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Five Interview Traps and How to Avoid Them

Debra Wheatman

There are several techniques that interviewers use to get to know the “real” candidate behind the rehearsed “perfect” candidate. One technique is to ask questions to bait a candidate to reveal negative information or express unbridled feelings. The interviewer will ask a question on a premise of something negative. You may expand upon that negative point and veer from your well-crafted talking points. In some cases, you may let something slip, such as a little jab against your former boss. Here are five common questions that hiring managers ask, and how you can avoid flubbing them during the interview process.

1. Describe a weakness of your former boss. Most candidates know that the cardinal rule in an interview is to never say anything negative about past employers. Focus on positive experiences with your managers and how you have been fortunate to work with great managers. If forced to share something negative, select something minor. Then show how you dealt with it, so that it was not an issue for either of you. An example may be that a manager that did not update staff on corporate news, so you worked around it by asking questions in order to keep informed.


2. Describe an example of a project that failed or fell short of expectations. Spare the interviewer the gory details of the “project from hell” that would never end and the incompetence of others. The blame game is never a good idea during an interview. What is more effective is to explain your understanding of why the project failed and how you learned from the failure. Focus on processes, not people. Most importantly, express what you learned from this so that it won’t be repeated. This question tests your analytical and team-building skills, and your resiliency.


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Debra Wheatman is the president of Careers Done Write and an AMA Career Resource Center contributor. Read more from Debra here or follow her on twitter at @DebraWheatman.