Job interviews — the worst two words to say

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

May 12

Job interviews are tough because they are a job skill few of us use very often. Yet, job interviews are critical for successfully navigating the shoals of when jobs end and staying employed.

I've done my share of hiring manager interviews in my career and I'm in that mode right now on my consulting gig. It may seem bizarre, but great hiring managers really, really want to hire you. If only you showed them you. If you showed them how you go about doing the work. If you showed them the results you achieve when you do the work. If you showed them how you work with people.

It's you the hiring manager wants to see during the interview.

And then you blow it with the worst two words to say in an interview: "It depends."

I hear that as a hiring manager and I start to tune you out. I hear that and I start listening for you telling me what I want to hear instead of just telling me about you. I hear that and I think of people hedging their bet and not taking a position.

Hiring managers want to know how you approach the work

Hiring managers are biased in this direction: they are looking at you and asking a couple of important questions: are you motivated to do the work and will you fit in the team?

Hiring managers want you to help the hiring manager achieve their business goals and add value to the team the manager has right now. So you have to show that to them through your interview stories and the results you bring to the business.

Think of what the hiring manager believes about you when asked how you approach doing the work and your first two words are, "It depends."

Hiring managers want to know how you deal with adversity

Here's a little known secret behind all the marketing glitz a company has: behind the green curtain, there are a ton of problems to solve. Even better? The hiring manager is hiring you to solve some of them. But dealing with problems is, well, problematic. Problems are problems because they are hard to fix. They require working with ugly systems and people who push back. It's adversity 101.

How do you deal with adversity? How do you overcome difficult situations?

Now imagine what goes through a hiring manager's mind when you say, "It depends."

Hiring managers want to know how you work with teams

Business is about getting results through people. Business is social, not some formula used to push buttons to achieve some objective. Business is hard because business is social.

Hiring managers want to know how you deal with different types of people. How do you interact with them? How do you overcome their objections? How do you get people to see a different approach to solving a problem?

Well, you know, "It depends."

Yes, it depends

That's business. Everything depends on something else -- the economy, the corporate culture, the project team, the interactions with customers -- it all depends.

"It depends" is the given. What isn't given is your approach to the work. Your approach to dealing with adversity. Your approach to dealing with people on teams.

Hiring managers want to know your approach to those things because that becomes a conversation about working with the manager. Not a conversation about what the manager wants and your ability to follow along like a lamb going to slaughter.

Photo by preater

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.