some examples of the worst types of answers to interview questions, so you can be sure to avoid giving these responses during your next interview. You'll also find tips on what you can say instead to impress the interviewer.
Why Should We Hire You?
Bad answers: "I don't know" or "It sounds like a good job."
Saying you don't know or giving a vague answer is never a good way to respond to any interview question. These types of responses will make you seem unprepared and unqualified.
If you need to, take a little time to think about an answer before you respond. Then, respond to the question "Why should we hire you?" with an answer that illustrates how your qualifications and strengths fit the job, along with some anecdotes to illustrate your qualifications.
Tell Me About Your Last Job
Bad answer: "Didn't you look at my resume?"
A snide "Didn't you look at my resume?" is not the way to answer questions about your employment history. Have patience with interviewers: Not only do they talk to a lot of people, but also this is a standard interview question that helps interviewers open up a conversation.
Be prepared to discuss your previous jobs with the interviewer, and review your resume ahead of time so you know where you worked when.
Think of this question as an opportunity for you to highlight impressive qualifications as well as any skills that map well to the job you're interviewing for.
What Did You Like Least About Your Previous Position?
Bad answer: "I hated the job and the company. They were awful to work for."
It's important not to badmouth the companies or people you worked for because you don't know what relationships they may have with the company you're interviewing with. I once had an applicant who told me that her employer was the worst place to work ever. That employer happened to be our biggest and most important customer.
Plus, a negative response when discussing your previous job will make interviewers wonder if you have a poor attitude, or may complain about their company if you are hired.
Even though this question seems framed to draw out something negative, do your best to keep your response positive. One way to do this is to discuss how you grew from your experience.
What Are Your Strengths?
Bad answers: "I do good work" or "I'm the best" or "I'm not sure, but I'm a good learner."
Don't miss out on an opportunity! The interviewer wants to know what strengths you have that specifically relate to the job you are being considered for.
When answering questions about your strengths, talk about specific skills you have as they relate to the job, rather than giving general answers.
Do your best to mention strengths that would be in demand at the role at hand. And give examples. Don't just say "I'm very organized." Expand upon that! You might say, "I pride myself on my organizational skills. At my last role, I was able to refine the workflow for monthly invoicing, which led to less errors and required less time from the entire department."
Can You Share a Weakness?
Bad answers: "I can't think of any right now" or "I tend to lose my patience with incompetent people."
You always need to be prepared to share a weakness so you can demonstrate that you are committed to professional growth and have some self-insight. Otherwise, you can come across as over-confident or under-prepared for the interview.
Make sure any weakness does not create serious doubt about your willingness or ability to carry out the central functions of the job at hand. That is, if you're applying for a role as a salesperson who will be responsible for holding client meetings, you wouldn't want to say that you're a shy introvert.
One approach is to share weaknesses around non-essential skills. This way, you'll give an honest response, but won't disqualify your candidacy.
When asked about weaknesses, it's a good idea to frame your answer around skills you've improved upon.
Why Were You Fired?
Bad answers: "I failed that drug test" or "I missed too much work."
Be very careful when you answer questions about being fired. Keep what you say about being fired as brief as possible. You could talk about how being cut loose was a blessing, or how you and your employer came to a mutual understanding. And again, stay away from being negative about your former employer.
Why Have You Decided to Apply for This Position?
Bad answers: "I was looking through the job ads and it seemed interesting" or "I was getting bored with my current job."
Rather than such vague answers, a better approach would be to cite specific reasons why the job is appealing and fits in with your overall career aspirations. When asked why you want a job, you should show that you have researched the company and prove that you are a good fit for the job.
Where Do You See Yourself 5 Years From Now?
Bad answers: "In your job" or "I hate that question."
Most of us do hate this question, but a better answer to where you see yourself in five years is to speak about what you would like to learn and accomplish during that time, with an emphasis on excelling in the job for which you are interviewing.
Try to research a career path flowing from the job for which you are interviewing and reference a realistic goal for your progress. It is also acceptable to ask the interviewer for some common positions to which one might progress if one is successful in the initial position and then use that information to help frame your answer.
Do You Work Well With Others?
Bad answers: "My co-workers didn't like me, but I think it was because they were intimidated by me" or "I get along with most people, but others really aggravate me."
Rather than bad mouthing your co-workers, it's important to let the interviewer know that you get along well with everyone at work. Companies don't want to hire difficult employees, and if you let them know during the interview that you aren't easy to get along with, you probably won't get the job. In your response, you might want to mention collaborative projects you've worked on with colleagues.
Why Should We Hire You?
Bad answers: "I'm the best one for the job" or "I am great with people and a hard worker."
Rather than being so vague, when faced with the question of why you should be hired, be ready to mention the specific assets or qualifications you possess that will help you succeed in the job. Be ready to reference examples of how you have applied those strengths to add value in various work, school, or volunteer scenarios.
Tell Me About Yourself
Bad answer: "I'm a huge fan of the Yankees and avid softball player with the gift of gab; I'm usually the life of the party."
You may very well be a Yankees fan! But what interviewers are really interested in understanding is what you're like as a worker. You'll generally be better off by using this opening to mention some of your professionally oriented attributes that will help you get the job done. You can add one or two personal items at the end to round things out.
For example, if you were applying for a job as a recruiter you might say something like, "I am a good listener and a skilled interviewer who can usually read people well." Or "At ABC company, the retention rate of my hires was 20 percent above the department average. I have taken up golf and love it but am struggling to shoot less than 100."
Tell Me How You Were Able to Expand Sales by 25%?
Bad answer: "It's hard to say, but I'm a great salesman."
Make sure you can back up any assertions on your resume with some concrete details. In this example, you might cite your traits as a successful salesperson and/or specific techniques/strategies that you employed to generate sales.
Do You Have Any Questions for Me?
Bad answers: "Do I have to work overtime?" or "I don't have any questions" or "How much vacation will I get?" or "How much is the employee discount?"
When the tables are turned, always prepare some questions that relate to the job itself and the role you will play, training you will receive, career paths, or other professional concerns.
If you don't have any questions, it can seem like you're not truly interested in the role, weren't engaged in the conversation, or didn't prepare for the interview. Questions about vacation time and benefits can wait until after you have been offered a position.