Call 1300 619 977

6 Seemingly Easy Interview Questions People Answer Incorrectly 

15 September, 2016

An interview is like a first date. This is the initial point of contact when both parties are trying to find out if the other person is worth their time. And like most first dates, you flunk it despite being well-prepared, responding in the most confident and smartest way possible, and wearing your tailor-fitted three-piece suit.

So on which part do you messed up? Simple. It is in those seemingly innocent and trivial questions that you think you have answered correctly. The truth is these enquires are being given to reveal how your job ethics, future plans, and abilities play well with the company.

Here are some of those questions and how you should and should not answer them. So the next time you encounter these wringers again, you know how nail them.





“Can you tell me about yourself?”


How people always answer it:

“I’m John Doe, 27 years old. I graduated from the University of Melbourne with a degree in Civil Engineering. I am the eldest among four children. My father is also an engineer and my mother is a public school teacher.”


Why this is wrong:

Believe it or not, this is the most important question in the interview. Like an opening scene of a movie or the prologue of a book, your response here will set the tone for the entire conversation. It is the moment for your sales pitch. You answer this cleverly and properly and you got the interviewer hooked. You give a generic answer and he/she is already thinking if the next applicant has something better to offer.


How You Should Answer It:

The Muse CEO Kathryn Minshew offers a no-brainer and fail-safe formula to craft the perfect response. It is called the Present-Past-Future method. You start with your present, describing current your skills, talents, and abilities. Then you transition to the past, talking about your experiences and the expertise you gained. Then you cap it off with the future, discussing what you can do for the company and why you want to be here. All talking points must be relevant with the company and the position you are applying for.




“Where do you see yourself in five years?”


How people always answer it:

“In five years, I see myself earning twice as much as I do right now. With a dream house and a Lamborghini. I can request that for my company car, right?”


Why this is wrong:

This question aims to extract your future plans in relation to the company or the position you are pursuing. It is great that you have goals, but those goals should also benefit your employer. It is like if your partner asked you “What shall we do for the day?” and your response is “I only want to play Xbox/spend my time at the saloon all day.” It is vastly underwhelming since they are not included in your plans. Your interviewer feels the same way.


How You Should Answer It:

Focus on a long term career with the employer. Your interviewer wants to know that you want to stay and grow under their wings. Since you don’t know much about the positions and inner workings of the company, you may answer in general. This video provides a fairly spot-on response. The guy said he is prepared to “assume more management responsibilities and get involved in product strategy” in a company where he “can grow and take on new challenges over time.” It isn’t too specific, stresses on long term, and greatly benefits the employer.




“What’s your greatest weakness?”


How people always answer it:

“I am so detailed and organized that so much of my time is focused in making things systematized and coordinated.”


Why this is wrong:

When your employer fires this question, it is not an opportunity for you to humblebrag. Instead, they are asking if you are aware of your flaws and how are trying to cope up and improve. We all have areas of improvements. And your employer knows that. Dropping this answer is a sign of hubris.


How You Should Answer It:

When picking up a certain weakness, it is not wise to choose something that is specifically detrimental to your job. If you are applying for an accounting firm, you cannot say that you don’t enjoy numbers. The same goes with “I don’t like dealing with people” while pursuing a position in customer service.

You can suggest a significant (career-related) weakness in the past that you have resolved, or an ongoing flaw that you are constantly fixing through sheer will and how you had turned this into strength, like in this video. Admitting that you “used to struggle with time management” and then solving it by setting “personal deadlines along the way” so you would “complete your projects on time” is a perfect example.




 “Why did you leave your last job?”


How people always answer it:

“My immediate supervisor failed to take care and respect her subordinates. That kind of principle was not working for me. Also, there’s too much office politics.”


Why this is wrong:

This question singularly brings interviewees to nervousness, because it can bring up bad histories with previous employments. But no matter how bad it is, never malign a previous company, superior, or coworker in an interview. They might be complete jerks to be unprofessional towards you, but how you will paint them will be more of a reflection of your behavior and professionalism.


How You Should Answer It:

First, always put your company in good light. And second, make the answer as short as possible. This will avoid further curiosity from the interviewer and try to unearth any skeleton you are keeping buried.

Here’s a good example:

“I enjoyed working in XYZ Company. But recently, the new management team decided to alter the company’s goals and revamp my division’s responsibilities. I left so I could look for a position where I can contribute my best work. I find your company to be a strong fit.”

It is concise, complete, never puts previous employer in bad light, and stresses on what the new company can benefit from you.




Why should we hire you?


How people always answer it:

“Because I’m the best person for the job.


Why this is wrong:

Because, guaranteed, the three other candidates before you said the same thing already.

If the “Tell me about yourself,” is the preface, this is where you bring out all the guns and ammunitions you have to impress your interviewer. That being said, this is not an answer you think of on the spot. You brainstorm on this during your pre-interview preparations.


How You Should Answer It:

First, list down all your skills, career accomplishments, experiences, trainings, and other things that you think not every people can do or possess (all should be career-related, your ability to continuously chug a pint of beer, however impressive, does not count). And then take a look at the job description, and see which requirements match with your abilities.

Second, design your sales pitch based on these matching points. It should be cohesive, concise, and persuasive. The pitch should be no longer than two minutes. Here’s an example:

 “Based on what you said, the company is undergoing its mid-term goal of expanding its accounts and divisions. With my trainings in account management, I can contribute a lot to this endeavor. Also, with my substantial experiences in sales and executive position, I can steer the company effectively towards its long term goals of increasing sales and revenue.”

And third, practice but do not memorize. We cannot stress this enough. Sounding like you tried to memorize your curriculum vitae is a turn off. Putting your pitch in your heart, on the other hand, can emanate passion and conviction, making your statements sound more genuine.




“What are your salary expectations?”


How people always answer it:

“I’m expecting within the range of (provides figure way out of salary range)”


Why this is wrong:

This question is being asked to know if your employer can afford you. And in the answer above, you obviously didn’t do enough research. Each job position have their own salary scheme. Unless you proved that you can do so much than the average employee (say, you possess a relevant knowledge or have undergone an important training only a small percentage of people in your industry do) or is almost already up for promotion, the company will never pay you outside of your market value.

Here in Australia, you may visit to know how much people in your industry in each city are getting so you won’t blow your numbers out of proportion.


How You Should Answer It:

As much as we want to provide a technique for this one, there is no cut and dry answer. It all depends on your goals in the interview.

One school of thought says that you should not be so aggressive in giving figures. Having researched about the job position will already give you an idea of the pay scheme, and giving any expectations can do nothing to change it. This basically removes the idea of haggling out of the equation. So the preferred answer is to sidestep the question and focus on the opportunities offered.

Another is actually providing your expected salary (within range of the scale of course) and negotiating it. But remember, you only do this if you believe your talent, skills, and actual worth is much higher than the average person and you are willing to lose a good opportunity for the sake of a higher pay. And if you are opting for this, do not be aggressive and try to focus more on what you offer to the company.





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *





Australia: 1300 619 977
International: +61 7 3181 5588


Level 27 Santos Building, 32 Turbot St, Brisbane QLD Australia 4000