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The World’s Worst Job Interview Response

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I like working with people business cartoon

Advice for Preparing for a Job Interview

If I could give job interviewers one piece of advice, it would be, don’t say I like working with people. It’s a response that crops up most frequently among sales candidates, but when pressed, even aspiring accountants and programmers will blurt it out.

The I like working with people response generally indicates one of two things.

  1. The candidate is unable to express his or her skills with clarity
  2. The candidate doesn’t have the slightest idea why he or she is applying for the position

Here are some responses that will give the interviewer a better idea of what you are good at, and improve your odds of winning the position.

The I Like Working With People Hierarchy

  • I like leading people. Are you a visionary, someone who can see and articulate the big picture? Do you have the ability to rally people around a goal? If so, this response is for you.
  • I like organizing people. You’re not so hot on the emotional, motivational side of leading people, but you enjoy executing a leader’s vision because you know how to get things done. You are a born second banana – and every good organization needs one.
  • I like helping people. Do you really enjoy helping other people achieve their dreams and goals? You are a nurturer, and that is laudable. Sell the interviewer on your nurturing skills and you may qualify for any number of positions, especially in human resources or customer service.
  • I like managing people. If you are neither a leader nor an organizer but you enjoy bossing people around, say this.
  • I like following people. Hey – not everybody wants to be in charge. If that’s you, why not come out and say so? Every organization needs worker bees.
  • I like entertaining people. Good sales people often have a bit of the ham in them. They enjoy being in the spotlight. If you have other relevant skills, no reason to hide your theatrical side. Buyers frequently like to be entertained.
  • I like being entertained by people. See above.
  • I like frustrating people. If you thrive on being the squeaky wheel, the chronic complainer, the fly in the ointment, the foot dragger, and/or the pot stirrer – who knows? You might be just what the organization is looking for, considering how many such people find and maintain gainful employment.
  • I like spending my day gossiping and distracting people instead of working. Unfortunately, this is what people sometimes mean when they say I like working with people. You will score big points for honesty by saying this, as well as spare yourself and your employer an unpleasant termination interview six months down the road.

Bottom line advice for preparing for a job interview – use precise language. Vague responses do not help interviewers assess your qualifications for a particular position.

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13 Responses to The World’s Worst Job Interview Response

  1. Hi Clare, Nice to hear from you! I’m glad the post got your wheels turning. You’d make a far better impression saying “I like being useful to people” than some mindless statement, and that goes for any setting, not just an interview. I have more of the coaching mentality … helping people achieve their goals.

  2. Very good point – and I like the suggestions for more precise statements.

    The meaninglessness of “I like working with people” also becomes apparent if you turn the sentence into a negative. Can you imagine anyone ever saying “I don’t like working with people” in an interview?

    You got me thinking about what I’d say, which is a good exercise, I think. I’d probably go for “I like being useful to people”.

  3. Nice advice Brad. Every question is an opportunity to tell your story in a way that shows you would be an asset to the person hiring. (Funny thing is, in hiring someone for a ‘people position’ where what you like would seem to matter most – the only thing the boss may care about is the impression you give to the people you are interacting with. “People feel good after working with me…”)

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  5. Fred, Now we have another response to add to the list …

  6. Robert, I like making people think. :) And I like people who like to think – you for instance!

  7. Hmmm… I don’t see “I like it when people wait on me hand and foot” on the list, so I’m guessin’ that’s… bad, right?

    Seriously, a great list, and reason for using it, Brad. I think we’re too easily caught up in “insider language” that actually means nothing! You made me think this afternoon, and for that I tip the hat to ya!

  8. Brad,

    I’ve been getting the feel over the last few months that you are not exactly a fan of throw-away type clichés during the sales process, and that you prefer specific statements which actually mean something and indicate that the individual concerned has actually given some thought to what he or she is saying.

    This is another one that you bring up which I had never given any particular degree of thought. But I could certain imagine how frustrating these types of statements these would be from the point of view of the interviewer – after you have interviewed ten or twenty candidates, statements like these would no doubt start to sound extremely repetitive indeed.

  9. Andrew, You are quite observant. :) My insistence on precise language tends to annoy people, but if you want to make yourself understood, it’s still necessary, even in a world of sound bites, acronyms, and text message shorthand. Clarity is especially important on the web, where you have a handful of seconds to capture the attention of a visitor.

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