8 Worst Interview Answers (With Alternative Responses)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 20 December 2022

Published 3 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Job interviews are the first interaction you have with an organisation after submitting a job application. Preparing for the job interview could involve practising your responses to questions an interviewer might ask. Knowing what answers can elicit more positive responses can help you better prepare yourself for the interview process. In this article, we look at some of the worst interview answers you could provide, how you can improve your responses and questions you could ask an organisation to find out more about them.

Related: How to Use the STAR Interview Response Technique

8 worst interview answers with alternative responses

Here are eight of the worst interview answers you could provide in response to common interview questions with suggestions for how you can improve:

1. Tell us more about yourself

Answer to avoid: 'My name is Ella Inglis and I'm 34 years old. I grew up in Tasmania and attended the University of Tasmania. My hobbies are cooking and whitewater rafting.'

How to improve your answer: When an interviewer asks you about yourself, stating information already included in your resume is repeating what they already know. You can instead answer by summarising your current role, relevant education and why you're applying for the position. This can help introduce you to the interviewers beyond what they have reviewed in your resume. It can also save time and show the interviewers you've prepared a response.

Related: Interview Question: "Tell Me About Yourself"

2. Why are you looking for a new job?

Answer to avoid: 'I'm looking for a new challenge in the technology sector as my current employer won't promote me.'

How to improve your answer: It's a good idea to avoid mentioning your current or previous employer in a negative light and to instead mention how a potential job can better meet your needs. For example, you can mention that you're looking for a job that allows you to grow and you've noticed that the organisation has a reputation for fast-tracking its employees into managerial positions. You could also mention specific awards or accolades achieved by the organisation.

3. Tell us what you know about our company

Answer to avoid: 'I know that your company was founded in 1995, and you provide affordable primary and secondary school uniforms to learners.'

How to improve your answer: Rather than answering this question by mentioning facts a person can easily find on the organisation's website, you could demonstrate that you understand the organisation's underlying goals or motivations. For example, you could mention that you understand the organisation wants to become the preferred stockist of school uniforms in Australia and in your role as social media manager you can help them by creating content that appeals to children and their parents.

4. What salary are you expecting for this role?

Answer to avoid: 'I don't know. What salary are you offering?'

How to improve your answer: Instead of telling the interviewer that you don't know what salary you're looking for or asking them what salary they're offering, you can refer to third-party sources of information that anonymously collect average salaries for different job roles based on seniority and location. This can give yourself and the job interviewer a range that is fair and in line with what others in similar positions are earning.

5. Why do you want to work for us?

Answer to avoid: 'I really like your products or services. I use them in my home and all my friends and family love them too!'

How to improve your answer: When an organisation asks you why you want to work for them, they aren't looking for your opinion on their products or services as a customer. The answer to this question could instead include your views on the organisation as an employer. You can mention that you admire their approach to providing customer service or that you admire their employee benefits scheme.

Related: Interview Question: 'Why Do You Want to Work Here?'

6. What would you say is your biggest weakness?

Answer to avoid: 'I don't think that I have any weaknesses!'

How to improve your answer: Interviewers can use the answer to this question to determine if you're aware of any shortcomings you have and how you address them. You can mention traits you're working on improving and provide examples of how you're doing this. For example, you can mention that your attention to detail means you can take longer to complete tasks but that you address this by starting them early.

7. What would you say is your greatest strength?

Answer to avoid: 'I really enjoy tackling challenging situations.'

How to improve your answer: When recounting your strengths it's beneficial to provide detailed or specific examples of your strengths in action. For example, you can say that you enjoy tackling challenging situations such as when a conference you helped organise had to find another venue at the last minute as the original venue flooded. You can expand on this by explaining how you helped move the caterers, sound and lighting team and delegates with minimal disruption and without the conference falling behind schedule.

8. Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Answer to avoid: 'I hope I'm still working in this job and enjoying my time with your company.'

How to improve your answer: Giving your interviewers more detail about your desired career path can help them determine if their organisation can provide you with suitable opportunities. You can research a realistic pathway and timeline someone can follow in your current job position and mention that you'd like to grow to fulfil these roles. You can also ask your interviewers if there is room for the growth you're seeking in the organisation and how you can progress.

5 questions to ask interviewers

Organisations can use interviews to ask an interviewee if they have questions about the organisation. Here are five questions that can give you useful insights into the organisation and how it operates:

1. What is the working culture like in this organisation?

Asking this question can help you determine if you're suited to the role and can thrive in the organisation's culture. An organisation that thrives on challenges and describes itself as fast-paced and energetic might not suit you if you're looking for a role that's more relaxed and prioritises attention to detail over meeting last-minute deadlines. You can ask your interviewers for examples of their working culture in action. For example, a workplace that says they prioritise a work/life balance might provide paid time off for employees to attend school and family events.

Related: What Is Workplace Flexibility and How Can It Benefit You?

2. Is this a newly created role or did someone previously perform the job?

A newly created job or filling one that currently exists can have different implications for your career. If a person previously occupied the role, you could ask why they vacated the position and how long they worked for the organisation. You can also ask if there's anything the organisation intends on doing differently with the new person they hire for the job. A newly created role can indicate that the organisation is growing. It can also mean that you shape the role and help develop its standard operating practices and responsibilities.

3. Can you tell me about the team I might work with or alongside?

Knowing how your role fits into a company's organisational chart can be helpful. It can tell you who you report to and work alongside and can help you better understand your role and department. If you work in a very large team you can ask the interviewers how the organisation helps facilitate communications between large groups of people. Asking this question can also help you determine what career paths you can take in the role to ascend to a more senior position.

4. How do you assess an employee's performance?

The answer to this question can tell you how the organisation decides on pay raises and promotions for employees. Knowing if each person has key performance indicators to reach can help you ensure you meet them on time. You can also find out if the organisation conducts any other type of performance appraisals and how you can prepare for these. An organisation with such structures in place can be better prepared to help you move to a more senior position and enjoy better pay and benefits.

5. What do you enjoy most about working here?

Knowing what your interviewers enjoy about working in an organisation can give you unique insights into what it's like to work there. They might mention documented benefits you're aware of such as unlimited personal time off. They might also bring your attention to other informal benefits, such as the fact that employees can take longer lunches on Fridays or that different departments have formed their own football teams and regularly compete in friendly matches.

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