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Although honesty is the way to go in any job search and interviewing process, there are points you should never be totally blunt about.
That doesn't mean that you should try to mislead a future employer. But what you really need to do is to make sure that you are not opening up too much about how you feel about the job, past experience, relationships with past employers or on similar issues to the extent that you end up falling short of meeting the job requirements.
Answers that you give through a hiring process should serve the purpose of getting the job. For example, even if you sincerely believe that you may not be the best candidate for the job, never say so. Again, you don't have to lie about it, but you should never bring to a prospective employer's attention any points of weakness.
Here are a few questions that you must navigate carefully.
Why did you leave?
It is quite common prospective employers wanting to know why you left a previous job or want to change. This shouldn't be an invitation to open up about conflicts, office politics, arguments, perceived bias even if all of these are part of the decision. Instead of getting into details of typical office problems, speak of differing visions and work strategies or just the personal need for a new challenge.
By doing so, you're putting the same day-to-day issues in a bigger perspective. It also helps an employer understand more about your approach and style in handling office politics. The alternative — of spilling the beans or slamming coworkers — never resonates well. You will sound bitter and any hiring manager will wonder about the rest of the story.
What are your points of weakness?
You may be fully aware of your shortcomings. But job interviews — unlike therapy sessions — are not the place or the time to share these issues. First of all, this question is related to your profession — not your personal life. So if you decide to list a couple of weaknesses, make sure they are framed in a semi-positive context.
Let's suppose you mention that you are a workaholic. You may mention that you do try to achieve a work-life balance, but that you could get carried away by your hard-working nature. With such a statement, employers probably will take what is supposed to be a weakness somehow positively.
In all cases, never mention a point of weakness that is detrimental to your application — unless you're obliged to do so by law. Try to stay positive and give yourself credit for recognising your issues and working on them.
Why do you want this job?
If your honest answer is 'So I have a paycheque and can pay the rent', think of something more appealing. Your answer can work if you are taking a job that is clearly outside your career path. Are you an engineer applying for a pizza delivery gig?
If not, and even if the job isn't absolutely a dream job, you need a better answer. You can talk about the opportunity to learn something new, to build on your past experience, or the relevance of the job to your overall career. In all cases, make sure your argument is still sincere. Even if you are taking a job solely for the money, you probably are choosing something that somehow appeals to you.
For how long have you been looking for a job?
If you are employed and this question pops up, think really hard before you answer. You don't want to appear as a job hopper, especially if you have not been with your current employer for a long time. One way out of this question is to mention that you've been scanning jobs on and off or you have been receiving job alerts for a while and the current opening caught your attention.
If unemployed, be sure that you are not seen as unemployable. The prospective employer probably could see how long you have been out of work. You can always provide reasons for the length of the unemployment phase. It could be helpful if you have done short-term jobs, took classes, volunteered or even cared for a dependent during that period.
Source: Rania Oteify, Special to gulfnews.com
The writer, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is currently a Seattle-based editor